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Doc’s Whiteboard: Three Plays from the Christmas Game

Doc’s Whiteboard is a new feature where we’ll show video of some of Doc’s more interesting plays and describe how they work, starting with three plays from Sunday’s game. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. Hat tip to Sebastian Pruiti, Godblogger of playbook analysis and new Grantland contributor.

1. The Domino

This play is pretty much a chain reaction started by pick at the top of the key, after which a series of passes force every defender, one by one, to help out, creating several potential scoring opportunities.

Ray Allen sets a decoy screen for Rajon Rondo, forcing Ray’s man to focus on Rondo and leaving him vulnerable to the real Kevin Garnett screen right behind him. That screen gets Ray open on the right wing, forcing KG’s man (Chandler) to help out, leaving a rolling KG now open underneath. Ray throws it to him, and now Jermaine O’Neal’s man (Amar’e) is forced to help out on KG, leaving Jermaine open. KG finds Jermaine with a very pretty behind-the-back and Jermaine throws it in. If he’d found opposition from Balkman, he could have passed it out to Sasha “Last Resort” Pavlovic, who was open for three behind him.

So there are four opportunities for defender error on this play: Either 1) Ray gets loose for three, 2) nobody helps on KG under the basket, 3) nobody helps on Jermaine behind KG, or 4) (insert small forward) gets left alone behind the arc. In this case it turned out to be Option 3, as Renaldo Balkman gets stuck behind O’Neal. I’m actually surprised the play got that far because Amar’e usually can’t be relied on for help defense, but look at how actively he springs onto KG. Amar’e with that level of defensive intensity is a rare, rare Pokemon. But KG bails out the play with that nice bounce.

2. The Handoff Ambush

Steve Kerr called this a “wheel” play, but it’s not really–it just looks like one because Rondo runs in a circle. It’s actually just a very clever series of movements on and off the ball, all designed to put Jermaine O’Neal between Ray and Ray’s man and give Ray space in the corner.

Rondo brings the ball up and passes to Ray on the left wing. Rondo then does a loop around the left side as Ray gives the ball to Jermaine at the top of the key and cuts into the paint. Once Ray gets into the paint, three things happen at once:

  • Rondo finishes his loop and arrives at the left wing.
  • Jermaine lazily dribbles over to meet Rondo, making clear that he’s going to hand it off.
  • Ray abruptly reverses direction and charges back toward the left corner.

As Ray makes his charge, his defender turns back to find that Jermaine has positioned himself between Ray and his man. In fact, Jermaine dribbled over to the wing and Rondo ran to meet him there just so Jermaine could hit this spot on the floor and ice out Ray’s defender without the defense suspecting a screen in the works. After the surprise screen is executed, Ray has plenty of space for a three when Rondo finds him in the corner. And had Jermaine not stepped over unnecessarily and gotten called for the moving screen, Ray’s three would have counted and the Celtics would have won (kidding) (sort of).

3. The Fastball Special

Rondo brings the ball up. Sasha Pavlovic runs from the right wing to meet Ray on the left block. When he arrives, they…um…link arms and spin around. Yes. This maneuver appears to be designed to confuse defenders and allow Ray to use Pavlovic as a human shield he can place between him and his man. When he gets in that position, Pavlovic flings Ray off toward the wing, much like Colossus throws Wolverine at their enemies in the “Fastball Special” move.

This time it doesn’t work because Ray’s man, Landry Fields, sees it coming and leaps to the other side of Pavlovic before the fastball is delivered. But I hope Doc runs it again anyway, specifically with Paul Pierce. Because he would probably hate it.

  • Batman

    Ok the fastball special is ridiculous yet I love it

  • _Banania

    OMG I love the Fastball Special.

    Basketball 2.0
    (let you guess who is Pavlovic)

  • Chris from Danvers

    Fastball special? That's got to be a Doc special and great for the holiday season. However, nice to see that Sasha, though limited, did have a role that we may not have noticed in the game. Thanks for focusing on that one.

  • Mr Cross

    Love the plays doc comes up with!
    Btw, i think Steve Kerr said its the pinwheel, not wheel set

  • the fastball special is off the chain

  • TBones

    Love this stuff. Doc is the master of misdirection and "screen-the-screener" plays. Given that Ray would have trouble creating his own shot against all the younger 2-guards, Ray must love playing for Doc. It's beautiful to watch.

    Suggestion: in the future include a couple of defensive rotations, such as how the C's defend the wing pick and roll, or how the C's defend a perimeter isolation by DWade or Lebron. Great stuff.

  • Jon

    can we call it the doe-see-doe?

  • mikenasty13

    Great work guys. Doc is the master of screens and drawing them up. GIving him weapons like Ray on the perimeter to work with has always been deadly. I've always had him as the coach I want coming out of a TO. 1. Doc 2. Pop 3. Hollins

  • ed judson

    Awesome feature!

  • -JP

    I feel like we have seen the fastball special before with Ray, am I wrong on that? Maybe not as much …twirling as this time, but it is something that looked familiar to me. This is a great post though, keep up the good work!

  • I savour, result in I found just what I was taking a look for. Youve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye