Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Prevent David Lee Heroics

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

We’ve already taken a look at how the Lakers and Wizards have defended late game inbounds plays.  Clinging to a one-point lead with five seconds left, the Grizzlies were tasked with stopping the Warriors’ inbounds play.  Let’s see how they handled it.

The play begins with the floor spread out and Stephen Curry setting a down screen to free up David Lee.  Lee cuts to the three point line to receive Monta Ellis’ inbound pass.

As the pass is made, Ellis fakes cutting to the top of the key where he could receive a pass from Lee, similar to what Jose Calderon has been doing for the Raptors in late game situations.  Instead, he cuts toward the baseline.  Tony Allen is caught leaning the wrong way, and there is some space for Ellis.   As Ellis makes his move, Curry clears out, running towards the opposite corner.

Lee decides to pivot and drive instead of passing to Ellis.  A key part of this sequence is Marc Gasol’s recognition of the play.  Gasol looks ready to help if Ellis cut towards the top of the key, but he does not bite on Ellis’ fake.  By not overplaying the potential handoff to Ellis, Gasol stays in position to defend Lee’s drive.

One problem with this play is the Warriors’ spacing.  After setting the initial screen, Curry has cleared out to the other side, but Brandon Rush is already in that corner.  Mike Conley recognizes this, and leaves Curry to help on the driving Lee.  He can do this without hesitation because of the poor spacing.  Rudy Gay can cover both Rush and Curry because they are standing next to each other.

Conley provides great help and takes the charge on Lee.  However, this is partly made possible because of Gasol’s positioning.  Gasol is able to wall off Lee, giving him no option except to run over Conley.  If Gasol begins the play out of position, Lee would have beaten him off the dribble and been able to avoid Conley on his way to the hoop.

Although Lee was double teamed, Gay still came to help, leaving both Rush and Curry open.  If Lee avoids the charge, the Warriors have an open jumper in the corner.  Gay probably didn’t expect Lee to make the pass.  Here’s the full video of the play.

The Grizzlies made a great defensive play to win the game, but the Warriors did themselves no favors.  If Monta Ellis continues his initial motion towards the top of the key, Gasol may have been out of position.  If the weakside perimeter players spaced themselves better, Lee’s pass may have come at a point where he could have avoided the charge.  It’s easy to guess at what could have been, but the Grizzlies did a great job defending the play that was drawn up.


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