I outlined the crux of this in last night’s Check Your Messages section of Last Call, but it’s always nice to point out the bones of the situation with some visual aides.
Looking for Weakness
In this first example, I really only needed one still to make my point. Chauncey Billups is isolated on Mo Williams at the mid-post. Billups is by far the stronger, taller player and this looks to be an obvious mismatch. Except Blake Griffin crowds the top of the key, allowing his defender (Paul Millsap) to cheat over just enough to keep Billups from taking advantage and letting Chris Paul’s defender (Randy Foye) sit in position to cover both Paul and Griffin.
Notice I highlighted the shot clock. This attempt at exploiting a mismatch wastes approximately 14 seconds and results in a contested corner 3-pointer by Caron Butler.
Playing to Strength
Here’s the second example, occurring two plays later. Just like the iso-play that the Clippers ran for Billups before, this is none too complicated.
Griffin sets a high screen for Billups off the ball.
And then immediately turns around and sets a side screen for Paul.
You’ll notice I highlighted Billups running through to the weak side. His route draws the attention of the backline help defender, Al Jefferson, who is observing things from the paint.
Next, it doesn’t get any more complicated: Chris Paul uses the screen set by Griffin and goes back towards the middle. And because he’s Chris Paul, both defenders have to account for him.
Billups has run all the way through his route now and Jefferson has to hedge to ensure Paul doesn’t hit him for a backdoor layup. This allows Griffin to go unaccounted for as the roll man. The amount of real estate Blake gets would fetch a pretty penny even in a down market.
This play takes about 9 seconds and is about as straight-forward as an NBA offense can get, much like he iso-play shown above.
Of course, sometimes mismatches are so glaring a team has to go to it (say, for instance if Mo Williams was guarding Griffin in the post). Or a team makes a concerted effort to blue or ice the side screen (which opponents have been trying to do against the Clippers this season).
But, for now, maybe the Clippers should just try to boringly bludgeon their opponents to death with their strengths: a godlike ball-handler and two roll men sporting Daedalus wings.
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