Atlanta Draws Up a Game-Winning Play, but Denver Wins Anyway

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Hawks and Nuggets played to a near draw on Tuesday night, but Atlanta had a chance to take the game on a last second out of bounds play.  Let’s take a look at an almost perfectly run play and how Denver got lucky.

The play starts with the Hawks in a stack setup.  Joe Johnson begins by setting a screen for Jeff Teague  before continuing toward the free throw line.  Teague running to the corner eliminates Ty Lawson from helping on the play.

Johnson then acts as if he is setting a screen for Vladimir Radmanovic, but instead fakes the screen and runs toward the other side of the lane.  This fake screen makes Arron Afflalo hesitate for just a moment because he may need to deny Radmanovic from getting the ball.  This slight hesitation puts him at a disadvantage, as he is now trying to catch up to Johnson and isn’t prepared for the upcoming screen.  Zaza Pachulia started the play by cutting across the lane, and he has now circled back to set a screen on Afflalo to free up Johnson.

Because Pachulia set such a great screen and wiped out Afflalo, Al Harrington is now in a pickle.  He must choose between helping on a wide open Joe Johnson or being the last defender between Zaza Pachulia and the basket.  He decides to jump out on Johnson and hope that Afflalo can recover to defend Pachulia.  I don’t think many people would expect Pachulia to be an option for the Hawks on a last second play, so it is hard to fault Harrington for making a snap decision to guard Johnson.

Pachulia has a wide open lane, but misses the layup.  Pachulia has been a very poor finisher this year.  Among the 62 centers in the NBA playing any type of meaningful minutes (10 or more games played with at least 10 minutes per game), he has 11th worst field goal percentage on shot attempts at the rim.  Danilo Gallinari provides some resistance, but it is still a very makeable layup.  Larry Drew had a great play for this occasion, and Pachulia set a perfect screen, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.  The full play is below.

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