Welcome back to The 3-Point Play, a semi-regular recurring feature here at HoopChalk. Every so often, I’ll take a quick look at sets from three different teams that have something in common. Rather than devoting a separate post to each of them, they’ll all be grouped together here. Today, we’ve got the Pacers, Sixers and Clippers freeing players up with flex screening.
We’ll start in Indiana, with the Pacers leading the Bulls by four points with about a minute and a half left in the game. George Hill brings the ball up the court and swings it over to Roy Hibbert at the top of the key, kicking off the flex motion. Hibbert then hands it to Lance Stephenson moving from right to left just as Paul George sets a back screen for David West on the right block.
West floats along the baseline and ends up with great position on the left side. The idea here seems to be to make it look like the play is to post up West on the left block. That’s about as good a decoy option as the Pacers can design. West is one of the best post-up players in the league, and he was 11-for-18 with 25 points at the time.
However, at the same time West is floating to the opposite block, Hibbert is coming to set a pin-down screen for George. Jimmy Butler, trailing George on the play because he appeared to be contemplating a switch with Luol Deng when George screened for West, gets knocked too far off course to credibly contest George’s shot, and George knocks down the open three.
In Philadelphia, the Sixers ran almost the exact same set for Jrue Holiday on the first play of the game. There were a few slight differences, starting with the alignment. While the Pacers had George and West on the low block with Hill, Hibbert and Stephenson outside, the Sixers eventually wind up in a horns set with Holiday handling the ball at the top of the key, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young at opposite elbows, and Evan Turner and Nick Young in each corner.
Holiday enters the ball to Hawes at the left elbow and cuts down the middle of the lane. Technically, that’s option number one on the play. If Holiday flashes open, Hawes can hit him with the pass for a layup. He doesn’t though, and then Holiday sets the first screen in the flex action – for Turner coming from the right baseline across to the left block.
That’s option number two – Turner reads Holiday’s screen and decides whether to come under or over it, and if he’s open, Hawes can hit him with a pass for a layup. Turner doesn’t flash open, so he just continues to the opposite block.
Young then comes down and sets the same screen for Holiday that Hibbert did for George – a pin-down on the right block. George popped out to the elbow extended for an open three. Holiday, though, curls all the way around the screen and into the lane, keeping Ish Smith on his back the entire time. Josh McRoberts may have had a chance to contest Holiday’s layup, but he’s drawn outside the lane by Young popping out to the wing off his screen.
Over in Washington, the Clippers use flex-y looking screens to free Caron Butler for a three on their first play of the game. It’s not a traditional set of flex cuts, but it looks similar enough to confuse the defense.
Eric Bledsoe brings the ball up the court and enters it to Lamar Odom in the high post. He then goes to screen for Butler in the corner – a screen that could easily double as the first in a set of flex screens. Butler comes off and locates himself at the left block.
This is where the play starts to look different than a normal flex action. Rather than wait for a screen of his own, Bledsoe immediately pops out to the wing and gets the ball back from Odom. Odom and DeAndre Jordan both wind up at the elbows while Butler is on the block.
Butler dashes through the space between Odom and Jordan at the free throw line and heads for the top of the key. This is the gate screen concept. The idea is that the two screeners slide together and ‘close the gate’ on Butler’s defender before he can shoot the gap to contest the shot. It seems like Butler’s defender notices that strategy and tries to take a wider lane around Jordan to get there, but it’s futile. Butler ends up with a wide open three just to the left of the top of the key.