Author: Brett Pollakoff

Los Angeles Clippers v Atlanta Hawks

The Extra Pass: The Clippers’ “Rosie” Screen; plus Monday’s recaps



Over the next few days in this space, we’ll break down a play that’s largely unique to one team. To kick off this signature series, we’ll start with the Los Angeles Clippers’ “Ring-Around-The-Rosie” screen.

Innovation in the NBA is often about adding little wrinkles to something very simple.

There are no “Wildcat” offenses that take the league by storm, but rather slight variations of plays that teams have been running for years.

NBA offenses around the league have run “floppy” screens for a long, long time. The basic idea of a floppy screen is to free up a shooter for a perimeter look. As you can see below, the floor is flipped and it’s the wings under the basket waiting to receive screens to free them for perimeter jumpers.


Doc Rivers ran this for Ray Allen in Boston about, oh, a million times. Although Rivers isn’t often credited for being an offensive-minded coach, he does script some nice plays to get guys open looks.

While Rivers doesn’t have Allen in Los Angeles, he does have a bunch of wings that are comfortable running off of screens. His best weapon and the player that most resembles Allen is J.J. Redick, but Redick is still out with a wrist injury.

That still hasn’t stopped Rivers from running plays for guys not named Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, which is a fairly new concept in Los Angeles.

While the bread and butter of the offense is still CP3 in the pick-and-roll, the Clippers now have a few other ways to attack. LAC is once again fifth in offensive efficiency, but they’re also less prone to bogging down against elite defenses.

The Clippers’ offense didn’t need a drastic overhaul from last year; it just needed a little fine-tuning. There are subtle little differences making the Clippers more difficult to guard and also a little less predictable than in previous years. Just watch the off-ball action under the basket in this clip:

You’ll see many teams run floppy screens or single-double screens to free up shooters, but rarely will you see two players on the same team dance around in circles for a moment and then slingshot each other out to the opposite wing.

There’s been some competing thoughts floating around on what to call this play. Andrew Han of ClipperBlog prefers “Floppy Merry-Go-Around”, which sounds like a terrible carnival ride. I personally prefer the “Rosie screen”, partially because it might be the only play with its own song:

Ring around the rosie

Redick and Dudley are like Ray Allen and James Posey

Jumpers, jumpers

They all fall down!

Call it whatever you want — it’s effective. After a 23-point shellacking of the Spurs, it looks like the little twists are helping the Clippers notch signature wins, too.

-D.J. Foster




Wizards 102, Knicks 101: Bradley Beal returned after a a nine-game absence and scored 14 fourth quarter points — including the game-winning layup with six seconds left — to send the Wizards home with the win. This one was more than in reach for the Knicks, who overcame a 15-point third quarter deficit, only to fall short on the game’s final two possessions. New York had a foul to give on Beal’s layup but didn’t take it, and had three timeouts left but didn’t call one, instead opting to try to go the length of the floor to rush up an incredibly difficult shot. — Brett Pollakoff

Pistons 101, Pacers 96: Detroit handed Indiana its first home loss of the season, and did it with above average defense on Paul George and Roy Hibbert, along with a crushing effort on the glass. The Pistons ended up with a 55-40 rebound advantage, thanks to Josh Harrelson grabbing 10 off the bench in just 16 minutes of action. George and Hibbert combined to shoot just 6-of-26 from the field, while Josh Smith dropped in 30 for Detroit. This was a brutal back-to-back for the Pistons, facing the two best teams in the league record-wise on consecutive nights. The effort in both games — a win against the Pacers after losing at the overtime buzzer to the Blazers the previous night — suggests that Detroit might be figuring some things out. — BP

Celtics 101, Timberwolves 97: Kevin martin missed this one with a sore left knee, and on a night where Minnesota shot just 37.8 percent from the field, they could have used his offense. The Celtics, meanwhile, got a huge 15 point, six rebound fourth quarter from Jared Sullinger that helped them seal the win. — BP

Nets 130, Sixers 94: And it wasn’t even that close. This was the Joe Johnson show, who caught absolute fire in the third quarter. He poured in 29 points in the period and hit eight of his 10 attempts from three-point distance in 12 third quarter minutes that turned this one into a complete laugher. Johnson finished with 37 points, and Deron Williams added 13 points and 13 assists. —BP

