In a previous post, I pointed out a nifty little set that the Heat ran against the Orlando Magic that used a little misdirection and screening for the screener action to get Ray Allen an open three. Against the New York Knicks, the Heat ran a variant of the action to get the Birdman an easy dunk.
There is the same basic set up: a good passing forward (Battier in this case, LeBron in the previous post) operates at the elbow. Birdman, is at the other elbow and Ray Allen is on the block.
The other forward, James Jones, is located on the wing and fakes like he is going to use the Birdman screen but instead cuts into the lane. You can see that Jason Kidd was anticipating the Birdman screen-James Jones perimeter action and that Kidd is slightly out of position as Jones dives toward the paint.
40 year old Jason Kidd can’t keep up with the blazing speed of 32 year old James Jones, especially since Kidd was anticipating Jones using the Birdman screen and subsequently overplayed it.
This is essentially the same screenshot as the previous shot, except that Battier has just faked a pass to James Jones. Since Kidd is out of position, Ray Allen’s defender, Carmelo Anthony, has to help out on Jones. This one little half-step in the wrong direction is all Ray Allen needs to get more separation. This subtle detail emphasizes why the elbow player must be a good passer and a smart player so that opposing players will not only respect his pass fakes, but he will know how to use those fakes to optimum effectiveness.
Ray Allen has used Carmelo’s occupation with James Jones to start his sprint to the perimeter for a potentially open three point shot.
The Birdman’s real purpose for being at the elbow was to set a screen for Ray Allen. Even without the help of Birdman’s screen, the James Jones dive into the paint has already created about four or five feet of separation between Allen and Carmelo. Birdman’s defender, Kenyon Martin, has kind’ve figured out the play, though I don’t understand why Martin has decided to try and deflect the ball — short of having Inspector Gadget arms there’s no way Martin could have deflected that pass. Martin would be better off closing down Allen as quickly as possible, and then waiting for Carmelo to recover before switching back to Birdman (assuming there has been some rotational help defense from the rest of the Knicks). Allen might be able to drive past Martin, but in that case, Martin should just foul Allen before he gets too far/shoots (seeing as fouling people is basically Martin’s job).
Martin does close down on Allen, but not hard enough as there is still room for Allen to hit the rolling Birdman. Carmelo is caught in “No Man’s Land” — he was so focused on closing out on Allen that he forgot about Birdman. Now that Birdman is headed to the hoop, Carmelo hesitates between guarding Birdman and continuing his closeout on Allen.
Realizing that his best option is to guard the streaking Birdman, Carmelo tries to quickly reverse his momentum…
…but Melo cannot prevent the lobbed the entry pass from Allen to Birdman. Birdman easily dunks on Jason Kidd.
It seems that the Martin-Carmelo switch should have happened immediately, once Carmelo realized he was beaten and that Martin had already stepped out on Allen. One explanation for why the switch didn’t happen quicker is that Martin has only played in 16 games (388 minutes total) and a paltry 156 minutes with Carmelo, thus their defensive understanding and communication is probably not very fluid. This lack of communication/understanding would also explain why Carmelo hesitated on whether to close out on Allen or to follow Birdman.