Yesterday I covered how the Raptors defended a pick ‘n roll sequence against the Sixers. In the ‘raps’ section, curseoftheswirsk suggested that to contrast things, we look at how a good defensive team like Boston might handle a similar situation. This is from last night’s Boston vs Portland game.
LaMarcus Aldridge is about to set a screen on Rajon Rondo for Wesley Matthews. Notice Garnett’s position, he is not sagging and is only too aware of exactly what’s coming and how he’s going to handle it – hedge hard. There is total communication between Rondo, Garnett and Pierce in how to deal with the screen.
Garnett hedges and seals off Matthew’s direct access to the lane, forcing him to go wide and away from the basket, which is not what he wants to do. Rondo does not entirely rely on Garnett’s hedge and fights through to pick up his man again. The pass from Matthew’s to Aldridge is currently a difficult one because of the pressure he’s under and the position he’s in. Aldridge is somewhat open, but Paul Pierce is well aware of the rotation he has to make.
Boston has neutralized things. Pierce has picked up Aldridge, Rondo is back on Matthews, and Garnett is heading over to pick up Pierce’s man, Andre Miller (not pictured) or optionally switch with Pierce for a full reset. Notice Matthew’s position, he’s actually further away from the rim when the initial screen was set. Contrast this to Iguodala’s position yesterday. A potential pass here is from Matthews to Miller, but it’s a difficult one which has to go through Rondo, Garnett and Pierce, who can also play the passing lane.
In the end, Matthews is forced to dribble to his right and take a contested fadeaway against Rondo and the Boston frontline.
How a team initially approaches the high screen has a massive influence on how the play ends up being executed. The above example doesn’t mean that sealing the dribbler is a better idea than laying off (as Ed Davis did yesterday), both are valid options. In today’s case, Matthews is a 38% three-point shooter which probably made Garnett’s decision to hedge easier. Yesterday, giving Iguodala, a career 35% three-point shooter, space is also a good option as long as you prevent the drive. The Raptors did neither.
A team’s defense has to be tailored to the personnel on it, good team defense is not an out-of-the-box product that can be applied to any five players. Bringing the most out of a player by maximizing their strengths and hiding their weakness is what a coach does, and given the pool of talent at Triano’s disposal, it’s a tough job to do. Personally, I’ve primarily judged Triano on the effort he’s been able to extract from his players and on that account, he’s done a decent job. The rest is up for debate.