Hawks 114, Lakers 100: Los Angeles led this game into the second half because they played to the mismatch — they pounded the undersized Hawks inside with Pau Gasol (10 points in the first quarter on 5-of-5 shooting), and Jordan Hill who had 13 first half points. You didn’t expect that to last, did you? The Lakers stopped defending the arc (the Hawks were 8-of-16 from three in the second half) and Atlanta hit shots they missed in the first half. Atlanta has fantastic ball movement and it shows, Al Horford had 19 to lead a balanced Hawks attack. Nick Young led the Lakers with 23. Once again Kobe Bryant looked better, but he has a ways to go still. –Kurt Helin

Heat 117, Jazz 94: Give the Jazz credit, they got the ball inside and scrapped for the first half — they had 32 points in the paint and 17 second chance points at the break. But you knew the talent levels would show — Miami opened the third quarter on a 16-3 run and that was basically it. LeBron James just missed a triple-double with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. —KH

Magic 83, Bulls 82: Orlando seemed to be in control of this game but a couple times a Bulls run would make it interesting — the key one of those was a 10-0 run in the fourth that made it close late. Chicago had a chance to tie but Luol Deng missed a layup and after Glen Davis hit some free throws there was only a Mike Dunleavy three to make the scores look close. Arron Afflalo continued a run of good play with 23 points to lead Orlando. —KH

Clippers 115, Spurs 92: This was the fifth game in seven nights for the Spurs and it showed — they got tired late and gave up a 20-4 run to a Clippers team that found the range and was 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. Blake Griffin had 10 of his 27 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers used a 19-0 run to take control of the game. Of course, the Spurs fought back but they didn’t have the energy to sustain it. Manu Ginobili was the best of the Spurs with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting. —KH

The Extra Pass: Eric Bledsoe’s path from afterthought to building block; plus Sunday’s recaps

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns


In Eric Bledsoe’s final game with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, he played nine minutes and 28 seconds.

In that game, the Memphis Grizzlies scored 118 points despite possessing what most would consider a below-average offense.

Mike Conley, a player Bledsoe has routinely shut down throughout his career, went to the free throw line 17 times.

All while Bledsoe sat.

This wasn’t particularly uncommon throughout Bledsoe’s tenure with the Clippers. For whatever reason, the explosive young guard was never seen as a viable partner in the same backcourt as Chris Paul, despite Paul’s supernatural ability to set his teammates up perfectly.

It’s not like the Paul-Bledsoe backcourt was a failed experiment, either. Although they shared the court for just 185 minutes, the Clippers posted an offensive efficiency of 115.9 (which would be the best in the league, by far) and a net efficiency of +11.1 points. Not only did Paul and Bledsoe work well together, but Bledsoe worked better than any other “true shooting guard” did next to Paul.

The inability to think outside of the box made Bledsoe expendable for the Clippers, which in turn made him a bargain for someone else.

That someone was Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough. Somehow, McDonough flipped a player with no athleticism who had reached his ceiling (Jared Dudley) for a player with all the athleticism and no ceiling.

It didn’t matter that the Suns already had a point guard in Goran Dragic, because any fears of fit were largely unsubstantiated in the first place.

So far this year, Dragic and Bledsoe have played 310 minutes together and have a net efficiency rating of +4.7 together.

More importantly, Phoenix’s most commonly used lineup with Bledsoe and Dragic has a net rating of +9.6, which ranks fifth in the entire league for lineups that have played over 150 minutes together.

Bledsoe didn’t have many doubters individually, but this pairing did. Any questions have been largely put to rest, though, as the Suns are the only team in the NBA with a starting backcourt comprised of two players with a PER over 20.

After vanquishing the more highly regarded “Splash Brothers” backcourt of Golden State on Sunday night, Phoenix is officially red hot. Five straight wins won’t melt away the talks of rebuilding or trading Dragic altogether, but Bledsoe has given McDonough the same flexibility off the court that he gives the Suns on it.

-D.J. Foster  



Kings 106, Rockets 91: Here is my key takeaway from this game — DeMarcus Cousins completely outplayed Dwight Howard. Cousins had 21 points on 14 shots plus pulled down 10 boards, and he held Howard to 13 points. Rudy Gay dropped 26, Isaiah Thomas had 11 of his 19 in the second quarter when the Kings took control of the game. Houston’s league-best offense got open looks but simply didn’t hit them (they were 3-of-8 from the midrange and shot 25 percent from three).

