Watching Film: Guarding the Phoenix Screen-Roll

The Phoenix Suns love to run the pick-and-roll. They run it with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, they run it with Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson, they even run it with Jarron Collins. I, on the other hand, love to watch film. I even put a little film in my hair every morning to hold it up. 1+1 = a video on how the Blazers defended the perimeter screen in their Game 1 victory. Let’s take a look:

In the 22 pick-and-roll possessions shown, the Suns scored 23 points, so a little over a point per possession. They also got quality shots on 12 of those possessions, committing two turnovers in the process. Those numbers fall right in with the Suns’ season averages, where they scored 0.95 points per possession when the ball handler (Nash, normally), used the possession — the top ranked such play in the NBA.

You’ll notice how the Blazers didn’t rely on show-recover tactics to avoid switching on the screens. In fact, at times Amar’e only needed to stand in the area of a pick and the Blazers would switch men in order to keep both players on the perimeter. The most effective defense, though, was when they didn’t switch, but used whatever defender was in the paint at the time — usually Camby — to step up and stop Stoudemire’s roll while Nash was pushed off his drive line. Packing the paint like this left a number of three-point shooters open and, even with the relatively quick recovery closeouts we saw from the guards in this video, it’s fair to assume that the Suns are going to catch fire and win a game with those threes Nash creates.

But that might be OK. Better than letting Nash weave his way into the paint on any of the 457 picks he uses, or letting Stoudemire roll to the hoop unhindered. As long as the Blazers can run off a reasonable percentage of three-point shooters, the overall effect will be limiting the Suns to a streaky, perimeter based offense rather than the unhealthy Dunk-Three-Open Nash Jumper rhythm the team can get into.

Keep an eye on the guards in all those switch situations tonight. With Miller and Bayless shadowing Amar’e into the paint, the Blazers were often at a rebounding size disadvantage — allowing 17 offensive boards. That’s part of the reason why Camby outrebounded Aldridge 17-3 — the onus is on Camby to compensate for his guards in the paint while Aldridge is busy chasing guys at the arc.

We’ll see what adjustments the Blazers and Suns make in Game 2 tonight and compare it to the Game 1 defense tomorrow. Defensively, everything starts with that pick-and-roll, and the Blazers are going to have to play it at least as good as they did in Game 1 to win the series.

Tags: Amare Stoudemire Analysis Andre Miller Blazers Defense Blazers Pick And Roll Blazers Suns Game 1 First Round Goran Dragic Jerryd Bayless LaMarcus Aldridge Louis Amundson Martell Webster NBA General Nba Playoffs Nic Batum Phoenix Suns Pick And Roll Portland Trail Blazers Steve Nash Suns Pick And Roll Watching Film

  • SJ

    One thing I noticed here is that Andre Miller did a great job against the pick and roll. Not only that but he was able to mix it up and throw all sorts of different looks. Sometimes he didn’t let Nash use the screen, other times he was able to get over and recover. But the times he got hit or went under (once) chaos happened.

    Also interesting is it seems Portland is leaving the guy opposite the ball to suck in on Amare rolling. This was fine when it was Grant Hill but a couple times it was Jason Richardson. If PHX picks up on this, look for more shooters over there.

    With Bayless it looks like more switches, my biggest problem is he’s getting hit on every screen. Contrast him and Miller and it’s night and day. It’s big that he’s getting hit on every screen because you can see at about the 3:10 mark, him dying on that screen is allowing Dragic/Nash to get to the teeth of the defense and kick it out aka exactly what they want.

  • Travis

    Good stuff, Coup.

    A couple of things stand out to me:

    Obviously, when Miller can fight through that pick, the defense is in much better shape. Miller’s very good at fighting through, sort of the anti-Blake in that sense. (SJ noted this, too.)

    But, Amar’e often sets pretty crappy screens. Let’s hope that continues. I was surprised, watching this, at how much better Amar’e could be in the pick and roll. Curious to see if this was a one-game problem for the Suns offense, or if this is just the way Amar’e rolls. (Pun!)

    Finally, guys were open and they missed some shots they’ll normally make. That worries me a little bit. Blazers defense has to be quicker to the three point line.

  • Travis

    (I should mention, those bad screens were early in the clip; he set several solid picks, too.)

  • SJ

    That’s actually a real good point there Travis. The difference between Amundson sets screens and Amare sets screens are night and day. Hopefully he doesn’t make this adjustment but he definitely is concentrating more on the roll than the pick.

    I see your concern about Phoenix getting open shots, and I agree. I think this all shows that keeping Phoenix from getting to that second level of the defense is key. The clips where Portland had to over help or got stuck on screens led to Phoenix whipping that ball around lie crazy. When Portland was able to switch and keep them in front or recover quickly without having to over-rotate is when Phoenix was a tad stagnant and had to do it again. Huge key.

    I’d expect more ball movement from Phoenix in G2.