On Christmas day, the Los Angeles Lakers got Kobe Bryant an open mid-range jumper against the New York Knicks with a creative hand-off play. Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton got caught up in the crisscrossing action in the free throw line, and Kobe came out of the confusion with two points.
Leading by one point with just under eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Lakers started the play with Nash handling the ball at the top of the key, Jodie Meeks in the right corner, Metta World Peace on the left block, Dwight Howard at the free throw line and Kobe on the left wing.
After entering the ball to Howard at the free throw line, Nash ran right past Howard as if he was going to take a hand off, but really just picked off Kobe’s man to give him a little more room as he came across. Kidd got stuck behind Nash’s screen and the Knicks had to switch.
Felton realized he would have to pick up Kobe a little too late, and by the time Howard handed the ball off to Kobe just above the free throw line, Felton was already being screened by Howard. Stuck having to protect against both Howard’s roll to the rim and Kobe’s jumper, Tyson Chandler chose to back off just a bit below to free throw line, so Kobe rose, fired and nailed the jumper.
After seeing his team get beat with this play, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson immediately inserted it into the playbook for the game the next night against the Phoenix Suns. The Knicks have run a lot of hand-off plays this season, including a double hand-off set that looked quite similar to this one, but had yet to run this exact variation.
They did so multiple times against the Suns.
In my personal favorite version, Kidd played the role of Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler was Dwight Howard, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland stood in for Meeks and World Peace, and JR Smith took Kobe’s spot.
Kidd enters the ball to Chandler in the high post, then immediately cuts across as if coming to receive a hand off, when really he’s just screening for Smith to create some separation. Chandler and Smith run a hand-off pick-and-roll, which creates a level of confusion in the Phoenix defense when Shannon Brown goes over the screen.
Because Brown is trailing Smith as he comes around the corner, Jermaine O’Neal has to step up to cut off Smith’s driving lane, leaving Chandler wide open on his roll to the rim. That means Luis Scola has to move into the lane from the corner to protect against the lob to Chandler, so Copeland ends up wide open in the corner for a three.