Breaking Down How the New York Knicks Are Beating Teams with the Pick-and-Roll

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Breaking Down How the New York Knicks Are Beating Teams with the Pick-and-Roll
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In improving their record to 2-1 against the rival Brooklyn Nets and 19-6 overall, the New York Knicks have used one particular set play with great success. Unsurprisingly, given his historical success in the action, it was a pick-and-roll play involving Tyson Chandler.

Chandler ranks first in the NBA with 1.41 points per play (PPP) as a roll man this season, per mySynergySports, after finishing 18th last season and second in his final season in Dallas two years ago. Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton have excellent chemistry on lob plays, and they connected on three of them in the game against the Nets. 

Each of the three plays looks slightly different, depending on the exact position of the two other players on the court, but the central action remains the same: Felton comes off a screen from Carmelo Anthony dribbling right and gets another screen right away from Chandler.

In the first two clips, Felton enters the ball to Anthony at the left elbow. This is an area of the court from which Anthony has been extremely dangerous posting up and isolating his man this season. He’s been especially effective when facing his man up and taking him off the dribble. In each of the first two clips, he feigns exactly that before turning around and swinging the ball over to Felton on the left wing.

Anthony then sets a screen on Felton’s man, which the Nets switch in all three clips. The second screen from Chandler creates even more separation between Felton and the closest man to him, causing the Nets to switch again. But before they can do so, Chandler is already on his way to the rim for a lob. 

By stationing shooters like JR Smith, Jason Kidd and surprising rookie Chris Copeland along the perimeter, the Knicks draw any possible help defenders too far away from where Chandler is headed to provide any real help. 

There was also one instance of the set that resulted in an open jumper for Felton. Again he entered the ball to Anthony in the high post on the left side, where Anthony feigned a face-up before returning the ball to Felton on the wing and setting the first of two screens in the double pick-and-roll action.

Again, the Nets switch on Anthony’s initial screen, and again the plan is to switch on Chandler’s second screen, but both Felton's and Chandler’s men get caught here, leaving Felton about five feet of space to take a pull-up jumper. Each defender is below the free-throw line when Felton raises up from the top of the circle.

Again, the presence of Smith and Copeland in opposite corners keeps the help defenders away. 

The Knicks tried to run this action another time, but the Nets sniffed it out, leading to the same type of problem shot that personified the first Knicks-Nets game of the season. Because the Nets shut down the initial action—the pass to Anthony, return pass to Felton and double screen-and-roll—the Knicks clear out the left side of the court to run a side pick-and-roll for Felton and Chandler.

Because there is only one pick to switch this time rather than two, Nets center Brook Lopez can hang back in the lane to prevent the lob from Chandler, while at the same time, he has a much cleaner lane to contest Felton’s shot.

There’s no second defender in his way as he tries to jump out. It results in a missed jumper from Felton rather than a made one. 

Felton went 1-of-6 on shots out of the pick-and-roll in the game (after going 4-of-20 in the first two Knicks-Nets games). Each of the misses in the most recent game came with a single screen, and the lone make came out of the double screen-and-roll action.

As it turns out, using Anthony as an additional screener makes a world of difference. 

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