Monday, February 7, 2011

Crunch Time Adjustments

In today's post we will see how the Lakers make simple adjustments that allow them to execute in crunch time.

Last week we saw the Lakers facing the Rockets and Spurs in two very close games.  When the Lakers needed to score, they went to a familiar play down the stretch: the blind pig.

In the past we looked at the blind pig as a pressure release play.  This time we see the blind pig executed from a play call.  In the 4th quarter of last Tuesday's Rockets game we saw the Lakers run this play:

We see a standard blind pig setup:
- Derek Fisher violates the lag principle and goes ahead of the lead guard Steve Blake to cut baseline towards a double screen
- Lamar Odom chooses not to setup at the weakside wing and flashes out to receive the ball
- Blake speed cuts off Odom
Fisher comes off the double screen and Lamar Odom executes a dribble weave handoff to Fisher.  The defense commits to Fisher off the handoff so Fisher drop passes to Odom for a spot up jumper.

The game eventually went to overtime.  With the game tied, the Lakers again went to the blind pig:

Again we see a blind pig setup:
- Fisher cuts baseline toward the double screen
- Odom flashes to receive the ball
- Blake cuts off Odom
It's here that we see the adjustment.  Instead of waiting for Fisher to come off the double, Kobe curls off a screen set by Pau Gasol.  The ball is reversed to Kobe who immediately draws the attention of the entire Rockets defense.  Kobe correctly reads the defense and hits Pau who is ready to cut to the basket for the layup.

The next time down the Lakers run the exact same sequence of actions:

Kobe receives the ball off the curl.  Chuck Hayes, not wanting to get burned by Gasol cutting to the basket again, hesitates before helping to prevent Kobe's drive.  This brief hesitation allows Kobe to penetrate just deep enough to get a floater off.

Two days later the Lakers faced off against the team with the best record in the league, the San Antonio Spurs.  Late in the first quarter of a tight game, the Lakers thought they might try their hand at the blind pig reversal that had won them an overtime game just two days before:

However, the Spurs are ready.  Antonio Mcdyess, who is defending Gasol, doesn't even pay attention to Brown coming towards the double screen.  Mcdyess waits for the ball to come to  Kobe and the entire Spurs defense is ready to help.  Kobe is forced into a tough iso and gets triple teamed.  As a result Shannon Brown is left wide open but bricks the three pointer.

Since the Spurs are ready for the reverse screen action, the Lakers made another adjustment by shifting the positions of the players:

This time the off guard who goes to the double screen is Kobe.  Blake enters the ball into Ron Artest.  Kobe goes off the double screen as his defender, Manu Ginobili, attempts to cheat over the top.  Manu gets caught and Kobe looks to have a clean look at the basket but Mcdyess takes advantage of his great length and contests Kobe's hurried three.

And so, down 1 point with 39 seconds to go, the Lakers once again go to the blind pig:

Kobe, again the off guard, comes off the double.  Ginobili does a good job sticking with Kobe through the screen so Artest comes over to execute a dribble weave handoff.  The Spurs are ready for this sequence as well!  They switch on the handoff.  As Kobe drives Duncan comes over to help but Mcdyess is late on his rotation and has no choice but to send Gasol to the line for the go ahead free throws.

In these slight adjustments, we see the spirit of the triangle's philosophy at work.  The blind pig play itself is simple and predictable but by changing the options and location of the personnel, the blind pig is given added depth whose execution is dependent on reading the defense and executing simple fundamentals.

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