Video Breakdown: What is “Pistol” action?

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Last year I did a video on defensive terminology as part of one big glossary. This season, I thought it would be fun to do some videos on specific offensive or defensive basketball terms that you may have heard, whether from NBA Twitter heads or simply from your more studious friends.

There’s so much terminology out there, and a lot of duplicate terms for the same thing, so let’s take it slow this week and start out easy with something on offense.

Today we’re talking about “Pistol Action” something that’s also referred to in passing as “Pistol”.

Pistol is actually really easy once you know what it is, and it’ll be fun to recognize it as you’ll see it over and over again since just about every team in the NBA runs it.

Read the breakdown below, or watch the full video breakdown at the top of this page.

What is Pistol?

pistol triangle

The setup is simple. Pistol is an action early in the offense with a guard handling the ball, a wing in the corner, and either another post or a wing settled at the elbow or 3-point line. They are set up in a loose triangle and it is always run toward the sideline.

Pistol action is when a guard dribbles up the floor quickly toward a wing in the corner, while a post stands nearby at the elbow or 3-point line to assist on screening for one or both players.

There are only two main Pistol options to start a play: One is a dribble handoff, and the other is a pick and roll. It’s that easy.

Pistol Dribble Handoff

As James Harden dribbles toward the sideline in the play above, Patrick Beverley comes up from the far wing. Harden then flips the ball to Beverley, who now gets a screen from the post player.

This is the end of the action we would typically refer to as “Pistol”.

As Pistol is simply the early portion of most offensive sets, it’s a reference to an action you can pick out of an entire play.

Pistol Pick-and-Roll

The pick-and-roll in the Pistol starts when the wing comes up from the corner to set a pick for the ball handler. At this point, a ball-handler will typically run around a second screen by the big man who is part of the triangle.

In the example above, we’re looking at the Portland Trail Blazers run C.J. McCollumn on a slip screen — a screen where instead of making firm contact with a defender, light or no contact is had and McCollum is trying to “slip” free after setting a quick screen.

Portland adds another wrinkle with this one as Mason Plumlee slips HIS screen to dive to the lane, which gives Lillard an open pass and a made basket.

Review

Simply put, Pistol is a quick sideline play with three players that involves a dribble handoff or a pick and roll.

There are infinite options, but if you hear someone say “Pistol” or “Pistol Action” you’ll know they’re referring to that setup on the sideline and that initial exchange between point guard, wing, and big man in that triangle.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.