Timberwolves 101, Grizzlies 93: Minnesota took the lead with a 17-4 run in the first quarter and while Memphis made it interesting at points (Mike Conley’s 15 pints in the third quarter helped that) the Timberwolves never trailed. Kevin Love put up 31 points and had 9 boards, but he also played good post defense on Zach Randolph to help keep the Grizzlies attack under control. Love can play straight up post D pretty well (when he avoids fouls).

Trail Blazers 111, Pistons 109: Detroit fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never get in a close game with the Trail Blazers!” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! (Seriously this team just does not lose close games, only once this season to Monta Ellis and the Mavs, aside that they just make shots at the end of games. It was Damian Lillard’s turn this time to throw the dagger.)

Thunder 101, Magic 98: If you were expecting a blowout that’s what you got, with OKC leading comfortably most of the second half, until an 18-4 Magic run late in the fourth quarter made it interesting. Arron Afflalo had 9 of his 25 in the fourth quarter and had a key three to cut the Thunder lead to four with less than a minute. Next a Mo Harkless dunk cut it to two. Kevin Durant split two free throws and the Magic got one last shot to tie — but a Glen Davis fadeaway three was not what they had in mind. Durant had 28 points to lead everyone.

Nuggets 102, Pelicans 93: A lot of Denver players pitched into this one, but it was two guards who were really key. One was Ty Lawson, who had an awful game in the loss to the Jazz, but he bounced back with a good game (12 points, 8 assists) directing the offense. The other was Nate Robinson off the bench with 14 points, but you know he can score; it was a couple key blocks and some good defense we didn’t expect that really mattered. Ryan Anderson had 26 for the Hornets but he was 10-of-21 shooting and missed a lot of good looks.

Suns 106, Warriors 102: The backcourt of Eric Gordon and Goran Dragic stood toe-to-toe with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in this one — the Suns/ starting backcourt had 45 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds. (For the record, the Warriors starting backcourt had 49 points.) Credit the Suns defense for forcing turnovers on 19.3 percent of the Warriors possessions (they have been turnover prone lately). Also, the Warriors miss Andre Iguodala as teams load up on Curry to prevent his threes.

The Extra Pass: Bucks are bad, and that’s good; plus Wednesday’s recaps

John Henson


By D.J. Foster

All over the league, we’ve seen young teams fighting against the tank.

If the playoffs started today, the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns would be in the playoffs. This was unfathomable a few months ago. It wasn’t just about their rosters being bad – they were supposed to be bad.

The Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, are never supposed to be bad. Here’s what Bucks owner Herb Kohl told Howard Beck before the season:

“In our organization, there is this competitive need to be as good as we can every year,” Bucks owner Herb Kohl told Bleacher Report. “It’s an instinct. Even though one might argue that mathematically you’re better off going the other way.”

“I’m not speaking for what other teams do,” Kohl said. “We just every year do the very best we can, to put together the best team we can. That’s our M.O. That’s what we do.”

What Milwaukee does, in reality, is openly embrace mediocrity. It’s been 13 years since the Bucks have advanced past the first round of the playoffs. They’ve had one top-5 pick in that timeframe. They’ve never had more than 46 wins in any of those seasons. If it weren’t for such a rich tradition, the Bucks would be completely and totally irrelevant.

On Wednesday night, the Bucks hosted a San Antonio Spurs team that actually embodies the principle Kohl mistakenly thinks his franchise does.

The Spurs compete. They are the best they can be every year. But guess what?

Even the inscrutable Spurs tanked once in 1997, and they haven’t had to since.

On Wednesday night, that Spurs team that tanked 16 years ago to get Tim Duncan held a 38-point lead in the third quarter. Duncan had 21 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes.

O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee’s $24 million dollar life preserver, was one made three-pointer away from putting up a “22 trillion” – 22 minutes with zero meaningful stats across the board.

The Bucks, obviously, ended up losing the game. Plenty of words sprang to mind to describe the performance. Embarrassing. Depressing. Ugly.

But you know what else it was? Productive.

The 2014 draft class is projected to be one of the best we’ve seen in years. Sure, there are no guarantees in the lottery, but Milwaukee has to give themselves a chance to be great. Pretending the system doesn’t work the way it does is more than stubborn. It’s stupid.

