The San Antonio Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers fundamentally last night–just like in the previous two games. Last night, though, they used screening especially well. Whether it was off of the pick and roll or off ball screens, the Spurs set them perfectly and the Lakers players had a hard time getting by them.
They say that screens aren’t only made to free up offensive weapons. Of course, that’s what screens do. However, the more important function of screening is to make defenders think about what the offense is going to do.
The Spurs are probably the best in the league at making the defense think with the motion sets that they run. Normally there are two to three and sometimes even four different types of screens on each possession and they are all executed perfectly.
They have some of the best screen runners in the league at their position in Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. They even screen Tim Duncan every once in a while to get him some great looks.
The Lakers aren’t very good at defense physically or mentally. Their perimeter defenders don’t really know how to funnel players into help defense at the wing, and last night they didn’t know how to fight through screens. The offensive players were freed up and there was little to no help on each possession. That’s why you get the 120-89 score that you got.
Lets examine the Lakers defense to see what I’m talking about. Here’s the first video:
The Spurs run Tony Parker off of single-double screens on the baseline and then he curls to the free throw line. He’s already got Darius Morris on the move when he stops, so he goes into the opposite direction and gets into the paint.
Both bigs in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol collapse on him instead of just Howard who is defending the paint. Gasol shouldn’t help here because Duncan can hit that baseline 15-18 foot jump shot that he’s been knocking down for most of his basketball life.
Dwight Howard can help off of Tiago Splitter, but even he was slow with his help here. This was the better option because he can defend the shot while staying into the passing lane as well. He’s making the right move but is slow on his help because of what Gasol does.
This is why defensive communication is important. When going through all of these screens, Gasol loses track of Duncan and focuses on Parker.
Parker got 20 points and seven assists last night because of screening. Here’ s Parker lighting Darius Morris up using a variety of pick and rolls that the Spurs love to use so much:
The idea was obviously to put the smaller, inexperienced guards through a plethora of screens that they didn’t know how to get through or get over. The help was slow to come because of the screening that was going on in the weakside of the play.
Morris and Goudelock were being abused by screens all night. Their inexperience on the defensive end really showed.
Darius Morris is a good on-ball defender but is a point guard. He doesn’t have a lot of experience running through screens–especially not single-doubles. Goudelock is just a poor defender in almost every way.
If you recall, in game 1 Steve Blake did a really nice job of fighting through screens and getting good contests on Parker. He forced him to go where he wanted and the help defense was easier to come by because of that.
Last night, the opposite happened. Tony Parker really dictated where he was going to be at on the floor because of the screens that were being set for him.
Tim Duncan had a really nice night with 26 points as well. There were a variety of screens used for him, but the play below was probably the most fun. Take a look and see for yourself:
Here the technique that is used across the NBA is used to get Tim Duncan an alley-oop. Tiago Splitter screens for Kawhi Leonard and then pops out to the perimeter. Tim Duncan has the ball as he sets a screen for Tony Parker to go to the corner to enhance spacing.
The technique that the Spurs are using is called screening the screener. They are especially good at it and it confuses the defense almost every time if executed the right way.
Leonard’s job here is to set two screens: one for Danny Green who is curling through the baseline and one for Tim Duncan for him to get into the paint.
Since Andrew Goudelock fights over the screen, Leonard doesn’t waste his time sitting in the paint. He goes up to the elbow and sets a backscreen for Tim Duncan on Pau Gasol.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard’s attention is focused on Tiago Splitter on the outside. He doesn’t see Tim Duncan cutting to the rim freely. Normally, Duncan will come through the paint after this screen from Leonard and post up on the low block on the weakside. However, Green sees that Duncan is free and he throws the lob.
This is another case where help defense wasn’t there for the Lakers because of screening and a lack of communication. Things like this were happening all night and the Lakers really didn’t make an effort to stop them.
This is what happens when you lose what may be your best perimeter defender in Steve Blake and you play with two very inexperienced guards at the helm. This series is all but over and the defense of the Lakers has a lot to do with it.