Post-game Reactions

This is the first of three video reviews highlighting some good and bad stuff that happened in Portland and Denver—stuff that highlights some general positive and negative trends. Since I’m a curmudgeon, let’s start with some lowlights from the Denver game. 

Sunday’s game pitted the league’s second-most efficient offense against the league’s stingiest defense. They say a good defense always beats a good offense. They are stupid. Denver torched Boston, and it didn’t use anything fancy to do it. The basic screen/roll was enough to shred the C’s defense. Few point guards run it better than Chauncey Billups, but the C’s, especially early, didn’t defend the screen/roll with their usual precision and vigor. 

Here’s one example (in slow-mo) from that dismal first quarter:

Two things appear to go wrong on this play, but the main mistake happens early.

Look how Pierce (guarding the screener, Carmelo Anthony) defends this play. He sees it coming and steps out to help on Chauncey Billups. But he doesn’t step out far enough—or aggressively enough—to deter Billups from turning the corner. Instead, he hedges out half-heartedly—and just enough to get in Rajon Rondo’s way. 

Billups gets by Rondo and into the paint, and neither Perk or KG moves over to defend the rim. You can understand why; if they help on Chauncey, he’ll find the open man. But still: This is about as bad as you’ll ever see the C’s play the screen/roll. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an isolated mistake.

Another basic screen/roll, another easy bucket for the Nuggs. This one—to my eyes—is again on the screener’s guy (Sheed). Look at Sheed’s footwork and positioning as Billups turns the corner around the Bird Man screen. Sheed decides to sag back instead of jumping out, and that’s not a bad thing on its own. But he assumes an open stance, with his feet almost parallel to each other on the floor and his chest facing the sideline instead of Billups. 

This is classic olé defense; Sheed is giving Billups an invitation to drive right, and Billups takes it. 

The really bad thing about yesterday’s game, though, was that Billups (as a few folks noted on Twitter) sometimes didn’t even need a screen to beat Rondo off the dribble.

Rondo just gets straight-up burned here, and Billups did this to him about a half-dozen times throughout the game. If you watch the early part of this clip carefully, you can tell that Rajon sees Nene approaching from his left to set a screen for Billups. Rondo takes a step to his left—anticipating the screen—and Billups, sensing a chance, dribbles the opposite way and blows by a wrong-footed Rajon. 

That forces Perk to slide off of Nene and help on Billups, and Chauncey threads a beautiful bounce to Nene for the lay-in. The play functions just like a screen/roll even though Nene never set the screen. 

Sadly, these plays are pretty much indicative of the game as a whole. Denver finished with the equivalent of 120 points per 100 possessions; Phoenix leads the league with an average of 113.6 points per 100 possessions. 

Let’s hope this was a case of a tired club ready to come home playing its fourth roadie in six games. Pierce is obviously laboring as he recovers from several injuries, but Sheed’s help defense and Rondo’s occasional carelessness are problems.

But it wasn’t all bad over the weekend. Some highlights to come.

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Zach Lowe

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  • Rocci

    I love these video analyses. Nice job Zach.

  • Thanks, Rocci.

    Question for readers: Do you guys prefer the use of the slow-mo clips in these video posts or when I run them at full speed but take individual snap shots of the clips and use them in the break downs?

    The snapshot method takes me a bit more time and makes the posts much longer, but I feel like it may be more useful than the slow-mo clips.

    Anyway, feedback would be appreciated.

  • aka

    I think slow-mo clips are great because you really feel the play develop and how the axillary players react that aren’t necessarily part of the play. Just my $.02 and thanks for the great analysis.

  • Jason

    Told you the “on the ball D” is subpar. Doc is right in this assessment. Even if Ray’s not great, I see him making the effort to move his feet to stay in front of his man. Even hurt, and atrocious on O, Pierce is manning up on D. Quisy is extremely impressive with his one-on-one wing defense. What the fuck is Rondo’s excuse? He switches from semi-focused (rarely ever fully focused) to underestimating to casual to plain freelancing on D out there. He’s giving up constant penetration and compromising the entire defense overall on a regular basis. It’s unacceptable. I can’t believe the team hasn’t performed a Code Red on him for this shit. For all the irreplaceable things he does, I’d still be furious if i was constantly being forced to cover for his defensive bipolar act.

  • aka

    I was just thinking, you could append the regular speed version to the end of the clip so it starts with slow-mo and then show the game speed cut. Just an idea.

  • Jason

    Zach, why is it an either/or? Do all 3: the full-speed, the slow-mo and the stills. I usually watch the clip, read your breakdown and then rewatch the clip with your observations in mind. I’m not sure even Hubie Brown could look at a play just once and get everything, so I say the multiple presentations are a necessity more than a luxury.

  • @Jason: Basically, time. This ain’t my job, so I can only put so much time into it.

  • Jason

    Zach, I appreciate the time element, but you used to do the full-speed and the stills already. What’s the marginal extra work to also create a slow-mo?

  • In this case, with 3 clips? Another 20 mins or to upload the slow-mos to YouTube (they take longer than regular speed), which = 20 mins longer my girlfriend has to wait to finally get my undivided attention.

    But I get your point–the more content, the better.

  • Conall Mac Michael

    I really like the slow mo clips. This is probably the exact same analysis that teams around the league use when breaking down their offensive and defensive mistakes. My team used slow mo’s like this after games and it does work in highlighting the reasons for blown assignments. Keep up the good work.

  • Scott

    Is there a way you can do both slow mo and fast? like a slow-fast-slow in the same clip?

    just a thought. love the work.

  • yojo

    mo slo mo.

  • jason

    Truehoop hotlinked to this story this afternoon, pointing out the video and using the “they are stpuid” quote. Nice work and congrats.

  • ash

    i was kind of annoyed by the slo-mo at first on a patience-level, but I actually enjoy them. It’s fun to see where Chauncey picks up his dribble.

  • @ash–that’s what I was worried about with the slow-mo–that people would just lose patience and move on. Maybe I’ll just mix it up.

  • Still enjoying #17

    Slo Mo works the best. You can actually reread some of your comments and still move up the screen to watch the play unfold. I just rewind the play a lil. Kepp the slo mo!

  • Still enjoying #17


  • celtics will loose in the playoffs the way they lost to denver—they practice real hard to maintain bad habits–will bite themselves in butt—the champion of playoffs played the best during the year and dont carry bad habits into playoffs—-time will prove this—sorry celtics—maybe 10 years from now?????????

  • Try embedding videos from Vimeo… they have a better scrub feature that should allow you to drag the cursor for slow-mo…