Trail Blazers

Playoff strategy of going 1-on-1 often fails

Trail Blazers

You know, of course, that NBA teams are always searching for that player who “can get his own shot.”

I understand that. When set offense breaks down and the clock is running toward :00, it can be a game-changer to have that player who can take the ball and, on his own, get an open shot.

But that philosophy has been taken too far. And I think there are times when merely constantly passing the ball to a player who can “get his own shot” in a spread court is detrimental to a team’s success.

And that time is often during the playoffs.

James Harden just suffered through another one of those playoff games when he couldn’t reliably get good shots and when he did, couldn’t make them. We’ve seen other superstars have the same problem and the playoffs amplify the situation.

What works in the regular season, with too many games and not enough preparation time for the defense to lock in, sometimes isn’t successful in the postseason. For obvious reasons.

In a seven-game playoff series, teams have a chance to get very detailed with their defense and are much more adept at switching coverages, double-teaming, rotating and mixing in zone or combination defenses. That can make it extremely hard for great players to go one-on-one for open shots. I thought Nate McMillan spread the floor for Brandon Roy way too often and it made it extremely difficult for him to get good shots over time. 


Teams, with time to prepare, aren’t going to let players beat them one-on-one. And when they can't, frustration sets in and they sometimes back off the challenge and just quit shooting.

No matter how great the player, it’s going to be very difficult for him to beat multiple defenders.

It’s why NBA teams should continue to attempt to run set offenses late in games, when the prevailing NBA wisdom is to just give the ball to your best player and let him try to manufacture something.

Ball movement and player movement is the best way to get an open shot -- if not for your best player, then for a player you trust to make a wide-open shot.

Steve Kerr and John Paxson weren’t stars, but they helped the Chicago Bulls win titles because they could make shots and Michael Jordan wasn’t afraid to lay the ball off to them when he was covered.

The great players, you know, can not only get their own shot -- they can get shots for others, too. But you have to give them a good chance to do that.