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Pistons’ Last -Minute OB Play. Good Offense or Bad Defense?

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 23, 2008

The last minute Baseline OB play the Pistons ran that the Celtics defended very poorly and that really hurt the Cs is a classic NBA-type play. How to guard that type play, the decisions made on the bench during the time-out, and how the defense (and offense) execute it, is a great lesson in basketball.

Before you watch, it’s helpful to understand that there are three possible options:

1. the play is really designed for the 2nd cutter, Hamilton, who has a choice of which way to go but clearly intends to use the Wallace screen (going to his right) in the right corner. Just as clearly, the Celtics anticipated that and every movement and positioning by the defense says so.

2. the obvious option is the 1st cutter, Billups, who ultimately scores here, coming off the staggered screens (one screen followed by another). As Jeff Van Gundy (definitely in my top 3 all-time analysts) says in the YouTube replay, the Celtics failed to cover this by not having Pierce, who was guarding the inbounder, take away the middle (which is absolutely fundamental). That much we can guess was a coaching decision;

3. if Garnett helps too much, Wallace shows himself for the catch and shoot.


By positioning Pierce shading corner, the Celtics showed what they anticipated to be the play: shot for Hamilton in the corner. Tom Thibodeau, (a Van Gundy disciple) clipboard in hand, days worth of watching film behind him, knew what the play was to be and got the Cs ready to defend it. The choice to shade the corner was a bad one. Especially if you don’t help on the Billups cut! Sorry Tom. Something went awry. You don’t give-up the possibility of a layup to defend a corner jumper. Let the perimeter defense adjust to the cutters but have Pierce guard the hoop!

It starts with Hamilton setting the 1st screen for Billups; Billups cuts right and catches another screen from Wallace. Garnett shows just a touch, not wanting to leave Wallace. Could he have bumped Billups and recovered? That would have helped. Posey was trailing Billups. What if Posey had gone under the screen and Garnett switched to Billups, Posey now on Wallace? Rondo could have still trailed Rip.

But that’s why you set screens, and that’s why you cut shoulder-to-shoulder, and that’s why you place your offensive personnel in optimal positioning, and, lastly, that’s why you always guard the hoop first.

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2 Responses to “Pistons’ Last -Minute OB Play. Good Offense or Bad Defense?”

  1. Steve Knapp said

    nice postings (that LeBron stat is amazing)!!! To me that inbounding play was inexcusable. I always wonder why on inbounding situations under the basket like that the defender guarding the inbounder doesn’t back off and try to clog up the passing lane ESPECIALLY around the hoop. When I’m guarding the inbounder under the basket most of my attention is on what’s going behind me around the basket. I feel I can do more good backing off and getting in passing lane to force the inbounder to kick the ball out to three point land then I can by being in the inbounders face. I’m i wrong on this?

  2. The first rule of guarding the inbounder is take away easy baskets under the hoop. I mean defense always should want to negate what the offense wants to do, right? What’s the offense want more than anything? A pass underneath hoop for an easy score. That means the defender positions him/herself between the ball and the hoop (on an angle because, of course, the ball is never given underneath the hoop but outside the lane). Hands and arms up and active to take away vision and passing angles. Get too far away, backing too much into the lane and you’ve given up defense on vision. Back up too, too much and the inbounder can step in, get a pass back and easy score. Your strategy is a good one, just don’t get too extreme on it (though I know you and know you’re quick enough to recover).

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