Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Making of a Champion - NBA Finals Game 6 Deconstructed


Now that the NBA Finals are over, I want to review the last game of the series in order to point out what made the Mavericks so successful. The final score was 105-95 favoring the Mavericks. The full box score can be found here along with the play-by-play and shot chart.
Since past postings have already discussed the offense of both teams I'm going to focus mainly on categorizing some of the plays to give an idea what kind of plays each team was running.

Double High Post

I discussed the double high post offensive set the Heat run here. One commentator during the playoffs (Jeff Van Gundy maybe) mentioned that the Heat moved away from running this set too much and it caused a lack of fluidity in their offense. As I mentioned in my Q&A post, I tend to agree with this assessment and during the first half you could see a lack of double high post sets relative to other types of plays (only run twice by my count).

In the second half they run this set much more as is shown by the 6 clips below.

Lebron's Cross Cut Series

Like the double high post set, you can find a discussion of the cross cut series in my previous post. This game demonstrated much more variation of the series and really shows how difficult it can be to guard.

This clip shows the most basic version of the cross cut series and Lebron is able to make a difficult pass to Bosh.

Another basic cross cut but a foul is called on Marion when he attempts the cut.

This time we see the beginning of the cross cut but instead of taking the screen, the lane is left open for a Wade drive to the basket.

Again we have a cross cut counter, Wade goes to set the screen for the cross but instead Lebron curls to the top.

Lebron uses a screen-less cut to the middle leaving the lane open for a layup.
Some of the back story coming into this game was the lack of aggression by Lebron and I think this may have been an attempt to get him some more looks. Interestingly, there was a drop off in the number of these plays in the second half compared to the second.

4-out-1-in Motion Offense

The Mavericks' main offensive set is the 4-out-1-in motion offense that I discussed here. The following clips show how they ran the offense in Game 6.

They ran this set a little less in this series compared to the past in favor of running more double high screen plays.

Double High Screen

The double high screen is a series of plays designed to be run for Terry or Barea. The play can be diagrammed as follows:
The purpose of this play is to give Barea/Terry an opportunity to drive to the basket, give an option for a roll by Chandler, and a pop option for Nowitzki.
If the drive isn't available for Barea, the motion is typically similar to this:
The play also gives options to kick out to the SG or SF. Let's take a look at how this works.

Here we see the drive by Barea and he lobs to Chandler for the late roll option.

This time the defense tries to stay home with Chandler and Nowitzki and Barea is able to find an open spot for a jumper.

Terry is the ballhandler this time and Cardinal takes the place of Nowitzki. Since Cardinal can hit the 3pt shot, he can stand in place for Nowitzki as the pop man.

Here we have Mahinmi as the roll man and Marion as the pop man.
The Mavericks ran this play multiple times and generally had a lot of success with it.

This play was run heavily in the 4th quarter, a total of 5 of their 7 non-pick and roll plays.

(the Mavericks ran another double high screen in the 4th quarter but it was unsuccessful and evolved into a pick and roll play).

Zone Offense

Zone offense is a new subject for us so I'll take some time to describe it. Zone offense is a broad description of offensive plays designed to break zone defense. In my defensive primer post I described the zone defense and some of its advantages and disadvantages. It should come as no surprise then that these offensive sets are designed to attack the baseline, perimeter, corners, and around the free throw line.

The best way to break the zone is to find a seam in which to drive to the lane, this will collapse the zone and open up some options. Here Lebron is able to find a seam in the zone and attacks it. He then finds Wade who drives baseline and Haslem cuts the lane for an open basket.

Overall the Mavericks found a lot of success running the zone and here see an example of that. The zone tries to force jump shots and perimeter ball movement and here they force Wade into a contested jumpshot with mostly perimeter movement.

Another perimeter jumpshot, this time by Lebron.

In these three clips the Heat made their perimeter shots. The zone is usually okay with perimeter shots but when they start falling there's additional pressure to move away from the zone and go back to a man-to-man defense. The defense must constantly balance securing the middle and the perimeter when choosing between man and zone.

The other way to break the zone is to attack the middle, here we have two clips of the middle attacked, the first initiated by a Lebron iso followed by a Wade cut, the second by a dribble drive.

The zone can force a lot of turnovers when guys try to force attacking the middle. When the middle gets closed off, it can put the offense in a very bad position. In our two previous clips we see Juwan Howard try to force middle and he travels. Bosh also tries to force a drive and when it's cut off he throws the ball away.

One down side to switching between zone and man is the defense can get confused as to which one is being run. In this clip Terry overcommits to man defense and as a result leaves his zone and Bosh gets a wide open jump shot.

Misc. Clips

Some clips are pretty self explanatory but I felt it would be helpful to categorize them and allow you to get a feel for how each team executes these particular plays.

Pick and Roll Offense














I would say the key to the Mavericks winning this series was a combination of four factors. First, the Mavericks' zone defense was successful at limiting the number of drives by Wade and Lebron taking away their most valuable asset. Second, the double high screen sets allowed the Mavericks to spread the floor immensely while taking away the interior shot blocking. This gave Barea and Terry a lot of room to work and kept the defense guessing. Third, the Mavericks were very careful with the ball and had less turnovers than the Heat in 3 of their 4 wins. This limited the number of easy transition baskets by the Heat. Lastly, when they needed a basket, Dirk was very effective at converting his isolations (although not as much in this particular game).

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