Breaking down the Anthony Morrow 3, AKA “Why You Don’t Play Zone Late With Anthony Morrow On The Court”

With under two minutes left in the game and a five-point lead in the season opener against Washington, the Nets got a key three from Anthony Morrow to essentially put the game away. Morrow shot poorly throughout the game, but had started to find his touch in the fourth quarter, and got a wide-open look to seal the game.

The Nets executed well, but frankly it was both a poor choice of defense by coach Flip Saunders and an even worse read by Andray Blatche that sealed the deal. Let’s do this one Sebastian Pruiti-style and break it down.

Shot 1 - Reading the Defense

After the Nets pull down a rebound and break a 3/4 court press, Deron Williams sets up the play on the right side. The Wizards are playing a 2-3 zone, made obvious by the fact that Nick Young is playing nobody at the top of the key and Andray Blatche is the only soul close to Morrow. Reading the play, Deron calls for a double-screen with Petro and Humphries.

Petro & Humphries set the screen high, which brings Ronny Turiaf out of the lane to the left high post, which means Blatche has to cover more of the inside.

D-Will elects to use Humphries’s screen, a smart move because a) Humphries sets stronger screens than Petro, and b) bringing Turiaf further left to cut off Deron means Blatche has to pay even more attention to the middle, should Turiaf get beat or one of Petro or Humphries roll to the basket. This means Blatche’s body is completely turned away from Morrow, who’s now wide open in the left corner.

As you’ll see in the video, the above image captures the moment D-Will picks up his dribble. He immediately fires a pass over to Morrow in the corner.

By the time Morrow receives the pass, Blatche still has one foot in the painted area and is playing catchup. Humphries and James — who combined for 30 rebounds in this game — start dropping inside for the offensive rebound opportunity, but it won’t be necessary.

By the time Morrow releases the shot, Blatche isn’t even in front of him, and flails wildly at Morrow with his right arm to no avail.

Here is the play in real-time:

This is a pretty simple play, but it’s one that was so effective because of Flip Saunders’s decision to play a zone defense down 5 with under two minutes left in the game while Anthony Morrow is on the floor. Morrow hadn’t had the greatest shooting night up to that point, but a three-year track record should teach you that Andray Blatche isn’t the guy you want closest to him in a tight game. Deron Williams is a superstar point guard with the ability to find his teammates for excellent looks, and when there’s major holes in the wrong defensive scheme, he’s going to set up a good look.

The Wizards had their share of mistakes on the floor yesterday, but this was the biggest one in terms of impact — running a defense designed to force an offense to rely on its shooting, with one of the best three-point shooters of all time alone in the left corner, and no one but Andray Blatche to cover him.