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The Clippers’ High Screen-the-Screener Series
Last night the Clippers and Mavericks faced off at Staples Center resulting in a last second victory for the Clippers. Much of the focus will no doubt be the amazing shot Billups made to win the game shown here.
While that was a great play, I want to focus on how the Clippers put themselves in a position to win in the 4th quarter.
The play-by-play shows the Clippers started the quarter with 2 made field goals by Mo Williams, the second coming at 10:51 left in the quarter. For the next 5 minutes of play the Clippers went 1 for 9, the sole basket coming off a well-defended Billups 3pt shot. The Clippers’ stretch of misses was due to poor execution and rushed shots. After the Mavericks tied the game at 78 a piece with 5:35 left on the clock, Vinny Del Negro called a timeout.
After the timeout the Clippers slowed the game down and Billups began to run their offense. Let’s take a look at what they ran.
This was the first play the Clippers ran out of the timeout. Mo Williams screens the screener and Blake Griffin comes up for a ball screen while Mo Williams goes on to curl off a double screen by DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler.
The options this play produces puts the defense in a difficult position. The play is a variation of the classic single-double play.
In the single-double play, the primary offensive option is given a double screen on one side and a single screen on the other. Depending on how his defender is playing him, he can pick either screen to get an open look which can lead to a shot or a subsequent pass. In the version the Clippers ran, they added a ball screen to open up Billups for a potential early shot and put Griffin on the move for a potential pick and roll. Caron Butler also flares to the corner as another option and the front court is put in good rebounding position. The latter point was demonstrated well in this clip as Griffin picked up the rebound off Mo Williams’ miss.
The second play shows how the Clippers run another play in the series. At first it appears to be another screen-the-screener play that will develop into a single-double for Mo Williams but this time Mo Williams slips the screen for Griffin. This causes Terry to try to hedge above the developing double screen. Unfortunately for Terry, the screens don’t come and instead Butler and Jordan stay off the lane a bit and Williams receives the pass at the low block.
This play didn’t fully develop but the placement of Jordan and Butler when Griffin sets the screen is interesting.
Mo Williams sets the screen again for Griffin and this time runs to the corner to receive a ball screen from Jordan. When Butler receives the pass, the offense had to decide whether Jordan should set a screen for Williams or Butler. Butler decides to swing the ball to Williams because at the time of the pass Williams had some separation from Terry and there was a possibility of a corner 3pt shot. The shot didn’t occur and Jordan is there to free up Williams.
This play starts a little differently with Butler and Jordan swapping positions. The change doesn’t seem important until the play develops. Williams sets the screen and Griffin sets the ball screen. When Billups takes Griffin’s screen he passes to Butler and by this point Jordan has drifted down to the low block. When Butler drives to the basket, Dirk has to make the decision to either contest Butler’s layup or stick to Jordan. Butler reads Dirk’s contest correctly and does a drop down pass to Jordan for the dunk.
In this variation Jordan sets the ball screen and the weak side develops into an isolation for Griffin.
The last time the Clippers ran this play it resulted in a turnover but we can see how they attempted to use Play 6 as a means to open up a driving lane for Billups. If the defense watched the play unfold and believed the Clippers were setting up another Griffin isolation the play might have been successful.
What do you think of this play series? Do you see how a basic set can have many variations to keep the defense guessing? As the defending team against this set, it would not be enough to simply watch for the initial screen and roll, the defense has to remain discipline enough to watch the play unfold and be careful of subsequent screens.