Last week we broke down a nice pick and roll set the Lakers ran against the Spurs. The set started out of a Princeton formation with a two-guard front, but incorporate a dribble hand-off and flowed right into a pick and roll. The action set up a rhythm 15-footer for Lou Williams which he knocked down.
It should be noted Williams’ attempt is not the most analytically friendly shot. Mid-range jumpers are the ones defenses want to surrender and that’s exactly what this action produced. However, it is also worth noting that is a spot on the floor Williams has hit two-thirds of the shots he’s taken this season (he’s 4-6) so you can live with that every once and a while.
In any event, as I mentioned in the post, the Lakers did not run that action again against the Spurs. They did, however, run it against the Bucks on Tuesday night. And this time they ran it for Russell (rather than having him trigger it) and it produced a much more favorable shot:
The set up is the same as the one we previously highlighted, only this time Clarkson brings the ball up and then dribbles towards Russell to initiate the hand-off. After getting the ball, Russell works in tandem with Sacre who slides up the lane line to set a screen. Russell, coming to his strong hand would look to turn the corner, but Bucks’ big man Miles Plumlee does a good job hedging out hard to stop any potential drive. This hard hedge creates the passing angle Russell exploits to hit Sacre in stride for an easy dunk.
While it’s easy to focus on the action between Russell and Sacre, what’s also important here is the action occurring on the weak side. Notice Clarkson and Randle work a nice two man game where Clarkson signals Randle to come and set a back screen. Now watch how Randle’s man reacts. Once Randle takes his angle to set the pick, his man follows him up the lane line and, in the process, abandons his responsibility in the paint. If you’re wondering why Sacre is absolutely wide open and gets an uncontested dunk, Randle’s man vacating the restricted area is the reason.
These are the off-ball subtleties the Lakers lacked and/or have not been executing well early in the season. But they are also the little actions built into sets which create easier shots and put the defense into positions where distractions and blown assignments can occur.
I do not think I’m alone when I say these are the types of positive steps forward I am looking for as the year advances. More minor tweaks within the offense, execution which continues to improve, and young players working in tandem to help make each other better. Sure, it was only one play, but it can grow into something much bigger than that.