Over the next few weeks, Jordan Kahn will be providing video breakdowns of key sets and plays from many of the playoff games. Check out previous entires here. Find more from Jordan at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
The Clippers took a 2-1 series lead over the Grizzlies on the strength of another big game by Chris Paul. Let’s revisit how the Grizzlies guarded him and how Paul attacked the defense.
In Game Three (as discussed in the series preview) Memphis guarded Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll by sending his defender over the screen and having the help defender play away from the exchange, sometimes even waiting in the paint. The help defender cannot let CP3 get past him and that should slow Paul down enough so the original defender can recover. By going over the screen, the defender can threaten Paul’s dribble or shot from behind and not let him get too comfortable coming around the screen. None of the Clippers’ screeners can shoot, so the help defender doesn’t have to worry about a pick-and-pop situation. The video below shows how this strategy can work well against this Clippers team. The Grizzlies clog the lane and shut down the passing angles while Mayo recovers to defend Paul.
One of the tough parts about this strategy is that the Grizzlies’ other defenders can’t be too eager to help when Paul has the ball. In the clips below, Rudy Gay leaves his man to help on Paul. In all of the plays, the lane is already clogged, and Gay’s help defense adds little to what is already there. Gay’s anxiousness to stop Paul actually gives Paul the passing window to beat the defense.
The other tricky part about this defense is that Memphis is giving up midrange and 5- to 10-foot jumpers in the paint. As most NBA fans have heard by now, these are some of the least efficient areas from which to shoot. If the Clippers had a different point guard, the Grizzlies’ defensive strategy could destroy LA’s offense. But Chris Paul is one of the best midrange shooters in the league. In spots where the rest of the NBA is shooting below 40 percent, Paul is up around 50 percent. Paul’s use of midrange floaters and fadeaways make him such a tough cover, especially in the pick-and-roll. As Ryan Gomes noted earlier in the year, Paul is quite adept at sealing his defender on his back, keeping his dribble alive, and making the right play, whether that be a shot or a pass. The video below shows how he did that in Game Three, including the shot on one of the biggest plays of the game.
Although it wasn’t a pick-and-roll, the same principles can be applied to another huge play. Late in the fourth quarter, the Clippers stretched their lead to four when Paul sealed Mayo on his back yet again and dished it to Blake Griffin when the defense collapsed.
The Grizzlies are forced to pick their poison when Chris Paul is operating in the pick-and-roll. In Game Three, they forced Paul to use his midrange game, and it eventually cost them.