A member of reddit’s /r/nba posed a few questions and I felt the questions deserved a thorough response. Below is the question by gatorphan84:
I have a request, or question at least. It looked to me like in both games 2 and 3 [of the 2011 NBA Finals], the Heat stopped attacking the basket towards the end of the game when Dallas started to make their comeback.
To me it just looks like they start playing crappy offense, but I’m guessing that perhaps the Mavs defense might have something to do with it? What do you think is the case? If it is the Mavs defense: 1.) Why don’t they play like that more often, and 2.) why can’t the Heat seem to adjust, and 3.) what could they do to adjust to it? If it is the Heat’s offense, why do they start taking jumpshots and stop attacking the rim when it is clearly their best strategy?
To answer your underlying question, I believe the late game difficulties the Heat face are a combination of ineffective defense and stagnant, simplistic offense. I’m going to focus on game 2 since I believe it better demonstrates the issues.
Defense pt. 1 – A Defensive Primer
Up until now we’ve focused entirely on the offensive end but today I want to take a change of direction and look at the other end of the court. You have likely heard the phrase, “the best defense is a good offense”, today we take the opposite stance and the reasoning behind that sentiment is probably pretty clear. First, solid defense relieves the pressure on your offense to score more points. Second, the more your defense makes the other side work for its points, the more tired and frustrated they will become. Lastly, solid defense can break up the other team’s offensive options and plans.
How does the defense try to achieve these goals? Defense operates in both sets and types. A set, much like our discussion on offense, is a description of the formation created by the players on the court. A type is a description of the way the defense interacts to the movement by the offense. The defense will pair a set with a type of and we’ll see how these pairs can affect how the defense operates on the court.
This first part is in no way intended to be comprehensive but instead is intended to introduce you to the basic defensive concepts. In the future, we will apply these concepts more thoroughly and recognize the differing defensive philosophies.
Let’s start with the sets.
Due to personal obligations my post on defense will be delayed until next week.
Analyzing the Offense pt. 5 – The Thunder
The Thunder’s offense is a mixture of many of the concepts we’ve already seen. They probably have the most diverse offense of the teams we’ve seen so far. They tend to rely mostly on the dribble drive motion offense but they do use some more standard offensive systems. Below we’ll see examples of the Thunder using a 1-4 low set, 1-4 wide box, and double high post. Their offense seems to be a work in development and that leads to some confusion and frustration by the players. Since they use concepts we’ve already seen before we’ll jump into some examples and see what we can learn about their offense from there.
Analyzing the Offense pt. 4 – The Bulls
Let’s quickly review what we’ve seen so far to put the Bulls offense in perspective. We’ve seen the triangle offense that emphasized read-and-react with a particular spacing; we’ve seen the rigid use of the double high post set by the Heat; and we’ve seen the motion offense that combines a particular set with a read-and-react system. Now we’ll see a system that is probably most similar to the Mavericks system we saw last time but has some key differences.
The Bulls combine a few different systems to create their offense and can ultimately be described as a type of motion offense. I’ll characterize their two main systems as a flex motion offense and a dribble drive motion offense. Like most NBA playbooks, the Bulls don’t run a purely flex motion offense or a purely dribble drive motion offense but instead have created a variant of those systems to maximize the advantages in their roster. Let’s first take a look at what a flex motion offense is.
Similar to the description of a motion offense we used last time, any motion offense is a description of a system – one that emphasizes off-ball motion to open up passing options.
Analyzing the Offense pt. 3 – The Mavericks Offense
When we looked at the triangle offense we focused on the system’s emphasis on a particular framework, one that emphasized spacing and reading and reacting to the defense. We then moved to a much more rigid offensive system that the Heat run in their double high post series. In this offensive analysis we’re going to look at a system that combines the two elements to create a mixture of an offensive framework and set plays.
The Mavericks run a combination of motion offense with a variety of sets, some roster specific plays, and isolations in their offense.
Let’s begin our discussion by defining the motion offense.
Sorry to those of you that wanted me to select a different team but I wanted to go with an Eastern Conference team that was still in the playoffs which left with me with the Heat and Bulls. Between the two teams the Heat was the easier team to analyze. Having said that, let’s take a look.
I thought there might be some interest in a discussion about different offensive sets so I decided to write a thread about the triangle. In the future I might discuss other offenses around the league if there’s any interest.
Let’s start with some underlying premises of the triangle offense.
First, it emphasizes spacing and ball movement in order to penetrate the defense. This differs from typical offensive schemes because it values dribble penetration a lot less. Rather than rely upon a perimeter player to pierce the defense, it focuses on off-ball movement and post players to create passing lanes in the teeth of the defense.
Second, for the most part it’s a read-and-react defense. Most modern versions of the offense (Lakers/Timberwolves) incorporate set plays within the triangle offense framework but the majority of the offense is based on reading the court and finding the best options available. For this reason, every player on the court is assumed to be a legitimate offensive threat.
Lastly, the triangle offense is a description of an offensive framework, not a type of play.