At some point in your basketball season, it comes down to the players that step up and make plays and the players that don't. The Celtics made plays down the stretch last night and the Pistons didn't. All series, I talked about whether the other players, Rondo, Perkins and the struggling Ray Allen and whether they could make plays. They did, and that's why the Celtics are moving on.

I watched the game from start to finish and at the beginning of the show, ESPN did their usual 'wired' segment showing partial excerpts of the pre-game locker room speeches. I like what Doc Rivers had to say:

You don't need a speech from me, we're the better team. I don't have to trick you to fire you up, we're the better team. We don't need trick plays, we're the better team. But what we have to do is focus. Have great focus. Have great mental toughness. Dominate our space the entire night on offense and defense.

Here is the speech as well as what I thought was a key play in the 4th quarter when the Celtics made their run with Rondo hitting that jumper. In fact, Rondo and Perkins were key factors down the stretch on offense and defense,

Attacking the Double Team:

Tactically, I liked what the Pistons were doing. They were trapping the ball-screens on Paul Pierce to get the ball out of his hands. On the trap, the other 3 defenders were zoned up to cover the ball reversal. They wanted the ball to go to an open Rondo, then it was up to Rondo whether he would make the play or not,

Here is another play from earlier in the 4th quarter. PP beats Prince on the bounce and by getting into the lane draws Rasheed and Maxiell. That leaves Perkins alone on the baseline. Again, good help defense to stop PP, but allows Perkins to get underneath for the dunk,


The past 2 games, I thought the Celtics really matured. In Game 5, they withstood a ferocious Pistons comeback and made enough plays to secure the win. In Game 6, they fought back from 10 down to take the game, the series, on the road and carried that to the NBA finals.

The NBA finals are now set, the classic matchup of Lakers vs Celtics, Magic vs Bird, all over again. It really is going to be a great series, one that I can easily see going 7 games.

If you're a big Celtics fan and a coach, then you should check out Kevin Eastman's DVDs on Skill Development. Coach Eastman is a skill coach with the Boston Celtics and this DVD features his famous Celtic 40 shooting drill. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

I only caught the second half of the elimination game tonight between the Lakers and the Spurs. When I started watching the Spurs had a 10-point lead, but by the start of the 4th quarter, their lead was only 2. Kobe basically took the game over himself making some truly amazing plays.

Normally, Bruce Bowen is the kind of lockdown defender that can shutdown the best of the best. Tonight, Kobe just made him look silly. I just took 2 plays but I think they really show what is so great about Kobe. I think Kobe is probably the smartest 1v1 player to ever play, with the exception of Michael Jordan. Kobe reads his defender, then uses his superior speed and athleticism to take advantage. Take a look at Kobe drilling 3-pointer in Bowen's face, then breaking him down on a drive and pull-up in the next possession,

In the first play, Kobe gets the pass coming off the baseline screen. As Kobe gets into triple threat, he sees that Bowen is playing him for the drive. He knows this because of the way his feet are positioned with his hands extended outward. It's easily enough room for Kobe to shoot over,

Now, coming right back, here is Kobe again getting the quick pass from Radmanovic on the Odom drive. Bowen is caught a little out of position and so he tries to closeout quickly. As Kobe gets into triple-threat, you can see him read Bowen here. Bowen's momentum is taking him directly to Kobe, so Kobe simply attacks Bowen's hip blowing right by him. Bowen at this point can't stop fast enough and falls down,

If you haven't read the article on yet about Kobe's killer instinct, you really should. In it, Kobe talks about being a basketball nerd,

And just as he once did with Rob Schwartz, Bryant keeps NBA teammates after practice as guinea pigs. He unveils a spin move or a crossover or something else he has picked up watching tape and does it over and over and over. "The crazy thing about it is, he has the ability to put new elements in his game overnight," says George, a Laker from 1999 to 2006 and a frequent target of Kobe's requests. "He might say, 'Stay after and guard this move. Let me try it on you,' and he'll do it the next day in the game." George pauses to let this sink in. "Most of us, we'll try it alone, then we'll try it in practice, then in a scrimmage, and only then will we bring it out for a game. He'd do it the next day -- and it would work."

It's 2003, and Bryant is getting worked up in an interview while talking about a variation on a move: a jab step-and-pause, where you sink deep, hesitate to let the defender relax and, instead of bringing the jab foot back, push off it. Soon enough, Bryant is out of his chair and using the reporter as a defender on the carpeted floor. Then he has the reporter trying the move. Some people are Star Wars nerds; Bryant is a basketball nerd. "I think Kobe's actually a little bit embarrassed by his love of basketball," says Downer. "People called him a loner, but it's just that basketball is all he wants to focus on. I think he's part of a dying breed that loves the game that way."

Kobe is a true student of the 1v1 game. He`s always thinking about his shot, how to beat different defenders. That's what great players do, they study how to be great, in much the same way that MJ was.


I don't think the Spurs could have done any more than they did to win this series. They were simply too drained from the first 2 series. They did have chances, like in Game 1, then the missed call in Game 4. But the Lakers were the better team with their youth and athleticism advantage and it was obvious. Depending on who they play in the finals, I think the Lakers have to be considered favorites though either way.

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It was great to see Ray Allen get his shot back tonight and help the team pick up the huge Game 5 win. The Pistons pushed them as far as possible to the edge tonight (and could still push further on Fri) and the Celtics battled and persevered for the win, that says a lot about the character of the players on the team.

