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.

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5 Responses to “Breaking It Down: How Boston defends the pick ‘n roll”

  1. 511

    Good stuff. But I feel like I’m missing something, namely, why it is that ‘good team defense is not an out-of-the-box product’? I get that players have their own strengths of course, but … this, as you’ve clearly laid it out, seems like something that should easily be coachable. Like … there are no special skills or unusual levels of talent or intelligence involved, that I can see going on here. To me, it just looks like good coaching.

    I’m almost hoping that isn’t the case, btw, cuz if it is, we got ourselves bigger problems than I might’ve even thought.

    • arsenalist

      The Lakers funnel their guards right down to their bigs in Bynum/Gasol. The Magic can afford that luxury too. Philly’s defense with Iverson in his prime was all about backcourt pressure and picking the passing lanes because they had the guards to do it, if you ask Nelson and Reddick to do the same, it’ll be a disaster. The Knicks of the 90’s hated to double team, but teams like OKC take a swipe at every dribble. IMO, good defense can take many different forms.

  2. Theswirsky

    Just want to point out this captures a pick and roll… last one was a pick and pop so there are some differences. (Paul Pierce stepping down to help… while yesterday Jose technically had 2 guys and his man to ‘help’ on.. Bargs man and Davis’s man… conviently the PF and C) Would also mention that Pryzbilla is not down the floor yet.. so its also (technically) a 4 on 5


    Obviously the big thing here is KG hedges, where Davis didn’t. Mind you we are talking about a all-NBA defender vs a rookie with 2 months experience. I would also mention that:

    i) Erden is at the top of the key (not under the net) leaving him in a position to challenge anything Mathews presents

    ii) is actually challenging the play as it unfolds

    Bargnani did neither in yesterdays frame. Mind you he is not as ‘lucky’ as Erden is, as he had a man to defend. That said in yesterdays clips he left himself in a position to do nothing (neither help on Iggy and to far from his man)

    But more than anything…. why is Boston’s D successful? They have confidence in their teammates. They have confidence in someone helping them. I watched this game yesterday (loved how Pryzbilla laid out KG in the first quarter… suprisingly no squawking from KG… huh… guess its cause the guy isn’t smaller than him) During a time out Doc Rivers told the team, “When Perk or Big Baby come over to help, they expect someone to have their back”

    Can one say the same for the Raps?

    • arsenalist

      Good point about the roll vs. pop, I’d say the roll is usually always harder to defend because the roller always demands attention, whereas you can afford to leave a bad shooter open on the pop.


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