Caught some first round playoff action in the WNBA the other night, between the New York Liberty and the Connecticut Sun. It was a pretty good game all-around, but the Liberty executed their offense better. The Sun had problems with defending the PNR and in the end, that was the difference.

The Liberty basically pick and rolled the Sun to victory. It's all about reading the defense and the Liberty did that extremely well. On hard switches, they would take advantage of the big-little mismatches. In the second sequence, it's just a defensive breakdown that allows the easy basket. Here are the two sequences from the second half,

Big-Little Mismatches:

PNR basketball is great because of the big-little mismatches you can take advantage of. You take your best guard and your best forward at the top of the key, everyone else spreads out. If the defense is going to switch all screens (like the Sun do here), then you'll get those big-little mismatches every time. If you get a big on little, post them up and score 1v1. If you get a little on big, then use your quickness to beat them 1v1 on the dribble drive, like so,

Take Advantage of Slow Rotations:

The defense here just breaks down completely, but I believe the Sun were trying to trap the ball-screen and the help-side is suppose to rotate to protect the basket. So, if the Sun had executed the trap properly, then you should still be able to hit the rolling player. Now, if the rotation is good, then either the forward will have to go 1v1 or you can hit the open player in the corner for a 3-pointer. Either way, you should get a good shot,


It is why the NBA is 75% PNR, because it works. There is no universal way to defend it, it just depends on the players and their abilities. If the Sun have a chance to save their season tonight, they're going to have to figure out how to defend the PNR a lot better than they did on Thursday.

For a great video on the spread PNR offense, take a look at Billy Donovan's DVD on the Spread Offense. Coach Donovan used it to win back-to-back national championships at Florida. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.