Back to Ray Allen, ever since the Atlanta series, he has been in a major funk. For a guy that averaged 17+ points all year, and 20+ when he was the main scorer in Sea and Mil, his past 12 playoff games have been subpar in comparison,

Date Opponent/Score Pct Pts
May 26 @ DET L 75-94 2-for-8 25.0 11
May 24 @ DET W 94-80 5-for-16 31.3 14
May 22 DET L 97-103 9-for-16 56.3 25
May 20 DET W 88-79 3-for-10 30.0 9
May 18 CLE W 97-92 1-for-6 16.7 4
May 16 @ CLE L 69-74 3-for-8 37.5 9
May 14 CLE W 96-89 4-for-11 36.4 11
May 12 @ CLE L 77-88 4-for-10 40.0 15
May 10 @ CLE L 84-108 4-for-12 33.3 10
May 8 CLE W 89-73 4-for-10 40.0 16
May 6 CLE W 76-72 0-for-4 0.0 0

Take note especially of his FT%, for a career 44% shooter, he's only been higher than that once. Well, here are 3 big 3 pointers that Ray hit in the 2nd half as well as his post-game interview with ESPN's Michelle Tafoya,

When you're a shooter like Ray, the only way out of a shooting slump (and all shooters get them), is too continue shooting the ball. I was talking to a coaching friend of mine and we laughed how Ray's struggles reminded us of a kid we coached, that also went through a shooting slump. Keep shooting, and your shot will come...

Ray Allen's Jump Shot:

A few higher quality pictures of Ray Allen's great jump shot. Unlike some other 3-point shooters like Brent Barry who shoot a set shot, Ray is a jump shooter. What that means is that he can often shoot over people by getting lift before his release, but it also means that he won't be as effective with it as he gets older. A guy like Brent can play well past his 40s because his set shot won't impact his knees like Ray's will. Anyways, here are a couple of shots of Ray shooting over Rip and Rasheed (click on pics for the high res pictures),

Here is a nice picture of Ray's jump shot at the height of his ascent getting ready to flick his wrists,

I find that watching Ray's shot is like watching a great artist perform. His shot is timeless, he moves so effortlessly in the air.


The Celtics got big contributions outside of its big 3, which will continue to be the main theme, can Perkins and Rondo continue to play well through this and the next series if they advance? You can't fault the Pistons effort tonight. They came out and played, competed. they just got beat by better offense.

If you're looking for some more skill development stuff, shooting drills, etc..., take a look at Tom Crean's new DVD on Dynamic Skills which has some stuff on post skills and post-entry. Coach Crean of course is the new head coach for Indiana University. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

The Lakers came out runnin' and gunnin' tonight and the Spurs could never quite catch up. The game was a little too close for comfort if you're a Laker fan. Kobe was very frank about their near fatal mistakes in the post-game interview saying, "It was bad clock management. Pao missed a shot and then I tried to make a play when I should have dribbled the clock out and they got a quick score the other way. We have to learn from these mistakes."

As coaches, we always talk about good defense leading to good offense. The Lakers actually had more turnovers than the Spurs tonight, but the difference was the timing and the Lakers speed in taking advantage of those turnovers. Here are few sequences including a key one late in the 4th quarter that results in a botched handoff attempt between Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto,

The Basketball Handoff:

I know some coaches that teach the handoff in basketball like they teach the handoff in football. Though they are similar, in my opinion, there are some significant differences. Chief among them is that I prefer to teach players to flip the ball instead of actually executing a handoff. The thinking is that the ball is bigger than a football. Also, by flipping it you avoid any body/hand contact between the exchange and it happens a lot quicker than an actual handoff. Here is where it all went wrong between Ginobili and Oberto,

Here are some coaching tips that I've used to teach this idea of the dribble handoff between 2 players on the perimeter:

1. cutter should “drag the arc” ensuring the hand-off happens below the FT line extended.
2. dribbler should drive at the cutter's defender.
3. dribbler should make a short "toss" or pop the ball up to the cutter. It can slow the cutter down if the dribbler literally hands the ball off.
4. cutter must go tight by the dribbler’s shoulder to ensure there is no space for the cutter’s defender to get through.
5. dribbler and the cutter should both go with speed for the handoff.
6. dribbler should go as soon as he/she receives a pass.
7. dribbler should be inside the 3 point line to ensure the cutter is in shooting range.


With regards to the foul at the end of the game, I thought it was a foul. There was contact on the pump fake and to be consistent it should be called. It would've been 2 shots (foul on the ground not in act of shooting) and probably gone to OT.

With a 3-1 lead, the Lakers are clearly in control. The bottom line, the Lakers are younger, quicker and more athletic than the older, slower, weary Spurs. But Game 5 between the Pistons and Celtics is tomorrow, I can't wait...

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Yahoo Sports called it "Grimy". To me, the Pistons v Celtics game was more like watching a classic heavyweight title fight. Two contenders slugging it out playing the game the right way with hard-nosed defense. The tough physical kind, but nothing below the belt. From the outset, the Pistons opened the game like a Mike Tyson fight, with a flurry of haymakers and devastating left hooks jumping out to a 10-0 start. Credit the Celtics for getting up off the canvas after a 9-count to hang off the ropes and go the full 12 rounds, but in the end it was an unanimous decision, Deeeee-troit Basketball!!!

The play of course that epitomized the Detroit effort tonight was from Pistons unsung hero, Jason Maxiell. Just a gutsy, "not in my house", possibly series-defining come-from-behind-block. Like the kind that Tayshaun Prince did to Reggie Miller half a dozen years ago. I also included Mark Jackson of ESPN breaking down that first 12 minutes of terror that the Pistons defense unleashed,

Double-Team and Rotate:

Just some basic concepts of double-teaming, you have to rotate to cover 1 pass away. In this case, Rasheed Wallace goes to help on Paul Pierce. Now, Chauncey Billups is help side and now must rotate to cover Kendrick Perkins. Rondo is left open in the far corner,

Jason Maxiell, Unsung Hero:

I wrote about Jason earlier in the season. It's hard not to like his game. He's not a guy that can create his own shot, but he's the spark plug. He makes all the plays behind the scenes that make the stars shine, whether it's rebounding, defense, setting picks. Despite getting beat initially off the rebound, Jason hustles back to block the sure KG dunk,

I love the "Not on my watch. Nothing easy" attitude of the Pistons. Don't give the other team any easy buckets, just say no layups and dunks!!


