In the midst of their best stretch this season, the Brooklyn Nets found themselves trailing the Indiana Pacers -- boasters of the league's best defense -- heading into the fourth quarter.
As Devin noted last night, however, the Nets managed to flip the script on the Pacers and kill them with hard drives to the rim, followed by kick outs to shooters – an effective strategy for a team with such capable shot-blockers as the Pacers.
One possession in particular stuck out to me for its rareness in appearance, and for the potential it presents to the Nets offense.
At the height of the Nets’ game-clinching run in the fourth quarter, Deron Williams had an engaging defensive possession. Switched onto bruising Pacers forward David West, Williams was able to use his body to deter West’s forceful drive, limiting him to a contested mid-range shot that clanged wide off the rim.
Brook Lopez managed to haul in the rebound, and then found the curling Williams with an outlet. At this point, I expected Williams to slowly jog the ball into the front court, get the Nets into a set and run offense, a very typical Nets possession. After all, according to ESPN's pace stats, the Nets are just slightly above the New Orleans Hornets for the slowest team in the NBA.
However, Williams instead offered a glimpse into the dynamic offensive player he’s capable of being. After grabbing the outlet from Lopez, Williams instantly started his dribble, exploding into a gear we've rarely seen from him this season.
Pushing the ball straight into the teeth of the Pacers defense, Williams managed to put four Pacers players on high alert:
As you see in the above image, Indiana’s West, Mahinmi and Hill are all locked onto Williams, while Gerald Green is caught between helping on the Williams drive, or staying with the hot-shooting Joe Johnson.
As Williams continued his breakneck foray to the hoop, he again gave the NBA-watching community a reminder why he’s considered an elite point guard; surrounded by defenders, Williams unleashed a full-speed spin move back into the middle of Indiana’s paint, all the while sucking in three defenders, including both Mahinmi and West, the defenders most likely tasked to deal with the trailing Lopez.
From there, even after a full-speed dribble followed by a full-speed spin, Williams possessed enough court awareness to immediately snap a pass to a trailing Lopez.
Looking at the above image, you see that all five Indiana Pacers defenders are collapsed into a square probably no larger than 15 feet x 15 feet, which gave Lopez more than enough room to operate.
Granted, not all 7-footers can stop on a dime and hit a 19-foot shot the way Lopez can, but in this situation Williams' racing the ball up the court created easy offense for the Nets.
Here's the play live:
The takeaway from all this is... well, I'm not sure. There's been enough evidence this season to suggest the Nets believe that playing a slower, more deliberate offensive pace is what works best for them. While I certainly don't think the Nets will turn into the seven seconds or less Suns, I do believe that, in spots, Williams elevating to his highest gear can create easy baskets for the Nets.