This Might Be Brooklyn’s Most Dangerous Offensive Weapon

Heat Nets Basketball
Kevin Garnett (AP)
How Brooklyn can dominate a defense. (AP)
How Brooklyn can dominate a defense. (AP)

Last season, the Brooklyn Nets starting lineup prominently featured Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, two players that hampered Brooklyn’s spacing; Wallace shot a league-worst 27.3% outside of the paint, and Evans made just four shots outside of the paint all season. With the new additions of shooters Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, the offensive possibilities seem endless.

In Friday night’s upset win over the Miami Heat, we saw some of these new possibilities on display — particularly with the use of the high pick-and-roll late in the 4th quarter. Let’s take a look.

When Garnett checked back into Friday’s game at the 4:25 mark of the 4th quarter, the Nets immediately went to a high pick-and-roll featuring Garnett and Williams for 5 of the next 6 possessions, until the Heat were forced to start fouling with 18 seconds left. (The lone possession that wasn’t a high pick-and-roll was a Paul Pierce isolation against the smaller Mario Chalmers.)

Each of the five plays netted Brooklyn a positive; be it a good shot, favorable matchup, or wide-open three-pointer. It proved the high pick-and-roll can be a dangerous and potentially indefensible weapon for the Nets this season.

In the first play, with the Nets up by eight, Williams and Garnett prodded at the top of the key, looking to work Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh in the pick-and-roll. On the wings sit Joe Johnson and Alan Anderson — two deep threats — while Paul Pierce relaxes on the baseline.

As Garnett sets the screen, Williams attacks a lane until LeBron James — assigned to Johnson — steps in to close the gap. James’s help leaves Johnson wide open for an easy three-pointer, putting Brooklyn up 11.

Normally, defenders shouldn’t need to help off the ball when their man is one pass away. LeBron James got burned doing just that.

But what if James doesn’t help? Then Williams can penetrate, with no rim protector to head him off.

On the next possession, the Heat change up their coverage, trapping Williams at the elbow and having Dwyane Wade stick to Johnson in the corner. This leaves Garnett wide open for a long two-pointer, a shot most defenses would live with if it wasn’t Garnett taking the shot. KG shot 44% from this zone last season, well above the league average and only slightly worse than what Joe Johnson shot in the restricted area last year. Watch:

Even though Garnett misses, it’s a welcome option for the Nets.

On the next offensive possession, the Heat go back to their original plan, with Wade helping to cut off the drive even though his man is one pass away. Another easy three for Johnson puts the Nets up 12. Watch:

Here, the Heat use Wade on Williams, hoping that he can do a better job of fighting through Garnett’s screen and forcing Williams into a bad shot. Though Wade does a better job than Chalmers, Williams still gets a solid look at a three. Watch:

On this next possession, the Nets catch Bosh in no-man’s-land: neither trapping the ballhandler nor covering the roll-man. Garnett rolls and Williams finds him at the rim. Though Garnett blows a layup attempt, it’s again the right shot, and a good one. Watch:

In this final clip, Miami uses Wade on Williams again, and the Nets get a favorable switch, manning the 6’5” Wade against the 6’11” Garnett one-on-one in the post. Though Garnett misses due to some solid defense by Wade, it’s a very favorable matchup for Brooklyn. Watch:

As Ian Eagle has said on numerous telecasts, defending this Nets team is “picking your poison.” There’s too many shooters and weapons to cover at once, and this high pick-and-roll is a dangerous weapon with a passer as good as Williams and a screener as *ahem* good as Garnett.

This was not an option last season: without the shooters on the wings and the screener as an offensive threat, the defense can help off their man and cut off the ballhandler’s driving lane. With Wallace and Evans playing the Nets limited the Nets in how many high screen-and-rolls they were able to deploy.

As long as good health remains in order, the Nets should have no trouble picking apart their opponent on the offensive end by using plays such as the high pick-and-roll.