Those familiar themes cropped up again for both teams. The Pistons were fired up from the get go, and looked like the better team throughout. Which Detroit team will show up on Wed? For the Celtics, scoring remains a problem. Tonight everyone struggled, but even if they had a better output from the big 3, they lacked secondary scoring. The Celtics will go home where that secondary scoring has been much better. But can they count on it?

For more defense and rebounding video help, check out Tom Izzo's DVD on rebounding and defensive drills. Coach Tom Izzo's teams are always one of the toughest teams on the boards. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Sometimes you can over-analyze a situation. In the case of the San Antonio Spurs today, it was simply a matter of rest and sleeping in your own bed after a week on the road. The Spurs played great today, shooting over 50% and getting 72 points from their big three.

During one of the timeouts, coach Gregg Popovich had just a couple of simple things to remind his players,

1. Play hard and stay agressive
2. Rebound and defend

Here is the clip,

Play hard and stay aggressive:

Just a good exchange with his players. I especially like how Tony Parker responded to Pop's "Don't stop being aggresive" with "I got you coach". Respect, and accountability, you can tell that Parker and Pop have that mutual understanding. That's what I call coachable.

Rebound and defend:

I like how they end their huddle with a "defense" chant. I'm a defense first coach, so I'm for anything that can remind players of their responsibilities.


The Spurs have had a pretty long week, Game 7 against the Hornets on Monday, their plane breaks down and so they spend the night sleeping on the plane Monday night. They get to Los Angeles with essentially just 1 day to prepare for the Lakers. They play well to start Game 1 on Wednesday (perhaps spillover effect from Game 7) but tire down the stretch and lose a heartbreaker. They come back for Game 2 on Friday in LA with 1 day in-between games and get run out of the building. Finally, the Spurs get to go home, sleep in their own bed, eat home-cooked meals, drive their own car to work. Voila, Sunday Game 3, they blowout the Lakers.

It is a big deal having to play on the road. Especially since the Spurs have essentially opened the playoffs on the road, and finish their series on the road. They are an older team, so you have to wonder if they have what it takes if this series goes the distance on the road, then go on to the Finals to play another great team on the road.

The Lakers are in a good spot. They still have home court advantage, but Game 4 is another potential series clincher. If they win, they can gain enough separation and put the Spurs away at home in Game 5. They need to get more out of the transition game though, they need to use their youth and athleticism to their advantage against the slower older Spurs.

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A little slow on the take this morning being the weekend and all. It wasn't the prettiest of games last night between the Celtics and Pistons. More than strategy or even talent, what separated the 2 teams was simple, DESIRE. The Celtics wanted the win, more than the Pistons did. It showed up in the way the Celtics played defense, hustled for loose balls, and shared the ball.

This play in the 3rd quarter pretty much summed up the whole game if you didn't watch it. Starts out with great defense by Paul Pierce on Tayshaun Prince, resulting in partially blocking the shot. The alley-oop pass to Garnett doesn't work on transition, but Ray Allen jumps to the loose ball first and PP picks it up. On the 3v2 that ensues, PP finds Kevin Garnett who passes to Kendrick Perkins for the open shot. Here is the full sequence (apologize in advance for the poor video quality),

3v2, Make the Extra Pass:

I just want to point out the extra pass by Kevin Garnett on the 3v2. When you have numbers, you have to force the defense to come and defend you, then make the extra pass to the open teammate,


The other day, I talked about the biggest issue for the Celtics, can they get more scoring than the big 3. If not, it will be difficult to get over 80 points. They answered that question last night with Rondo, Perkins and Posey all picking up 12 points. Still though, the question somewhat lingers. How much of that bench scoring was due to the poor defense of the Pistons? Was this a 1 hit wonder, or will the bench continue to score? If you're the Celtics, you're season depends on it.

As for the Pistons, it's that familiar theme. How much do you want it? You have the players, the talent to win it all. But it's what you do on game day that counts. And so far in these playoffs, the Pistons have not shown that consistent effort every single night. Maybe it's a chemistry thing, maybe it's the coach. But the Pistons right now are their own worst enemy.

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I wrote the other night how I felt the Spurs looked fatigued in the 4th quarter of Game 1 and how that contributed to them letting the Lakers overtake them for the win. Well, tonight, that fatigue looked more like defeat as the Lakers just beat and pounded them in each and every way.

One of the defensive adjustments that Phil Jackson has gone to quite often in the first 2 games has been the zone defense. We know Jackson doesn't like double-teams, but he seems to like using the concept of tilting the floor to overload on defense to match the strength of the offense. In these 2 plays, Lamar Odom gets called for the illegal defense as he gets caught hanging in the paint,

Illegal Defense:

The Lakers basically ignore the man on the weak-side corner and bring Odom into the lane to have 3 defenders cover the ball-side. As Doug Collins of TNT says, Odom is hedging. Gasol will force Duncan middle to Odom's help, then Duncan has to pass out. Kobe Bryant and Jordan Farmar have to zone up 3 people on the weak-side,


I think that the Spurs are simply emotionally and physically spent. They just went through 2 very emotional series against the Suns and the Hornets and they're running on fumes at this point. The Lakers have done what they needed to do to win both games. But we all know Pop and his crew are fighters, if there is a way for the Spurs to win, Pop will find it. Unfortunately, I don't think they will this time, I think the Lakers are just fresher at this point in the season.

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I was only able to catch the second half of the game tonight between the Pistons and the Celtics but it was a great half that I watched. The Pistons had some rust in Game 1 but they were able to shake off that rust tonight, especially defensively. I thought the Celtics played well too, but they had a couple of defensive lapses that hurt them, especially in crunch time.

