I only caught the first quarter or so of this game between the Suns and Mavs. As expected, it had the feel of a playoff type game similar to the Celtics/Pistons game earlier. When the games actually mean something, the NBA can be very good to watch from a basketball perspective. Players actually playing hard defense and good execution on offense. I see a lot of plays like this one, where Dirk Nowitzki comes off of a downscreen (either on the block or in this case elbow) and curls around and gets the ball right around the free-throw/elbow. That's probably his favorite place to shoot other than the 3-pointer. Anyways, as is mostly the case, it is usually the screener that is usually open, and that is who Dirk hits to finish this play off. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Get your Scorer the Ball:

If you happen to be lucky enough to have a great scorer, especially a shooter, you need to get that player the ball in the area where they are most comfortable in to shoot. For Dirk, that is anywhere on the free-throw line or both elbows, and the step into 3-pointer on the wing. If you watch a lot of Mavs games, take a look at Dirk's shot chart, most of his jumpers are in those spots. Onto the play, this really is a play designed to get Dirk the ball at that spot he likes to shoot in.

I didn't diagram it, but Devin Harris starts the play by passing to Josh Howard at the top of the key, then he cuts to the basket off a Erick Dampier upscreen. This sets up the Dirk curl. Dampier sets the downscreen for Dirk to curl off of and receive the pass from Josh in his sweet spot. Now, I've seen many times where Dirk will shoot it and nail it. This time though, he finds the open cutter.

Screener is usually open:

You hear it a lot, the screener is usually open after the screen. In this case, Erick's defender, X5, steps up to contest a possible shot by Dirk, since Dirk's defender trailed and is late to recover. Erick slips the screen and rolls to the basket.

It's just a simple hi-lo pass from Dirk to Erick who makes a nice pump fake then puts it off the glass.

As I was saying, when the games mean something, the NBA is good to watch. The Suns were up their old tricks and despite being down big, kept fighting to stay in it. Execution has been one of the reasons why Dirk and the Mavs have been clicking lately. I read a Yahoo! AP report that described it as "crisp".

For more great Pick and Roll basketball info, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll offense. Van Gundy is a master of the PNR offense having coached some of the best guard-forward tandems in the NBA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.