Notwithstanding another costly inbounds turnover late in the game, I thought the Nuggets played well in Game 3. The big difference was the emergence of Chris "the birdman" Andersen off the bench. Jeff Van Gundy did a good analysis of how the Nuggets were sending cutters to beat the Lakers' overload (or matchup) defense. Take a look (audio is a little wonky in the beginning),

The Lakers are essentially using the same overload (or matchup) defense they've used all season and specifically against the Nuggets in last year's playoffs. They bring one of the defenders, usually a 4 or 5 (Gasol or Bynum) to the ball-side to take away Melo driving to the basket. This leaves the 4 or 5 on the Nuggets essentially unguarded. Since that player (K-Mart or Andersen) isn't usually a good shooter, the best thing to do is have them do a simple basket cut,

If this looks similar to what you would do against a typical 2-3 zone, you would be correct. Send a cutter to the middle of the floor, the soft spot in the zone. Where the cutter can either finish if left unguarded or pass off to the short corner if the middle or side defenders come up to defend.


The Nuggets really did this well in Game 3. Question for the Lakers is whether to keep overloading and try their best to zone up against the Andersen's and K-Mart's. Or go back to 1v1 coverage, but risk Melo going off for 40 points. I think the cost-benefit is still in favor of the overload, so the Lakers will continue to run it, but they'll try to clean up their weakside coverage to limit points from cutters, forcing them to pass back out.

For more zone offense info, take a look at Bob Huggins's DVD on his Dive/Fill Zone Offense. Coach Huggins is the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.