It's one of the things you hear all the time from coaches when talking to their players late in games. They say, "We gotta get a stop, we have to stop them right now, so lets get it done!!". Well, when the Celtics needed a stop, they didn't get it. Here is a great play by the Pistons on the inbounds, it really froze the Celtics defense and resulted in an easy layup for Billups,

Double Stagger Curl:

This BLOB is just a fantastic play. Jeff Van Gundy of ESPN did a great job at the end of the score explaining the nuances of the play. But before we go to that, here is the play in more detail,

As you can see, because O2 (Rip Hamilton) comes off his screen to the 3 point line. This is important because it forces Kevin Garnett to make a decision. Should he switch to cover Chauncey curling off the double stagger? Or switch to cover Rip on the 3-point line? And he has to make the decision in a split second. My philosophy would've been to protect the paint first, so obviously KG made the wrong decision if we use that philosophy. But you could make the case that leaving Rip (who was the leading scorer for the Pistons in the game) open for the 3-pointer would've been wrong.


All the talk now has shifted to the "can the Celtics win on the road" chatter. The bigger question for me is, can the Celtics find some more offense?? Despite their problems tonight defensively, they can't win this series if they score in the 70s and 80s. Detroit is too good and too deep to be be kept below 80.

To me, either all of the big 3 have to really dominate, with a 30+ game. Or guys like Rondo or Posey are going to have to come up big. Somewhere, somehow, the Celtics have to find more scoring.

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I watched part of tonight's game through TNT's broadband all-access channel and it was fantastic. It officially debuted tonight for Game 1 between the Lakers and the Spurs. I think TNT has been doing a superb job with its basketball coverage for the past 10 years and they just keep getting better and better.

What TNT has done is basically use 4 cameras and stream them live over the internet. The 4 cams in use are:

1. 2 player cams that basically follow a player around the court wherever they go, tonight it was mainly Kobe and Ginobili/Duncan
2. The Robo cam which sits on top of the backboard near the shot clock
3. The Arena Robo cam which is an overhead cam that moves with the play along a string
4. Mosaic, which has the other 4 cams in 1 view

Anyways, using the Robo cam, you could get a really get a good look at the free-throws. We've all seen it on TV, Tim Duncan's awkward way of free-throw shooting. Duncan has struggled with his free-throw shooting his entire career. The older he gets, the more unorthodox it becomes, here are a few sequences from the first half (apologize for the first clip, the audio doesn't match the video very well),

Duncan's Free-Throw Technique:

Free-throw shooting, or any form shooting, in my opinion is one of those fundamental skills that must be taught early when kids are young so that they can develop the correct technique. Unfortunately, for Duncan, he didn't play organized basketball until late in his high school years, so the basic motor skills of good form shooting were never engrained into him. Basically, it's like when you learn a language, it's always easier to learn it when you're a young child, then trying to pick up a new language as an adult.

Well, lets take a look at his shooting a little more closely. First, I don't like the pigeon stance because I think it's very unbalanced and restricts the natural motion of the shot moving from the feet to knees to body to arms. Next, we look at his ball position. Duncan keeps the ball so low, almost at his knees while he lines it up. I think this ball position makes it extremely difficult to lineup your hands pre-shot and results in a much longer shot release having to bring the ball all the way up through his body. Finally, there's his pause. Again, I think the long pause results in a jerky motion,

Duncan shot 6-for-10 on FTs tonight, just around his average. Duncan has usually shot in the 60% range throughout his career, curiously it is higher this season over 70% but he's making almost 2 less attempts. He hasn't always had the unorthodox technique, and the awkward pause is a newer development. Phil Jackson isn't known to be a guy to call something like this out, but I would bet anything that Duncan probably violates the 10 second rule to shoot each free throw most times. I remember, back in the 90s when Karl Malone would take a long pause and opposing fans would count down the seconds out loud to distract him.


I didn't talk much about the actual game. The Lakers use a fantastic 4th quarter rally to come back from as much as 20 points. I think the Lakers had just played so poorly in the 1st half, and the fatigue of the 7th game from the Spurs finally took its toll in the 2nd half. The Lakers were able to take advantage of fresher legs into the 4th.

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Game 1 is in the books and the Celtics took advantage of some bad turnovers by the Pistons in the 3rd quarter to make the first splash in this series. Overall, the Pistons looked rusty from the week off while the Celtics looked like they were still jacked after winning Game 7 against Lebron.

Offensively, the Celtics were led by Kevin Garnett. What led to Garnett's 26 points was a couple of things.

1. Flip Saunders chose to have Rasheed Wallace guard Garnett initially. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake. Wallace is a great weak-side defender because he floats and can stuff the lane. This most likely prompted the change that Saunders made later in the game to go with McDyess on Garnett.

2. Saunders chose to double-team Pierce on dribble penetration, so on the PNR, Garnett would pop out and hit several wide open shots from that 15-20 foot range.

Clearly, Saunders was influenced by Pierce's 41 point outburst in Game 7. I watched the regular season game between these 2 earlier in the year and they either played PP 1v1 or doubled Garnett. Listen to ESPN's Mark Jackson breaking down Garnett's game up to the 3rd quarter and a key Garnett score in the 4th quarter when the Pistons were making a mini-run,

As I mentioned, I don't really like that the Pistons decided to double and collapse on Pierce every single time on the dribble drive to the net. Obviously they're having a hard time containing him 1v1, so they need to find a defender capable of doing it. If they have to rely on the double-team, they'll be in trouble all series. In this screencap, there's actually 3 Celtics that are all wide open,

In this screencap from a play in the 1st quarter, the Pistons go to double-team PP in the corner but he's able to reverse the ball back up to Rondo at the top of the key. You can see that Rasheed rotated down on help side but is now caught trying to run back to close out KG who nails yet another jumper,

I didn't include a screencap from the last sequence of the youtube clip. It was basically a block-to-block flex screen for a KG post up with he turns inside for a middle baby hook.


