Well that was fun huh? Once the Nets got up by 19 in the third quarter, I put my notebook down. “Smooth sailing the rest of the way,” I said to myself. Boy was I wrong. The Nets let the Timberwolves crawl back into this one, and the Timberwolves took advantage of that and ended up winning the game. Despite that being said, there was a lot of good that came from this game. There was some bad too (mostly the 4th quarter) though. What I am going to try and do with these breakdowns is breakdown some key plays from the game and try to explain why it was a good or bad play.
Before I do that though, I did want to talk about Frank’s rotation in the 4th quarter. With 4:28 left in the ball game (we were up 6 at this point), Lawrence Frank put Yi back in the game. When he did that, he had a decision to make. Was he going to take out Terrence Williams or Courtney Lee? Terrence had played a great game up until this point, scoring 15 points. He was making good decisions, attacking the basket and making things happen. Courtney Lee on the other hand was just cold. He wasn’t taking any bad shots, but they just weren’t falling. So what does Lawrence Frank do? He keeps Courtney Lee in. Mark and I were talking at this point, and Mark pointed out it was probably Frank showing that he has trust in Courtney. That’s a good point and I can buy it, but as play continuing, Minnesota continued to chip at the lead, and the offense was out of sync. At some point, you have to play the hot hand (or in this case sit the cold hand). Lawrence Frank just sat on his hands though, and when he finally decided to put Terrence Williams in (right before the last possession) he puts him in for Yi. Deciding to go small, even though an offensive rebound and put back could beat us. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened. OK, enough venting for now (I will get back to this later). Lets look at some video, shall we?
Looking at the good first, it seems like the pick and roll is just as effective as it was last year, and there is a new wrinkle as well. The pick and pop. First, the normal pick and roll:
Pick And Roll
Ok, so the play begins with Devin Harris bringing the ball up and Brook and Yi moving to the ball. In past years when Vince Carter was on the team, the pick and roll came out of the offense after he got his touches, with Brook setting up in the post and them coming up to set the screen. In this pick and roll, Brook doesn’t even go into the post, he just sets up the quick screen.
So here is the moment of truth, where Devin gets to make his first decision. He can use Yi’s screen and run the high pick and roll, or he can use Brook’s screen and run the side pick and roll. Devin decides to use Brook’s screen, probably because he notices Al Jefferson playing too far back. Jefferson being out of position means he won’t be able to hedge the basketball in time.
With the lane empty, Brook rolls. Jefferson can’t leave Devin, so he stays with him (probably coming too far out), while Flynn tries to get back to the basketball. The beauty of Yi setting the screen up top (besides giving Devin a second option), is that now, the only other big man on the court for the T-Wolves is up at the three point line. Along with the proper court spacing of CDR and Courtney Lee, this means a clear lane for Brook.
As Brook goes up for the catch, the defenders are actually in position, but they are too small for him, and he makes the catch and the finish with ease. This was a great play call run to perfection by Devin and Brook, and what makes this play is sticking Yi at the top of the three point line, allowing Brook to have a clear lane to roll into.
Here it is in real time:
The Pick and Pop
Brook actually showed a nice touch from 15-20 feet out last night, and if that can continue, it only makes the following play more dangerous.
This time, Brook is now back where the Nets usually run the pick and roll with him, elbow extended. This time it is Courtney Lee and Brook, with Brook calling Lee over wanting him to use the screen.
The Timberwolves know how dangerous Brook is when they run the pick and roll, so Wayne Ellington forces Courtney Lee away from the screen. Ryan Hollis is still slouched off of Brook though, because Lopez still has the option to roll, and he doesn’t want to allow a lob.
Because Ellington had to play Lee so high, Lee easily gets to the basket, forcing Hollis to help. Brook noticing the help is there has two options. He can roll to the basket, or he can “pop,” staying right where he is. Brook chooses to pop, and Courtney Lee, now double teamed, kicks the ball out to him.
Brook makes the catch and there is nobody within 5 feet of him. He could put the ball on the floor and get closer to the basket, but I guess he has been working on his outside shot. Showing confidence in it, he pulls up.
Brook drains the shot. If he starts hitting this shot consistently, opposing teams are going to be in trouble. As of now, teams play the Nets’ pick and roll, by hedging and sinking in the lane, waiting for Brook’s roll. If he starts popping every once in a while and hitting the shot, defenses aren’t going to be able to do that, and that makes the pick and roll more dangerous as well. There was no pick set on this play, but the way it would work if Courtney Lee used the screen would basically have been the same.
Poor Boxing Out/Wrong Personnel
Now we get to the bad. This is the final play of the game, and before this play Mark and I were chatting on gChat, and I mentioned that I would like to see Terrence Williams replace CDR here. You could imagine how excited I was when I saw Terrence checking in. “Man, Lawrence Frank might have this coaching thing figured out,” I thought to myself. However, CDR was still in the game. As it turns out Frank put Terrence Williams in for Yi. I was in shock. Barely having time to process the information, I messaged Mark as Flynn was dribbling out the clock “I hope we don’t lose on an offensive rebound.”
Starting out, the Timberwolves run a pick and roll with Jefferson and Flynn, pulling Brook out of the lane, leaving no big man near the basket. This is the first problem I have with taking Yi out. The T-Wolves were running this play almost exclusively late, and Frank should have known that they would be pulling Brook out.
The pick is set, and there is actually good initial defense. Brook hedges out just enough to stop Flynn from getting in the paint, and Lee recovers quickly.
The result is Flynn taking a crazy fall away jumper that really has no chance of going in from the start. Since Brook didn’t hedge too far out, it looks like he will have time to recover and get a body on Jefferson. Everyone right now is in perfect position, but let’s watch Terrence Williams shall we? Terrence had a terrific game, but he didn’t do the fundamentals on this play, and it cost the Nets.
You are taught at every level, when the shot goes up find your man, make contact, and then go for the ball. Terrence doesn’t even look at Wilkins though, he just sinks into the paint…way too deep and that is a problem. Everyone else has good position including a nice pinch on Jefferson.
Terrence and Brook both jump here (I actually think they jump into each other), and it turns out to be a medium-ish rebound, bouncing over both their heads. Look how deep Wilkins got without even being touched. Because Brook was in the right position, he causes Jefferson to attempt to make a tough catch. He can’t and the ball bounces away from him.
Now that Wilkins has the ball, Terrence finally turns to him but it is too late. I still can’t get over how deep he got with nobody touching him. Terrence actually plays solid defense from there on, forcing Wilkins into a crazy double-clutch bank shot.
But being a Nets fan, I knew it could only end one way. Wilkins hits the shot, and the Timberwolves win. Did Terrence Williams mess up? Yes. Not making any excuses for him there, he should have boxed out, it is something that is taught when you first pick up a basketball. With that being said, all the blame can’t be put on his shoulders. Lawrence Frank needs to take some blame too. He forgets about Terrence all throughout the final minutes as the Timberwolves catch and move ahead of us, but he decides to put him in for Yi when we need to secure an offensive rebound to get into overtime.
Now does Yi get that ball? I can’t say for sure, because Yi has made his fair share of mistakes as a Net, but I do think Yi being a big guy who has been there before is a better option than a rookie, who in his first late game situation, may forget some fundamentals. Yi’s a big man, he knows how to box-out and how to get in position, and I just think if he is in there, the game goes into overtime.
Here is the shot in real time. Turn your head if you have a weak stomach: