Brooklyn Film Festival: Brook Lopez’s Spacing
In Wednesday’s road win in Charlotte, the Brooklyn Nets relied heavily on Brook Lopez’s 34-point, 10-rebound performance to secure the playoff tie-breaker over the Hornets and advance to within a half-game of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Lopez outdueled Al Jefferson in a matchup of two of the league’s premier post-players, with either center taking turns going at one another on the offensive end. In the closing minutes, both players exchanged baskets but Brook’s running layup was the game’s last made field goal, and Brooklyn escaped with a 91-88 victory.
For my game review I grabbed some screen shots and video to show how Brook Lopez mixed up his offensive attack while still contributing on the defensive end, notably on Kemba Walker’s missed layup with 23.1 seconds left. Due to the overabundance of interesting plays over the last two minutes of the game (no, seriously!), I had video still left over of some quality late-game Nets offense. Let’s run a double-edition of the Brooklyn Film Festival.
Both plays are predicated off of the attention that Brook Lopez draws from the Hornets defense, and Jefferson’s need to stray from the paint to respect his range. The Nets and Hornets are each in their small-ball lineups with a center, two wings, and two point guards, opening up the court for their bigs to operate.
In the first set, the Nets begin with some dribble-handoff action for Joe Johnson, as Brook Lopez sets up as the screener on the right-elbow (with Al Jefferson tethered to his hip). Johnson then moves towards the middle to pass to Jarrett Jack on the other side of the court and uses Lopez’s high screen to roll towards the right side of the basket (which Jefferson drops down to defend). Jack comes across to his right and runs a pick-and-roll with Brook, that gets flipped to the left after Mo Williams fights through the high screen. Lopez can’t really find enough spacing to give Jack an angle on the pass, and “Professor” Al Jefferson is able to contain the ball handler until Mo Williams can recover and force Jack to pick up his dribble.
From there the Nets turn to their secondary action after the staggered pick-and-roll between Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez breaks down. Joe Johnson flares to the right-elbow from the corner and receives the pass back from Jack, and Brook tries to post up his man on the block. Johnson gets a step on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and drives toward the basket, drawing Jefferson on the help defense as Brook steps out towards the baseline. He catches the pass on the kick-out from Joe, collects himself, and gets the high-arcing jumper off before Al can rush the shooter. The successful jumper would be Brook’s sixth make of the night in nine attempts from beyond the free-throw line, and just two plays later, the threat of his jumper would affect the way the Charlotte defense reacts.
The next video picks up on the following Nets possession: an “Iso” Joe Johnson drive that’s swatted by Kidd-Gilchrist and turned into a transition opportunity. MKG gets it ahead to Kemba Walker on the break, who sees a one-on-one up ahead with Deron Williams and blows by him for the layup on his strong side of the basket.
Deron isn’t rattled, however, and instead of taking a timeout motions for a set that starts with three Nets stacked to his right. Jarrett Jack goes to the corner and Joe Johnson fills in at the elbow-extended, while Brook Lopez basically carries Al Jefferson with him across the court to begin a screen/roll. Deron uses a crafty crossover to get his defender (a clapping Gerald Henderson) moving to his right, only to spin back around into Brook’s screen. Henderson gets stuck for a second and Deron hesitates with the dribble, then keeps going further towards the basket as Lopez maintains spacing from the high-post.
Now let’s pause and break down the different actions going on. Al Jefferson again helps on the pick-and-roll penetration and leaves Brook Lopez wide open for a long jumper, but when he sees Deron pick up his dribble on the left-block, he can return to his man on the perimeter. Unfortunately for Charlotte, he leaves the basket area completely unprotected at almost the exact moment that Alan Anderson begins his cut from the left-corner towards the baseline.
Anderson had so far been sitting in the corner on the possession, waiting for his man to react to the pick-and-roll action. Once he notices Kemba Walker begin to cheat towards the middle and shift his weight on the Deron penetration, he cuts down the baseline as Kemba reacts towards a possible pass to the three-point line. Deron completely sells it by turning his body towards the perimeter and leaving a perfect no-look, bounce pass to Anderson for the two-handed flush.
With Charlotte in their small lineup, Mo Williams is the only weak-side defender who’s in the vicinity to help on Alan Anderson’s cut, but can’t offer any resistance as he swoops in for the slam. Head coach Steve Clifford calls for a timeout and Anderson is pumped walking back to the Brooklyn bench, with Deron, as always, pretty nonchalant after the highlight basket. The Hornets then go to an Al Jefferson isolation after the timeout, and he gets a layup to fall by up-faking Brook Lopez out of his shoes. Brook responds with the eventual game-winner on his pick-and-roll runner, and Kemba can’t convert his layup.
Brook Lopez’s versatility on offense opens up so many options for the Nets and in their sets. For a team that’s fourth-worst in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage at 32.3%, his free-throw line-extended range affords the Nets some spacing, and his ability to draw the defender away from the basket opens up the paint for his teammates. If he can continue adding 30-point performances on a nightly basis for the Brooklyn Nets, he’ll soon be drawing more than just his own defender out to the high-post.