So, the Celtics have taken the first shot and scored the first victory. Adjustments to consider for Game 2: Will the Pistons go with a 1v1 on PP and who will guard him, Prince? Rip? Realistically though, it wasn't the defense there that lost the Pistons the game. The turnovers in the 3rd quarter were a real buzz kill. You can't play loose with the ball and expect to beat a good team like the Celtics in their building. Bottom line, 7 TOs in 1 quarter, UNACCEPTABLE.

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It was a different kind of Game 7 tonight between the Spurs and the Hornets. There was a nervous feeling from the start of it and instead of a confident Hornets team playing as if they were the better team (at least more talented), they played tentative and were afraid of taking the big shots until their backs were pinned against the wall. The Hornets played not to lose as opposed to playing to win.

In contrast, the Spurs just took what the Hornets defense gave them. I thought about it many times, should the Hornets double-team or not. I'm still a little torn, in hindsight, it's easy to say no double-teams because of the way the Spurs made them pay. But at the same time, Duncan 1v1 against Chandler is an almost automatic score, so is Manu 1v1 and Parker as well. Against the doubles, the Spurs just made the extra pass to find the open man, and boy did they make the Hornets pay for those double-teams,

The Spurs didn't really do anything special at all tonight. To be honest, I thought their defense was average tonight, the lack of Hornets scoring was primarily the result of the Hornets trepidation more than anything else.

On offense, the Spurs didn't run any special Pop plays, they reacted to the Hornets double teams by making the extra pass to the open man.

Against the Trapped PNR:

In the 1st quarter, the Hornets decide to trap the Parker and Duncan PNR. Parker gets the ball to Bowen who finds Oberto down low. Because of the double-team, it's basically 2v1 in the paint and Oberto kisses it off the glass,

Against the Post Double-team:

The Hornets have been double-teaming Duncan on the dribble ever since Game 4. The Spurs ran this play like they knew the end result before it even happened. The problem is that because of the rotations, CP3 has to go all the way over to the opposite corner to close out Udoka, and he's too late,


The Spurs have once again found a way to win a tough game on the road in the playoffs. I'm not sure if Pop has enough tricks up his sleeve against Phil Jackson and top seeded Lakers. The matchup is an amateur coaches dream, to see 2 of the game's greatest basketball minds play chess and see who ends up with the checkmate, I can't wait...

As for the Hornets, they have the brightest of futures ahead. This 7 game series has really taught the younguns a lot. I like the quotes that Coach Byron Scott said after the game:

You have to go through some things before you can really understand how good it's going to feel when you get to that next level. You don't go from not making the playoffs to winning a championship. It just doesn't work that way. ... We're headed in the right direction.

For a relatively new video from a great basketball mind, check out Tubby Smith's DVD on his Offensive Philosophy. Coach Smith focuses on the secondary break leading into whatever motion offense you run. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It's the kind of plays, the hustle plays, that are the X factor in a Game 7. The talent was there, Pierce vs Lebron; but in the end, the Celtics had a little more determination (helped by playing at home) to win the little battles, chase down those loose balls. It's why you fight for that home court advantage for 82 games in the regular season. The Celtics took advantage of the home crowd's energy and enthusiasm to secure the win today.

2 plays I want to highlight (that you all probably seen as well). The first was Eddie House chasing down the loose ball and saving it from OB to James Posey. The second was Paul Pierce battling Lebron James for the loose ball after the jump ball and calling the TO. Here they are,

I first heard the soundbite from the great Peace by Inches speech from Al Pacino in the movie, Any Given Sunday. In it he says, "In any fight, it's the guy who's willing to die that will win that inch. On this team, we fight for that inch. We tear ourselves to pieces for that inch! We CLAW!! with our FINGERNAILS for that inch..."

Before the season, and before games, I ask my players all the time, what are you prepared to do to help this team win? Are you gonna be that guy who's willing to dive on the floor head first. Are you willing to sacrifice a part of yourself for the team? I love hustle guys, hustle guys will always get playing time on my roster.

House Dives Head First:

With no regard for human life,

If I'm Mike Brown, I'm wondering why Wally Szczerbiak didn't dive for the ball. Better yet, if I'm Danny Ferry, I'm wondering now that season is over whether Wally should be on this team.

In contrast, you gotta love a guy like Eddie House. Here's a guy that didn't play much in the first 5 games, and when he gets his chance, in Game 7, the biggest stage in the world, he's diving on the floor chasing down balls, just great stuff.

Pierce Beats Lebron to the Ball:

Off the jumpball, Pierce just hits the deck and grabs the ball away from Lebron,

Hard to fault Lebron too much after he pours in 45 points, but Pierce out-dueled him for that ball. And with the 3-point lead, that possession was critical, probably sealed the win for the Celtics.


In any elimination game, things are desperate for both teams and its inevitable that the ball will end up loose on the ground. Heart can win ball games, and today was proof of that. I remember one year I played JV ball in HS, we were a small team, bunch of short kids from an inner city school. The motto our coach used that year was "Hit the floor or Hit the bricks". We weren't very skilled, but man were we scrappy. As a football player as well, I love it. We even won a few games too.

Well, it wasn't very pretty, but the Celtics hold serve once again and advance to face the Pistons. This is going to be a great series, an epic one by all accounts. The key for the Pistons will be whether they can create tempo and get the game up into the 90s or over 100. The key for the Celtics will be whether they can fix their shooting woes, Allen was off all 7 games.

For some off-season tips on basketball related conditioning, take a look at Robert Taylor's DVD on Balanced Conditioning. Coach Taylor is the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Loyola College in Maryland. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

So many good ones to pick from. I could easily pick 10 or 20 if I could but then that wouldn't technically be a fave five anymore, so I have to stick with just 5. It was hard for me to not include legends like Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Gary Williams, Rick Majerus, Lute Olson, Billy Donovan, and on and on. Then there are the ones that came before my time, John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, etc...

