Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here.
In one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the first round, Chris Paul and the Clippers go up against the defensive-minded Grizzlies. With the help of MySynergy Sports, let’s take a look at Chris Paul’s favorite play, the pick-and-roll, and how the Grizzlies have defended it.
In their matchup in January, Allen guarded Paul for much of the fourth quarter. Paul wasn’t particularly aggressive on offense; he was content to pass to Blake Griffin in the post or let Mo Williams run the offense. When Paul was assertive, Allen did a good job staying attached to him, getting through most screens. The video below shows the final moments of that game. Even on Paul’s game clinching floater, Allen fought over an initial screen before getting beaten on a second ball screen. Even the great Tony Allen isn’t going to contain Paul on every play. When Allen eventually matches up with Paul in the series, it’s important that Paul go shoulder to shoulder with the screener when using ball screens. Allen will eat up any space that Paul gives him and aggressively go over those ball screens if given the chance.
Another reason that this series is so highly anticipated is because of Marc Gasol’s defense. He is regarded as one of the better defensive centers in the league; he’s big enough to defend the paint and nimble enough to hedge on the pick-and-roll. What people may not have noticed is that the Grizzlies didn’t do much aggressive hedging against Chris Paul. In fact, the Grizzlies’ help defense played a contain-style the majority of the time. Over a sampling of 50 Chris Paul-initiated pick-and-rolls against the Grizzlies, the Memphis help defender in the exchange backed off of Paul about 70 percent of the time. The Grizzlies can pack it in because none of the Clippers’ screeners are a threat from the perimeter. There’s no reason to extend your defense if you want Blake Griffin to take those awkward 20-footers he seems so fond of. They may also fear that despite Gasol’s quickness, Paul can still turn the corner and/or draw cheap fouls on him if he aggressively hedges. The video below shows the Grizzlies’ strategy against the Clippers for most of the year.
Of course this strategy has the potential to backfire, as well. By backing off of the screener, Paul gets a running head start at the Grizzlies’ help defender. This can lead to layups, open threes, and foul trouble for the big men. Memphis hopes that Paul’s defender can apply enough pressure to stop him from getting a free run at a big man, but that can be easier said than done. The video below shows a few times that Paul took advantage of the pick-and-roll defense.
Watching Tony Allen guard Chris Paul will be a gift for NBA fans, but the Grizzlies’ help defense will play a big part in how effective Paul can be. The Grizzlies may choose to turn Paul into a scorer, much like defenses attempted to do with Steve Nash during the Seven Seconds or Less Suns Era.