Gregg Popovich

Popovich says hero-ball is ‘boring,’ which explains difference between Spurs and Lakers last-second shots

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The Spurs beat the Lakers on Tuesday thanks to a three-pointer from Danny Green that put San Antonio up by two with 9.3 seconds left.

We broke down the beauty of the play that Gregg Popovich called — multiple screens, all players in motion, freeing up a shooter for a good look at the final shot.

The majority of teams, for some strange reason, choose isolation with their best player holding the ball and trying to score one-on-one with the game on the line. It’s counterintuitive, in that if during the entire course of the game you’d prefer set plays to free someone for an open look, instead of having guys try to create on their own to force tough shots over one or more defenders, why change the philosophy on a game’s most important possession?

There’s a reason Popovich is one of the game’s best minds– it’s because he does what makes sense. Though it would also seem his reasons are a bit selfish. (via Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop)

“I hate that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s so boring.”

What Popovich hates, of course, is the hero-ball isolation nonsense that I just described.

Whether it truly is due to boredom (doubtful, given Popovich’s famously-dry sense of humor) or whether it’s just the smarter decision, the Spurs choose to run plays on a final possession rather than trust one guy to do it all on his own.

Now, contrast that with the look that the Lakers got on their final possession.

The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles will be neither historic nor looked back upon fondly, especially when considering the way L.A. failed to execute with the game in the balance.

With 9.3 seconds left, there’s a virtual eternity to get into something better than this.

Pau Gasol cuts to the corner, and receives the inbound pass behind the three-point line. He’s alone, save for Tim Duncan right there closely contesting whatever move Gasol would choose to make.

He had Kobe Bryant cutting to the basket, and even if he was late with the pass, Bryant would have had the ball on the low block with more than five seconds left, and with no help available from Duncan given his position defending Gasol. If Tiago Splitter decided to come over to contest, Bryant could have bounced it to Dwight Howard, who would have gotten fouled at the very least.

That would have been a decent choice, and Bryant may very well have been able to tie the game in that position. But it’s still not a good plan, and it looks even worse when Gasol launches a three over Duncan’s outstretched arms.

It’s one play, and the Lakers certainly are hopeful that with Mike D’Antoni firmly in place, their offensive options will look a lot more reasonable. But it’s a great example of what more teams should look to do on a game’s most critical possession, and it’s why Popovich has the Spurs consistently near the top of the league-wide standings.

Three Hawks lose uncontested rebound out of bounds (video)

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How did Mike Scott, Mike Dunleavy and Malcolm Delaney fail to secure this rebound?

No wonder the Hawks lost to a Clippers team playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

James Harden makes impressive chase-down block. Really. (video)

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If we’re going to post all of James Harden‘s defensive lowlights, it’s only fair to acknowledge this impressive block.

Please overlook the fact that Jason Terry is 39 years old.

Steven Adams posterizes Rudy Gobert AND Derrick Favors with one thunderous dunk (video)

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Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors form an impressive defensive tandem that usually walls off the paint.

If there were any walls here, Steven Adams jumped right over them.

Video Breakdown: How Kyle Lowry dismantles NBA defenses from 3-point range

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Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry is arguably the team’s best player thanks in large part to his increase in 3-point shooting ability this season. He’s just above 43 percent from deep this year, much better than his career average of 36 percent. Lowry has increased his 3-point percentage six points over last season, and he’s a big part of why the Raptors are so good on offense, and why they’re a contender in the Eastern Conference.

So how does he do it?

Watch the full video breakdown on Lowry’s 3-point shooting above, or read the text version of the article below.

Early Offense

I looked at a lot of tape of Lowry over the last 3 years and he hasn’t changed much on his shot mechanics. There’s no big change in his sweep or sway toward the basket when he shoots, and he still brings the ball up from his left side.

Part of his leap is be how quickly he’s getting his shots off and how many of his early offense field goal attempts come in the form of 3-pointers.

Lowry has bumped up how many 3-pointers he’s taken in the early offense, recorded here as between 24 and 15 seconds on the shot clock. Year-over-year he’s taken nearly eight percent more of his field goals as three pointers in this range.

This takes form on the court in a couple of ways, both in transition on the fast break and on quick 1 or 2 dribble pull ups off the pick-and-roll.

Transition

With the ball in secondary transition here, Lowry gets a quick screen from DeMarre Carroll to open him up for a 3-point bucket against the Hornets. And that’s still with 18 seconds left on the shot clock!

Pull-up and off-the-bounce jumpers

The other way Lowry scores quickly is off the dribble, with quick pick and rolls. Toronto is great at screen assists — picks leading to an immediate field goal — and have three players in the Top 50 and two in the Top 10 in setting them.

Here, the Celtics defender cuts off Lowry’s attack to the middle of the floor. The screener sets up to Lowry’s right, but then quickly flips it to his left. One dribble, and it’s an easy 3-pointer.

Here against Portland, the Raptors run a two screen setup with one wing and one post. The Blazers make the switch and try to blitz Lowry, but he stays resilient and sinks the bucket with what little space they allow him anyway.

Working with DeMar DeRozan

The other thing that’s been talked about a lot is the gravity of DeMar DeRozan, who himself is having a career year for the Raptors. While Lowry is making a ton of unassisted 3-pointers this year, the Raptors point guard does benefit from DeMar.

Part of that is how good they are in transition together.

Here you can see DeMar bringing the ball up the court with Lowry in front of him. He sets the screen, then fades to the arc. Three Utah Jazz are trying to stop DeRozan, and Lowry is left all alone.

When he’s not the primary ball handler on the break, Lowry will immediately get out to the wing. DeRozan has a way of finding him to get up quick Js.

Of course, in good old set plays the Raptors see this gravity effect as well.

Here Toronto is running another double screen with a guard and a post, but Lowry is one of the screeners. At this point, all three Heat players are guarding against DeRozan’s midrange jumper, leaving just enough daylight for Lowry.

Toronto is also third in the NBA in “hockey” or secondary assists, which means two or more passes leading to a made field goal.

On this baseline out of bounds play, again it’s DeRozan’s gravity that frees up Lowry. As the ball is inbounded, DeRozan sucks three warriors defenders with him, including Lowry’s. Meanwhile, Kyle is running down the baseline to get a bucket off a pass on the opposite side of the floor. All the raps have to do is rotate the ball.

So that’s a little bit on why Kyle Lowry has been so good. It’s been about shot selection, decisiveness, and some practice in addition to the effectiveness of his teammates.