Also, as you can tell from my fave five, I grew up in the 80s, 90s and this decade so I'm influenced primarily by what I see. These are my fave five Men's NCAA Div1 coaches of all time in no particular order:

Dean Smith
The famous UNC coach for almost 40 years. When you think of UNC, you think of Dean Smith. He won the National Championship in 82 and 93, went to the final four a mind-boggling 11 times and was the winningest coach in Div1 history before Bobby Knight passed him a few years ago. The 82 Championship is legendary of course with Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. But I remember the 93 Championship mainly because I was older then, watching the likes of George Lynch and Eric Montross. Tactically, Smith was the one that used the 4 corners delay offense that forced the NCAA to introduce the shot clock and also prominently featured the point-zone and scramble defenses that Roy Williams has also adopted.

Bobby Knight
Probably the most controversial and polarizing coaches in the history of basketball. I don't think you can be a coach and not have an opinion about Bobby Knight. Though I personally question most of his motivational methods, there is no doubting his legacy as a winner (3 national championships with Indiana), high graduation rate, and strict follower of NCAA guidelines. Tactically, Bobby Knight's Blocker Mover motion offense and emphasis on hustle and hard-nosed M2M defense are legendary.

Mike Krzyzewski
Coach K as everyone knows him by. I guess I couldn't include Dean Smith without including Coach K but Coach K truly belongs on this list as his record of achievement over the past 20 years is unsurpassed. When you think of Coach K, you think of leadership. Someone who is a leader of men, if he wasn't a head coach, he would be a CEO or the President. The glory years were the back to back championships in 91 and 92 with Hurley and Laettner but the 2001 championship was special with players like Jay Will and Battier. One of the great things I like about Coach K is his willingness to incorporate new tactics, case in point this season with the Phoenix Suns spread offense. One of the better developers of skill sending a long list of players to the NBA.

Jim Calhoun
I've always like Jim Calhoun. If there was a coaching style that I would most want to emulate, it would be Calhoun. Tough but genuinely cared for his players. His coaching record includes 2 national championships, my favorite being the championship in 99' with El-Amin and Hamilton. Calhoun is probably best known for his player development. He has a long history of preparing guys to play in the NBA having coached guys like Rip Hamilton, Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor. Tactically, Calhoun has always been a straight up M2M guy running pro-style sets including PNRs and stagger sets.

Rick Pitino
The only coach to have taking 3 different programs to the final four winning it all in 96 with Kentucky, Rick Pitino stands tall as one of the legends of the college game. Tactically, Pitino is famous for his full-court presses. He uses them to this day at Louisville and his teams have always played fast using pressure defense and 3-point shooting as the primary mode of attack. Perhaps what Pitino will be most remembered for though is large and growing coaching tree of assistants who have gone on to coach in college and the NBA. Guys like Jeff Van Gundy, Reggie Theus, Billy Donovan and Herb Sendek just to name a few.

The road woes continue for the Boston Celtics as they lost yet another road playoff game last night to the Cavs. For the majority of this series so far, the Celtics have done an excellent job packing the lane and making it difficult for Lebron to get points.

Doris Burke of ESPN does a good job breaking down how the Celtics help and recover and pack the lane to plug the paint area. They're giving Lebron the 15-20 foot jump shot which up until the 2nd half last night, he has been wildly inconsistent. Here is Burke's breakdown at the end of the 1st quarter and at halftime,

Packline Defense:

I wrote earlier how I felt the best way to defend Lebron was to use a packline type defense. The Wizards chose to use hard fouls to pound him, the problem with that strategy alone is that Lebron is built like a rock, and can take that kind of physicality. The Celtics instead chose to use defense in numbers,


The key for Game 7 tomorrow will be whether the Celtics can execute offensively. Listening to Jon Barry of ESPN after the game, I agree with him that the Celtics have gotten the job done defensively, Lebron has had an OK series, but he hasn't dominated. The Celtics struggles have been offensively, and when they take bad shots, that actually leads to fast break opportunities for the Cavs. And that gets us back to the playing at home factor, the Celtics, specifically guys like Rondo and Perkins play much better at home. If they play well, like they did in Game 5, the Celtics should beat the Cavs.

For a new M2M defensive video, check out Bob Huggins' DVD on M2M drills. Coach Huggins' Bearcats teams were always known for their incredible defensive intensity. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

Chris Paul of the Hornets is such a dynamic player. Earlier in the playoffs, we saw the Mavs attempt to trap Paul on the PNRs and Paul sliced and diced his way through them and torched them. This time around, the Spurs decided to use the trap in certain situations and particularly in the 3rd quarter and it was tremendously effective.

I think what the Spurs did was create confusion. They hadn't really trapped Paul all series, and all of a sudden in the 3rd quarter in Game 6 they decide to trap Paul on the PNR and it got the Hornets out of sync. Paul passed out of the trap and his teammates were often dumbfounded as to what to do. The indecision of the other players really hurt the Hornets in that fateful 3rd quarter. Here a couple of clips of the trap towards the end of the quarter,

Trapping the PNR:

The trap against Paul here, isn't really so much a hard trap with defenders flying in the face of Paul. Basically, they zone him up with 2 guys and prevent him from splitting the defenders, and forcing him to throw a lob over the top. The other players are also basically zoned up,

If you're interested in trapping the PNR, take a look at this post and this post that I wrote earlier in the season.


Once again, a Gregg Popovich adjustment that worked beautifully. If the Spurs end up winning this series, it will be due to Popovich and his ability to adapt. If they end up losing this series, you can be sure that Popovich would've tried everything that could have possibly been done. Game 7 goes on Monday and though the Hornets have the advantage being at home, the Spurs may have one more adjustment up their sleeve that might put them over the edge.

For an old video but a good one from one of my favorite coaches, Geno Auriemma's DVD on 8 essential defensive drills is a good one to look at for defensive ideas for your practice. As usual, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes.

