Doc Rivers will always have his critics, but you have to give him this: He is an adaptive offensive coach, and his offensive sets have become more creative as the team’s personnel has become more diverse and skilled.
On Monday at Memphis I noticed a couple of plays that employed some pretty fun misdirection and took advantage of the C’s newest offensive assets: Rasheed Wallace and a quicker, much-improved Kendrick Perkins. Look to see more of these types of play as the season goes on.
Let’s start with one play in which Ray Allen uses a deke almost as obvious as the ones outfielders use to convince baserunners they are about to catch a fly ball that is actually going to land 10 feet in front of them:
The play starts on the right side, with Rajon Rondo dribbling hard toward Ray Allen just as Allen (guarded by Sam Young) cuts left toward the top of the three-point arc, where Rasheed Wallace sticks his ass out to try and set a “screen” on Young. Only this really isn’t the intent of the play.
As you can see from this still, the screen doesn’t really work:
Sam Young has fought over the Sheed ass screen and stuck right with Ray, who is calling for the ball in an exaggerated way. This is more for show than anything else, I think, especially judging by the cut that comes next. Ray needs to keep Young’s attention and get that of Sheed’s man (Marc Gasol), who is in the paint between Sheed and Ray.
But then the real play starts. Ray stops on a dime, does a U-Turn and cuts back right (toward the ball) with the help of a solid Sheed screen on Sam Young. In the below shot, we see the play taking form:
The cut and screen have clearly caught Young by surprise, and he’s getting a nice close-up view of Sheed’s (out of shape) mid-section. Gasol has to shift away from Sheed and position himself at the right elbow to cut off any potential penetration as Rondo gets ready to swing the ball to Ray.
Here’s what things look like by the time Ray makes the catch:
Young is chasing, Gasol is helping and Sheed is back-pedaling to his favorite spot at the top of the key. This is really a sort of three man pick-and-pop, and it produces the kind of three-point look Sheed should be taking.
It’s a nice little play.
Finally, here’s one more fun play from midway through the 4th quarter. This one is designed to look like a classic KG-Rondo two-man play but quickly transforms into something else.
The play starts with Rondo walking the ball over half court and KG taking his place near the top of the three-point line, as if he wants to set a screen for Rajon. But all of a sudden, three movements kick in: 1) KG cuts back door behind Randolph and toward the hoop; 2) Rondo dribbles hard toward the spot KG just vacated; 3) A split second later, Perk runs up from the left block toward the foul line. We’ll get to Perk in a minute.
Here’s a still from the moment those movements start:
It looks a lot like a potential lob pass from Rondo to KG, doesn’t it? The initial movement has the added benefit of drawing the attention of Paul Pierce’s defender (Rudy Gay), who is keeping tabs on both KG and Rondo.
Rondo surely has the option of hitting KG here if the open pass presents itself. But that doesn’t appear to be the primary goal of this set. Check out what’s happening as KG completes his cut:
We’ve got Rondo stopping at the top of the three-point line and getting ready to change direction and dribble back to his left. We’ve got Rudy Gay drifting over toward Rajon Rondo and away from the C’s all-time leader in made three-pointers. And we have the Beast curling up from the left block to set a screen for Rondo.
Here’s that screen:
Memphis clearly was not expecting Rondo to reverse his dribble around a Perk screen. Look at the three Grizz defenders clustered around Rajon. Rondo’s man (Mike Conley) has decided to go under the Perk screen. That’s probably the right call, given Rajon’s lack of three-point range.
Except Perk’s man (Marc Gasol) has already dropped down and slid over to his right in order to help on Rondo. Another rational decision, except the two choices combined are going to result in Conley and Gasol getting in each other’s way a bit.
As for Gay, he’s in a really tough position. Does he stick with Pierce? Help on whoever cuts down the lane? Neither?
The result of all this confusion is a wide-open lane down which Perk can roll to the basket, catch a lob from Rondo and lay the ball off the glass—all in one motion.
Again—this is a simple screen/roll, only it’s not that simple because it is preceded by all sorts of complicated movements and misdirection. And it’s a tribute to Perk’s improvement. He could not have completed this play so smoothly last season.
If you read a lot of NBA team blogs, you know that fans and experts bemoan the lack of creativity in a bunch of NBA offenses (with a lot of recent noise about New Orleans, Cleveland and Chicago). Appreciate what we have in Boston—a group of veterans who understand how to move with and without the ball, a budding star point guard and a coaching staff who knows how to use all of the team’s pieces.