My favorite play from the Lakers this season wasn’t when LeBron drove out of a mid-post isolation vs. Giannis in the win over the Bucks, the LeBron drive vs. Marcus Morris in the win over the Clippers that basically clinched the game, or even the “hammer” action play the team ran for Danny Green to force OT vs. the Mavs in Dallas.
No, my favorite play the Lakers ran this season came in a weird win over the Bulls in Chicago when the Lakers were already well ahead after an all-bench unit had rallied the team back from a deficit at the end of the 3rd period and start of the 4th. The play itself wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary, but it stood out to me for the crispness of the action, the execution they team displayed, and, honestly, that it came out of a set the team rarely runs at all.
Here it is:
There’s a lot to love about this play, beyond the fact that it delivered a lob dunk and two points. First, it’s a play that involves the team’s two best players in LeBron and AD. Second, it’s a play designed around a split cut action, something I thought we’d see more of from the Lakers this season considering both LeBron and AD’s strength out of the post and the Lakers ability to surround those guys with shooters and slashers who can execute this action well.
Lastly, though, what I love most is just the execution and sharpness the team displays when going through this action.
Here’s a few still photo’s to further break this down.
The play starts with Cook handling the ball up high and LeBron in position to either screen on the ball or receive a quick entry pass in the elbow area. Cook has already picked up his dribble, but rather than enter to Bron, he drops the ball into the post for AD:
After AD makes the catch, Bron initiates the split cut action by setting a screen for Cook to float towards the top of the key where he can step into a 3 if he gets the pass. Bron does an excellent job of really screening off Cook’s defender, completely engulfing him with the pick. (Notice the spacing here, too. Dwight is all the way at the 3-point line while Caruso is so deep into the corner he’s not even in the frame.):
A key thing in this next frame: look at the quick ball fake from AD. This freezes LeBron’s defender who gets his hands up into the passing lane hoping to get a deflection. As this happens, Bron is already moving towards AD for a pass. Look at the separation between Bron and his man at this stage of the play developing:
As AD shovels the hand-off to Bron, again look at where the defender is chasing. Brown is about to catch a pass with his momentum going into a driving position and his defender is a good 4-5 feet off him.
Here’s where Bron’s understanding of how this play is going to develop comes into play. Rather than try to create advantage with all that spacing he has, he comes to a stop and allows the defense to engage him. AD’s man steps up to slow any potential penetration or to contest a potential jumper, but this really just opens up with Bron really wants:
That’s right, there’s the lob. Bron places it perfectly where only AD can make the catch and in front of any rotating help from the weakside. The result is an easy dunk.
Let’s watch the play again at full speed:
The Lakers haven’t run this action a lot this year, but whenever this team is back on the court, I’d like to see them go to it more.