Ever since Terry Stotts was able to swap out JJ Hickson for Robin Lopez, the Portland Trail Blazers have mostly played the pick-and-roll with one type of defense. It’s called “ICE” but it also goes by the name of Blue, Down, or sometimes Black.
ICE is an extremely popular way to defend the pick and roll in the modern NBA, and Stotts initially moved to this tactic when the slower Lopez was brought on board in 2013.
The basic concept is that when a screen is set, usually by a big man, that the defending post player man doesn’t try to go up and defend the smaller dribbler. Instead, they stay low, and when the dribbler comes toward them they try to force them east to west, all while defending the paint and trying to force a long range jumper.
At the same time, the defending guard -- Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Evan Turner -- tries to fight over the top of the screen, applying pressure to the opposing ball-handler as a means to deter them from taking a shot behind the 3-point line.
The result Portland is looking for is a mid-range jumper. The dreaded 12-to-17-foot range is the death knell for analytics-forward coaching staffs, and Stotts is no different. At its simplest, ICE is a means to take away basketball’s most valuable shots: the 3-pointer, advantageous and statistically worth the risk of its distance, and the close-in shot, which has a higher percentage of going in precisely because of its distance.
ICE is just one of the ways to defend the pick and roll. You can do a bunch of other things -- you can hedge, show, or blitz, which Portland has done in the past under Stotts. But for now, ICE is what we want to cover because the Trail Blazers will probably use this technique against the pick-and-roll most often this season.