Mixed Results in the Crunch

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Simply put, Terry Stotts designs a beautiful offence.

The Trail Blazers head coach is known around the league as an innovative offensive mind who finds creative ways to put his players in situations that favor them. Stotts also, to a degree, allows his players the freedom to operate within the offence and empowers them to make decisions and find the right shots.

When you think of a Terry Stotts’ offence, you think of movement, subtlety and misdirection. However, the play we are going to look at today is almost the complete opposite; it’s a brute force attack on one specific area of the court, and the Blazers have gone to it again and again in late game situations. 

Here’s the play in real time from last night’s game: 

Stotts has called this sideline out of bounds play on numerous occasions, most memorably in last month’s loss to the Lakers (Nic Batum stepped on the line and it was ruled a two), in last week’s loss to the Grizzlies (Tony Allen blocked Nic Batum’s three point attempt, and then did some sort of interpretive dance), and as the last play Sunday’s loss to New Orleans:

The first option is clear enough, to get Batum or Matthews a decent look at a corner three, and it’s a shot that Stotts evidently trusts either of those two to take, and the play is effective in terms of creating that specific shot.

Let’s take a closer look at the play, and also at a secondary option. 

The eventual shooter, Nic Batum in this case, starts out high and will sprint off two staggered flare screens to the short corner. Damian Lilliard sets the first screen, which will become important when we look at the second option. 

If you watch the way Memphis defends this, it looks as if they know what’s coming. As Batum sets up, watch how Tayshaun Prince angles himself to avoid both screens, and basically puts himself in a foot race to the corner with Batum. At the same time Tony Allen is guarding the inbounder and is set up to make the pass to the corner as difficult as possible. 

Contrast this with the way New Orleans defends the play: guarding the inbounder tight; chasing the shooter through both screens; and eventually forcing Anthony Davis switch out onto Wes to defend the shot. Now even though both of the shots missed, you can see the difference that preparation and scouting can make, and perhaps gain some insight into why Memphis and New Orleans are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the strength of their defence.

As alluded to earlier, the second option of this play is for Damian Lillard, who is responsible for setting the initial screen.

Lilliard has two screen options, and on this play it looks like either could have resulted in a better look than Nic got in the corner.

 

Full credit to the Memphis Grizzlies, they defended the play extremely well. It will be interesting to see how the Blazers adjust to this kind of defensive coverage going forward. 

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