O’s and X’s: Round 2 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs

In preparation for round 2 of the playoffs, the teams that were fortunate enough to move on to the semi-finals had a chance to do some scouting and decide what set plays will work best against their new match-up. As the we move to each round, expect to see teams get really creative with play design and even bring out a few things that nobody has seen in use this year. Time to dive right in!

— — -Boston Celtics 54 Split

Boston is one of the few teams in the league that plays a lot of 5 out with everyone spaced on the perimeter and that’s for a good reason. The players on this roster are all skilled and can rotate into various positions at anytime. This set involves a ball reversal to the 5-man (Horford, Olynk, etc.) and a Chicago action which involves a down screen and DHO (Dribble Hand off) for the corner man. Once the ball is kicked out and entered to the post, the 5 and 2 start a Split action at the elbow which means one of them will screen for the other in an unusual area of the floor. This set is tough to guard because the ball handlers defender has to fight through two screens for the pick and roll before getting hit again by a screen for a three point shot.

— — -Boston Celtics Horns Twist 5

This is a simple action designed to get the defenders of the 4 and 5 out of position prior to the pick and roll attack. There are a lot of chances for backdoor cuts and fake hand offs in this set as well and can be taught pretty quickly.

— — -Utah Jazz Horns Chin Spain

The Jazz do a great job of putting an interesting spin on the leagues newest pick and roll variation which is known as Spain. After the initial entry and hand off, the Spain action involves your shooter setting a back screen on the 5 man’s defender before popping out to the perimeter. This set almost always creates an open three point shot or layup.

— — -Golden State Warriors 5 Out Flow Stagger

The Dubs use the 5 out setup more often than you might realize especially when they go to “small ball”. After their initial reversal and screening action, the play becomes a simple pick and roll with a stagger on the weak side. The player receiving the back screen ends up running off of 3 screens before getting a shot from deep. On a side note, i never really liked the phrase “small ball”. I believe a more suitable phrase would be “Skill ball” since the teams that play this style usually add another skilled player onto the floor instead of playing with a traditional lineup. Also, a team can’t really play “small” when Kevin Durant or Lebron James is on the floor!

— — -Washington Wizards Iverson Shuffle

This play does an excellent job of creating misdirection to confuse the defense. It starts with the 3 man cutting away while beal (2) uses the iverson cut to look for a lob before entering the weak side corner. What follows next is a ball screen for John Wall followed by a shuffle screen to down screen on the shooter.

— — -San Antonio Spurs Horns Flex

Simple but effective, this action is just a back screen into a flex action which is another way of saying screen the screener. The spurs are very good at cutting after the initial post entry to prevent an easy double team on who ever is getting the scoring opportunity. In the event the post misses the shot, there are three players on the weak side to crash the offensive crash if need be.

— — -Cleveland Cavaliers Motion Weak

Just about every team in the association runs this play. But every team doesn’t have the luxury of having Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love running those sets. Its a great base set to teach that gets everyone moving with a lot of options naturally installed as well as room to create other variations of this action.

— — -Toronto Raptors 13 Ram Stagger

If you really need to open the floor for dribble drives and three point shooting, then take a look at this action by the players in Jurassic Park up north. The first player coming off of the stagger screen is going to sprint to the ball for a pick and pop action. Your best shooter should be waiting for the second stagger screen on the weak side of the floor.

— — -Cleveland Cavaliers Horns Ram 12

So far this is one of the most interesting sets I’ve seen used for the King of Akron. The lineup used for this set is Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Lebron, Kevin Love, and Channing Frye. Starting in a normal horns alignment, the 4 and 5 will cross before setting down screens on the 1 and 2 in each corner. Where things get interesting is when the 1 and 2 spring to set a double ball screen on Lebron. The result is massive floor spacing for James to drive and kick as well as stopping the defense from switching. Best to use this one in ATO (After Timeout) Situations.

— — -Utah Jazz Punch

The last set of this article comes from Utah and they have a particular action that they run on every post entry. Once the ball enters the post, the trail man (4 or 5) sets a back screen for our shooter to the top of the key. However, that shooter is going to set a screen for whoever is on the wing to curl to the rim for a layup. After setting that curl screen, the shooter sprint back to the wing they started from to take a three. The shooters defender has to fight through a screen, help his teammate on another, and if they do that well enough, still fight through one last screen that cant be switched.

That does it for the Semi- final Round! Keep a look out for best sets from the conference finals as well as the NBA finals. For a peek at the sets i didn’t post, questions or general hoops talk, feel free to contact me via twitter @CoachKJ22 or email me at 14ksmith14@gmail.com

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