The NBA Playoffs and the Art of Concessions

The main characteristic of this alignment is that the defender of the attacking point forces the ball carrier to reject the screen and draws him towards the touchline, thus hindering his quest from inside.

Defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau is often credited with popularizing this configurationbut the cover has an inherent fatal flaw.

You’ll notice in the games above that the player defending the screen has to drop back into a drop position, which helps protect the inside. But it makes them vulnerable if the examiner decides to go out for a three point.

The Bucks knew such a shot was a necessary evil to execute their game plan, so they decided to concede the shot to the The Bulls’ most prominent screenerNikola Vucevic.

To his credit, Vucevic has developed into a pretty solid outside shooter over the past couple of years, but this season he’s slipped back to a 32.6% conversion rate on open attempts.

The Bucks were willing to ditch those open looks at Vucevic to have DeRozan and LaVine knife their way into the paint. They did the “Yeah, but” thing. Yeahyou’re going to have open threes with Vucevic, but your two best players won’t be able to crumble our defense with paint workouts. Ultimately, that argument worked for Milwaukee, as they held the Bulls to a 91.1 offensive rating in the final three games of the series. For reference, the 1964 Boston Celtics posted an offensive rating of 90.9.

We’ve also seen Dallas turn to this defensive philosophy a little more against Phoenix, and that helped their ability to come back in this series.

I can’t do it alone

Although the sample size was small, Nikola Jokic saw a drop in his usual assist rate and an increase in his field goal attempts from the regular season to the playoffs.

Nikola Jokic Regular Season vs. Post-Season Stats (per 100 possessions)

Aids* FGA attempts*
Regular season 11.6 26.0
Playoffs 8.4 30.7

*Source: Basketball Reference

This change is a byproduct of the Warriors’ decision to concede Jokic’s individual brilliance in order to dampen the value of his game.

Golden State did this by playing it straight in most cases and largely avoiding sending a second defender to dig or stunt the ball until they were certain they had built up the belief to to mark.

Christopher S. Washington