Beneath the Screen: Drawing Up a Win

Published: November 9, 2012

In a recurring post throughout the season, Jake will take a look at the inner workings of the Hornets’ offense and defense–what works, what doesn’t and why, as well as how the Hornets can improve.

Today, Jake takes us back to last week against the Jazz and two tremendous plays Monty Williams drew up.

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There has been one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve looked more in depth at the Hornets offense: Monty Williams is a sneaky good offensive coach. I know there is a lot of criticism regarding the Hornets’ offense (especially after Wednesday), but it’s true. And it was clearly evident last week against the Jazz.

Coming out of a timeout down 83-81 and with 39 seconds left in the game and 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Monty drew up a beauty of an inbounds play. Let’s take a look.

Off the inbounds, Ryan Anderson gets the ball. He hands the ball of back to the inbounder and then cuts towards the rim.

This is where the great play calling comes in. As Anderson cuts, Aminu comes towards him and sets a screen. The intent of this play is to make the defense think the Hornets are trying to create an open look for Anderson from the opposite corner from where he is.

This is play the Jazz think the Hornets are running. But Monty had something even better drawn up.

As the play develops, Robin Lopez is just setting screen and screen near the middle of the paint. He sets a screen, takes a step in another direction and sets another one. While setting these screens, Lopez also sets a screen on Anderson’s defender. This creates space for Anderson but most importantly blocks the vision of the defender.

Because of the Lopez screen, all Anderson’s defender sees is another pick being set on him. Because of this he gives Anderson space so that he can take a better angle to defend him once he runs to the opposite corner. But instead of running through the screen, Anderson cuts back to the side he was originally on. Because Anderson’s defender over pursued on the screen, Anderson has a wide open look from the corner–a shot he is deadly from.

The two defends are nowhere near Anderson and he drains the three-pointer to give the Hornets a one point lead.

After two free throws from Roger Mason Jr. and a Paul Millsap three-pointer, the Hornets found themselves tied at 86 with 7.1 seconds left on the clock. Monty called a timeout and drew up and arguably better play than the one we just looked at.

My first post in this series looked at the Hornets and pick and roll offense. Through their four games this season the Hornets have run the pick and roll 28.10% of the time according to Every opponent game plans for this and know whether they plan to go above or under the screen and if they plan to trap the ball handler or not. The game winner that Vasquez made was a variation of the Hornets’ offensive staple: a fake pick and roll.

Off the inbound Vasquez takes the ball towards the top of the three-point line. Anderson runs from the bottom of the court towards Vasquez like he is going to set a screen on a pick and roll.

Anderson cuts close enough to Vasquez that the defenders think he is setting a screen, but Anderson runs past Vasquez instead. Both defends decide to stay with Vasquez. This leaves Anderson wide open for three.

Vasquez’s defender, realizing that an open Anderson is deadly (as seen above), leaves Vasquez and tries to get back to defend a potential three-pointer. This is all part of Monty’s play call. Anderson’s original defender doesn’t have the speed to get back and cover Anderson, so he is forced to stay on Vasquez. This matches up Vasquez with a slower defender.

And we all know the result: Vasquez makes an open floater to win the game with 1.3 seconds left on the clock. It’s a great play call because it has the safety net of Anderson being open for 3. But if there was any doubt that the play was specifically called for his point guard, Monty told Vasquez, “I want you to hit this big shot for us.”

Both of Monty’s play calls go against what the Jazz were expecting. By mixing up his offense at the right moment Monty created high quality shots for his players. Vasquez sung his coaches’ praises saying, “I think Coach Williams is one of the best coaches out of timeouts. Every play we run, when we execute it, it’s on-point The big shot that Ryan hit, that was a great play.” The Hornets’ players trust Monty to put them in position to win the game, and after last Friday I do too.

Beneath the Screen is a reoccurring series throughout the season run on Fridays. See past editions here.


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