It's why we love this game. The Jazz and Lakers played a fantastic game tonight. It was an epic battle with the Lakers always staying just barely ahead of the Jazz and still the Jazz kept battling. I wrote earlier that this series would be one about possessions and in the past few games we've seen that take place, where every possession becomes so important.

I remember from the Game 4 OT the other night. Phil Jackson kept telling his guys, "run the offense! run the offense!" Though they still break down to 1v1 once in a while, I thought for the most part, the Lakers went through Pao Gasol and their triangle offense tonight. You can always tell when they do by looking at Gasol's assist stats, tonight 8 assists; Game 4, only 4 assists. Here are a few great sequences showing the many options out of the Lakers triangle offense,

I wrote earlier in the year when the Lakers were doing so well with Andrew Bynum about their triangle offense. With Pao, the Lakers look as good if not better as Pao is probably a better passer than Andrew. The offense begins with a post entry pass,

Give and Go:

Most motion or continuity offenses have some form of a give and go option. The triangle offense is no different. After the post entry, the first option is always to look for the backdoor give and go. What about the bounce pass by Gasol, very very nice,

Pass and Pick Away to Curl:

Another option they can run for one of your shooters (Farmar in this case), is to pass and pick away. O1 is going to to a sort of mini-curl and drag the arc where Gasol will find him for the 3-pointer. I love Collins on the call "Uh, oh, FARMAR, FARMAR, the lid is off the basket..."

A few other options include Pao Gasol who turns around and shoots over Okur who is playing him soft in the post. The other is a pass and pick away then it turns into a PNR with Gasol and Kobe.


I like the triangle offense. I think you can run it very much like a continuity and have the ball reversed and the pattern maintained until you get the best shot. Also, the offense relies on your players to read the defense and make plays based on how they are being played. As Doug Collins in the TNT color commentary points out though, you require very good passing posts.

If you're looking at implementing any variation of the Triangle or triple post offense, you can check out 5 Star Basketball's new 2-pack DVDs on the Triangle Offense. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

If you were to look at the boxscore of the Pistons game against the Magic tonight and saw that the Pistons shot 36%, 21% from 3-point, you'd probably think that it was basically impossible for them to win the game.

While the 21 TOs by the Magic certainly didn't do them any favors, the Pistons were able to grab a 15-12 offensive rebounding edge which they used to barely edge the Magic and go on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

I never get tired talking about rebounding. I wrote earlier in the year about Jason Maxiell and his offensive rebounding prowess. Antonio McDyess was the real hero of the game though nabbing a game-high 6 offensive rebounds, with 3 of them in the crucial 4th quarter,

Winning Those 1v1 Battles:

I love these pictures, because it shows the guys that are working hard in practice, bringing those habits into the game. Because that's all it is, the guys winning those battles in practice are the ones playing in the 4th quarter grabbing those huge offensive rebounds,

You'll notice in all of the plays above, the Magic defenders are actually in good block-out position in each one. In fact, the Magic are a really good defensive rebounding team overall, they did everything correct. McDyess and Maxiell are just really good at winning those 1v1 battles.

Much like shooting, I believe rebounding is another talent equalizer. You don't need to be amazingly athletic (though it helps), but if you work hard, learn the angles of where the ball is likely to go, you can be a good rebounder. As a coach, rebounding wins games, plain and simple. I never really used to value offensive rebounding very much until I coached a team that was a monster on the boards, and it wasn't due to their height. We won a lot of games that year due primarily to offensive rebounding. When our offense went sideways (which happened often that year; long story, email me for details) our offensive rebounding kept us on top. Went to the State Finals that year.


First, give the Orlando Magic a lot of credit. They never gave up and made things interesting. If they had won Game 3, maybe things would've been different. They have a lot to be optimistic about. They have the most dominant center in the NBA, the most important position. And I love Coach Stan Van Gundy. Everytime I watch and hear SVG, he reminds me of how a guy like you or me would coach in the NBA. He's like a blue-collar NBA coach, if there ever was one. I love Jameer Nelson partly because of his time at St. Joe's but they will need to make an upgrade at that critical PG position. They're like 2 players away from being a Championship contender.

As for the Pistons, they're on their way to their 6th Eastern Conference Finals, just an amazing accomplishment. They will play either the Celtics or the Cavs. As many have stated before, if the real Pistons show up every game, they will win the NBA Championship. They have defense, rebounding, balance on offense, chemistry, shooting; they really have no weakness other than their self-motivation.

If you're looking for more ideas to get your players to become better rebounders, I recommend taking a look at Tom Izzo's DVD on Rebounding and Man Defense. Coach Izzo is the long-time head coach of Michigan State. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

It wasn't the prettiest game to watch by any stretch of the imagination, but the Cavs and Celtics traded baskets for about 44 minutes before Lebron James took control of the game.

I watched the TNT after show after the game and they kept talking about the Celtics, what's wrong with the Celtics, how they can't win on the road, how they'll have problems against Detroit, etc... Kenny said the Celtics are a "front-running team", meaning they can only play with a big lead. Chuck said he felt that the Celtics are bad 1v1 defenders. Magic made the comment about the Celtics not knowing who their go to guy was.

