The last NBA playoff series that I haven't written about so far is the chippy affair between the Wizards and the Cavs. It's been a very physical series, mostly by the Wizards directed at one, Lebron James of the Cavs.

I wrote before the playoffs started hypothesizing on how to defend against Lebron. I suggested a packline defense making sure Lebron didn't get anything easy going to rim, and closing out the shooters. The first 2 games, the Wizards were mostly straight M2M. In games 3 + 4, it's interesting because the Wizards switched defenses. On the ball screens for Lebron, the Wizards essentially went to a triangle and 2 with the 2 defenders defending Lebron. In many ways, it was similar to what the Lakers did against Melo last night.

Credit to coach Mike Brown of the Cavs to adjust to the defense by having Lebron draw the double and/or driving into the lane, then back-pick for the corner 3-pointer. I was surprised how many times they ran basically the same exact play over and over in the 2nd half and Boobie Gibson + Delonte West hit shot after shot from the corner. I captured a bunch of clips (though I missed the game winner), here they are,

To be honest, I thought the Wizards defended as good as they possibly could've defended, and they only lost the game by 3. Basically, the Wizards lost the game because their guards couldn't physically closeout quick enough (talent problem, not tactical) and the Cavs guards just went unconscious from behind the arc.

Lebron ISO to Backpick Corner 3-pointer:

This first sequence was against the triangle and 2 "tilt" by the Wiz against Lebron and the ball-screen by Z. Notice Ben Wallace, O4, setting a back-pick for the corner 3-pointer. The defender still gets by Wallace, but it's enough to give Gibson and West time to get off a good look,

This was against the box and 1 or 1-2-2 zone type defense the Wizards used when there wasn't a ball-screen for Lebron. Lebron easily blows by DeShawn Stevenson to get right into the lane. The entire defense collapses and Lebron dumps off to Ben Wallace who touch passes to Gibson on the wing. Then Wallace goes to run interference on Antawn Jamison trying to closeout,


Assuming the Cavs beat the Wizards and move on, they will be a very tough opponent to beat. When West and Gibson are hitting their 3-pointers, they're almost unstoppable. Lebron is going to score 20-30 points every game. The challenge is to somehow rotate and closeout those shooters. Boston has a couple of quicker and longer defenders in Rondo and Pierce. But I'm not 100% sure that even the Celtics can get it done.

For a real unique look at defensive scouting from a hall of fame coach, take a look at Pat Summitt's new DVD on creating a Defensive Scouting Report. Summitt believes that defending the dribble drive is the most difficult team concept in the game today. Discuss this and your other favorite topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.