There are pieces here. John Henson is a future star. Giannis Antetokounmpo has the kind of natural ability you dream on. Nate Wolters looks like a nice player. Make no mistakes, though: the Bucks are begging for direction.

32 point losses at home aren’t fun. Neither is the trip to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. But realistically, is it any worse than the last 13 years of Milwaukee Bucks basketball?

The Bucks have attempted to sell their fanbase on a somewhat competitive team for long enough. It’s time to sell them some hope for once.



Orlando 92, Charlotte 83: The Magic got a balanced attack that saw seven different players finish in double figures scoring, and out-rebounded the Bobcats by 11 to help in securing this victory. Charlotte shot just 36.9 percent from the field as a team, and Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats in scoring with 12 points, but did do shooting a miserable 3-of-14 from the field in just over 30 minutes of action. — BP

Clippers 96, Celtics 88: Doc Rivers had an emotional first return to Boston as head coach of the Clippers, and by his own admission emotions got the better of him throughout the game’s first half. That may explain L.A.’s slow start in this one, but the Clips scored 57 second half points to be able to get the win. Chris Paul finished with a near triple-double line of 22 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. –BP

Thunder 116, Grizzlies 100: No Marc Gasol and no Tony Allen for Memphis in this one, so the easy double-digit victory for OKC in this one was somewhat expected. Russell Westbrook did the damage with a monster of a game, and finished with 27 points on 12 shots, to go along with six rebounds and nine assists. — BP

Spurs 109, Bucks 77: Take one of the best, most efficient teams in the league in the Spurs and face them against one of the league’s worst teams in Milwaukee, and this is the end result. This game was over by halftime, when the Spurs led by 23 points and Tim Duncan had already registered 16 points and 11 rebounds in just over 16 minutes. Someone named Miroslav Raduljica tallied 10 points and seven rebounds in less than 23 minutes for the Bucks, proving just how out of hand this game truly was. — BP

Timberwolves 106, Sixers 99: Philadelphia started off strong by getting out to a 19-point first quarter lead, but Minnesota slowly crawled back into it and outscored the Sixers by 20 in the second half to come away with the victory. The Timberwolves won despite shooting a far lower percentage than their opponent — just 38.5 percent to Philly’s 52.7 percent — but that was due to Minnesota gaining 22 more field goal attempts thanks to 12 more offensive rebounds and the Sixers turning the ball over 26 times. — BP

Pelicans 111, Pistons 106 (OT): Detroit came back from nine down in the fourth to force the extra session, after neither team could score in the final 1:19 of regulation. Ryan Anderson scored eight points in overtime to help his team win, while huge efforts from Greg Monroe (28 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (25 points, five rebounds, four assists, six steals) were wasted in the losing effort. — BP

Knicks 83, Bulls 78: The Knicks need wins, they’ll take them no matter how ugly they are. And this one was ugly. Carmelo Anthony did his part with 30 points and 10 rebounds, and Amar’e Stoudemire stepped up with 10 points during a key 19-0 Knicks run in the second quarter. New York led by 23 but the scrappy Bulls battled back to tie it at 74-74. You can thank Mike Dunleavy Jr. who had 20 points and 8 dimes. But Stoudemire hit a key jumper and Anthony had 9 points in the fourth. It’s a win, Mike Woodson will take it right now. — KH

Jazz 122, Kings 101: Sacramento didn’t dress Rudy Gay or anyone else from the trade (they couldn’t play because Greivis Vasquez has yet to pass his physical in Canada) but that wouldn’t have helped them here. Utah was just clicking on offense — they shot 53.9 percent overall, hit 13-of-23 from three and had an offensive rating of 133.2 points per 100 possessions. Individually Richard Jefferson was 7-of-9 shooting, Derrick Favors 6-of-9, Alec Burke 7-of-11 and that will get it done. After the way this season has gone for them, the Jazz could use an easy win. — KH

Warriors 95, Mavericks 93: Dallas had a, 18-point lead in the first half, a 10 point lead with 8 minutes to go, but against the Warriors in Oracle Arena that is like a 2 point lead anywhere else. Stephen Curry had 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter — including the game winner, which was part of a 9-1 Golden State run to close out the game and get the win. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki each had 21 for Dallas. — KH