We break down the key offensive and defensive play of the Knicks game.
Getting the mismatch you want
This is a play that the Raptors have run on either side of the court a few times during crunch time this year. This demonstrates how an offense has attained the switch they sought and gone about taking advantage while the defense takes no action in mitigating the switch. Passes are in red, player movement in white.
The play starts off with Chandler guarding Turkoglu and Lee guarding Bosh, logical matchups that are more than acceptable to the defense. The Knicks are in man-to-man defense and the Raptors have no advantage at this point. That is soon to change.
Bosh sets a high-screen on Chandler, notice that Turkoglu has no intention of driving the ball and using the screen to his advantage. The objective here is to switch the shorter Chandler on Bosh. David Lee is respecting Turkoglu’s drive-game even though the latter isn’t really in a position to take advantage of the screen. Perhaps Lee should’ve just focused on sticking with Bosh rather than worrying about Turkoglu. The floor is very well-spaced with the Knicks are respecting the Raptors’ three-point threats of Calderon, Jack and Bargnani.
Bargnani’s placement in the corner is key because with Lee guarding Turkoglu, the entry-pass for the Turk will be difficult. The point-to-wing pass gives the 7-foot Bargnani a very good angle to make the entry-pass, a key element in this play and a part of the Raptor game that has dramatically improved from last year. Triano has done a good job of keeping his tallest and most effective post-passer in the right position.
Bosh had done a very good job of sealing of Chandler and not allowing the Knick to front him. All that’s left for the mismatch to take into full effect is the pass which Bargnani makes to Bosh’s right hand, away from Chandler. Lee is still respecting Turkoglu and the Knicks are not sending any help yet, even though it’s quite apparent what’s going on.
I’ve included this frame to show that the Knicks, despite seeing the mismatch, are not providing any help even after the Bosh catch. Either they have faith in Chandler’s defense, or they are unprepared on how to handle this situation.
Bosh takes the shorter Chandler right to the rim, there’s zero chance of a block on this play as the weak-side defender Nate Robinson is too short and Gallinari isn’t playing any defense.
David Lee is left to wonder what could’ve been if he had not switched so eagerly on Turkoglu.
Recovering after giving away the mismatch
Here’s a play where the offense gets the switch they sought, but the defense recovers because of poor offensive floor spacing and good defensive communication.
The Raptors are in a man-self-basket position here. Antoine Wright is guarding the inbound man and not providing any pass-pressure. This can be questioned in this situation but it does have the effect of eliminating the give-and-go the inbound guy can play with the player he passes to. It is somewhat surprising that the Knicks will give the ball to Al Harrington given that the Raptors are not denying them any passing option. I suppose they want to exploit Bargnani’s defense on the perimeter.
The Knicks have set two solid screens. Nate Robinson has set one on Turkoglu giving the Raptors the impression that the play might be for Chandler. However, soon after that switch, Lee sets one on Jack. In this situation it is a test of the defense to maintain the matchups they were at and not concede a switch. Turkoglu has seen the screen on him, but I don’t think Jack is aware of the impending pick about to be set on him. Poor communication on the part of Bosh? I don’t know, this is something somebody who was sitting courtside can comment on.
Turkoglu has recovered but Jack has been completely caught. As Nate Robinson goes to the wing, Bosh is forced to go with him and leave Jack guarding Lee, a potentially disastrous matchup for the Raptors.
This is a key frame. Jack is now guarding Lee but the Knicks spacing is poor, the ball is too far away from the mismatch they’ve worked so hard to get. Even though Bargnani has stumbled, his pressure on Harrington has forced the latter to catch the ball much farther than he would’ve liked. There is simply too much space between Harrington and Lee for a pass to be made. Harrington has also been forced to catch the ball with his back to the basket which has prevented him from seeing the action that has developed underneath.
Lee has rolled to the rim but Harrington does not have a good angle to make the pass, Bargnani is more or less out of the play as Wright assumes responsibility on Harrington. Jack is a little late in realizing that he’s left Lee open underneath the rim and tries to catch up.
The other option for Jack could be to rotate to Nate and let Bosh drop down to Lee. However, that would leave one of those two players very open and the pass to them easy since Jack’s central position is what’s preventing Harrington from making the pass to Lee.
This is where the Raptors communication on defense has paid off. Jack and Bosh communicate that it’s OK for Bosh to guard Lee again as Robinson is no longer a threat (if he had moved to the corner, he would’ve remained one and maybe Bosh wouldn’t rotate), leaving Jack as a “free man” on defense. This is the moment where Jack sees Harrington’s intentions of taking it to the rim and goes about getting himself in a position to pick up a charge. This is 100% defensive instinct and what separates a good defensive player from a bad one.
Whether Jack is moving is debatable, but Harrington should’ve stopped on a dime and just taken a short-jumper because Lee has 50-50 rebounding position on Bosh. Harrington has basically hogged the ball on this possession after failing to catch it properly on the inbounds.
It’s also worth noting that the play the Knicks ran doesn’t seem to have many options.