Though they did mention Lebron, I think they were missing the main point. The sole reason why the Cavs won the game tonight was due to Lebron James. 7-for-20 isn't a good shooting night, but LBJ did have 13 assists and 6 rebounds. Most importantly, Lebron was a part of every single big play from the Cavs in the last 4 minutes. I like analyzing sequences so here is roughly between 4min to 1min:

3:16 73-79 LeBron James makes 25-foot three point jumper
2:55 75-79 Paul Pierce makes 13-foot two point shot
2:38 75-82 Daniel Gibson makes 25-foot three point jumper (LeBron James assists)
2:19 Paul Pierce misses 25-foot three point jumper (LeBron closes out)
2:18 Boston offensive rebound
2:15 Jumpball: Kevin Garnett vs. Joe Smith (Ray Allen gains possession)
2:06 Ray Allen misses 25-foot three point jumper
1:45 75-84 LeBron James makes two point shot
1:25 LeBron James blocks Paul Pierce's 9-foot jumper
1:09 75-86 Anderson Varejao makes 11-foot two point shot (LeBron James assists)

On-ball screen:

The Cavs "crappy offense" as Chuck calls it, is deceivingly simple. Yet, when you have the NBA's best player, why make things complicated. On the 3-pointer, they run a simple ball-screen with Varejao. The Celtics don't switch and sag allowing him to take the outside shot,

In the second clip, Joe Smith comes to set the ball screen. You'll see 3 Celtics, Posey, Garnett and Rondo (I think). Point is, that they don't really make a play on Lebron. You must not allow him to get to the rim, take a charge or wrap him up,

Chuck thinks the Celtics 1v1 defense is bad. I think they actually defended both plays as good as possible. I would've sagged to give Lebron the shot. On the dunk, that's just Lebron being Lebron. You could've fouled him, but that's easier said then done.

In the end, I thought this game was decided by the fact that the Cavs have the best player on the floor. The Celtics do have a go-to-guy, it's Paul Pierce. But Lebron > Pierce.


I've coached both football and basketball in my life. In football, you can have a star RB but you need an O-line to block for him. You can have a star QB, but you need athletes that can catch. You can have a devastating LB or rush end, but the offense can always run to the other side.

Basketball differs in that I think 1 superstar player and 4 average players can actually be better than 5 good players. My traditional thinking has been I would prefer 5 good players over 1 superstar + 4 average. But, if that 1 superstar was a special player like Lebron, maybe that is better...

A brand new video has just come out, Keno Davis' DVD on his Spread Dribble Drive Motion. I didn't know Drake ran dribble drive motion, but the video looks more like spread with drive + kick than the Walberg version. In any case, it should be a good view for you DDM fans. Talk hoops strategy at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

The Spurs started out running and continued running the Hornets right out of the building tonight in Game 4 of their series. We hear that cliche all the time, you can win games with heart and hustle. The reason why you hear it is because sometimes its the straight up truth. The Spurs just outplayed the Hornets by pure hustle.

Early in the 1st quarter, Byron Scott told his team the same thing. Here are a couple of early sequences with Tony Parker outrunning everyone and Byron Scott lecturing his players on their lack of hustle,

Prior to the playoffs, the talk all around regarding the Hornets was their lack of experience. I think in the past 2 games it's safe to say, we saw some of that inexperience show itself in their demeanor. They lost their cool a bit in game 3 and tonight they just came out flat taking some bad shots and then compounding it by not getting back on defense. Just little things, but very important when you put them all together.

Motivation is always a tough gig, especially with the younguns. Listening to Byron Scott, I couldn't help but think about the many many times I've told my players similar things. "You're getting beat, they're running harder than you. They're beating us at our own game..." Sometimes, kids gotta learn the hard way.

Transition Defense:

Here, the Hornets get back on transition defense, but with a speedster like Tony Parker, you need that 5th guy back on help-side because it's too easy for him to beat a back-pedaling Chris Paul,

Key to key, I tell my forwards. In this second clip, the Hornets did a much better job getting back on transition defense and I probably would've played the ball-screen underneath as well since the only weakness to Parker's game is the long jumper. But it underscores the importance of taking care of the ball. If you're loose with the ball, good teams will run it down your throat,


The series is tied 2-2 now. The Hornets do have home court advantage but the Spurs have momentum and they have a formula for slowing the Hornets down, by basically not allowing West, Chandler, Stojakovic anything easy. It will be interesting to see what changes Byron Scott will make going to game 5. Will there be less 1v1 and more drive and kick, stagger screens for Stojakovic, or a high PNR instead of the side PNR they usually run.

For more early offense and fast break video info, check out Tom Izzo's new DVD on the Numbered Fast Break. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

As we say all the time, playoff basketball is all about adjustments and I really like what Mike Brown did defensively tonight in the Cavs win over the Celtics. They decided to have Delonte West overload the ball side leaving Rajon Rondo completely open.

The premise being that the Cavs feel that they can live with Rondo taking open jump shots until he proves to them that he can knock them down consistently. A gamble? It sure was, but down 2-0 it was a calculated risk by Mike Brown who really had nothing to lose, and it payed off big time. When Doc Rivers countered by having Sam Cassell sub in for Rondo, things didn't get that much better. In fact, both Rondo and Cassell played terrible shooting just 3-for-10 and 0-for-6 respectively and combining for just 2 assists in over 40 minutes of combined floor time. Here were a few sequences from that crucial 1st quarter in which the Cavs used to jump out to that huge 20-point lead,

Defensive Overload:

It was basically the same concept of tilting the floor that we saw the Lakers use against the Nuggets in the first round. Choose 1 defender (the one defending the worst offensive player) and have them play help-side exclusively,

A couple of times, Delonte West took the charge which discouraged the Celtics from driving into the lane. Later in the 2nd half, Rondo and Cassell were taking the open jumpers and weren't hitting them.


Now that the Cavs have made their adjustments, it's up to Doc Rivers to come up with something that will keep the Cavs defense honest. It's really just a numbers game, like in football, on defense, you load up the box to stuff the run. So now on offense you have to turn the edge or throw over the top to keep them honest. What will the Celts do to adjust?? Though Sam Cassell did struggle tonight, I think he is a better scoring threat and through the later 3 quarters, the Celts did stay pretty even with the Cavs. Expect to see more Sam in Game 4 in a 4-out spread.

For a new M2M defense video, check out Mark Fox's DVD on Building a M2M Defense. I like his idea of emphasizing taking charges. This fits well with the tilting the floor concept if your help-side defenders are going to contribute, they need to step up and take some charges. Talk hoops strategy at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.