The numbers tell the story: In the first three games of the series the Magic ran 33 pick-and-roll plays. In Game 4 they ran 43. And won.(via Eddy Rivera)
And these weren’t just your standard screens. They were staggered double screens, with Rashard Lewis setting a first screen before Jameer Nelson came off that one and got to Dwight Howard setting a second one. It worked. According to MySynergySports the Magic got 10 of their 33 baskets directly off the pick-and-roll, but when you notice the most of the 9 spot-up shots they made came off the pick-and-roll.
Nelson came off those screens and was able to penetrate, often getting back behind the basket where he could kick out to shooters or even find Howard or other bigs. Celtics bigs had to help on Nelson, freeing up Howard and others to grab offensive rebounds and get easy putbacks. Finally the Magic were able to do to Boston what they did to every other team in the league.
But can they do it again? If the Magic are to send this series back to Boston, they are going to have to keep running the pick-and-roll. A lot. Everybody knows it.
The question is, what does Doc Rivers — and really Tom Thibodeau — come up with?
Rivers said at shoot around he wants more ball pressure, look for the Celtics to do what they do — be physical on defense. As much as the referees will let them. Rivers said he wanted his defenders to “put their body” into the Magic ball handlers.
He’s talking specifically to Rajon Rondo. This is going to come down to how Rondo fighting through the picks and not letting Nelson have is way. The Magic will be playing with a renewed confidence and energy, but you can bet the Celtics will not play as poorly as they did last game. This is a veteran team that has responded better on the road all season.
But in the end, it will all be about the pick-and-roll.
It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.
But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.
Best. Dunk. Ever.
Weis was never the same.
In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.
Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.
The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.
Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.
Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.
Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:
For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.
“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”
Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.
I’m here for that.
I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.
Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.
But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.
Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.
Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”
It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.
One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.
Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.
First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.
Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.
But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.