How Chris Paul Burned the Memphis Grizzlies Defense to Steal Critical Game 2

Jared Dubin@@JADubin5Featured ColumnistApril 23, 2013

In less than 24 seconds, Chris Paul broke the heart of Memphis Grizzlies fans watching Game 2 while simultaneously lighting up the face of every Los Angeles Clippers fan across the world.

A lot of time has been spent breaking down the interesting and complicated plays that teams use to get players open looks, including backdoor lobs, off-ball screens, etc.

Sometimes, though, it’s as simple as putting the ball in the hands of your best player and letting him go to work. Down the stretch of their thrilling 93-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, that’s exactly what the Los Angeles Clippers did. 

When Chris Paul was in New Orleans, his teams were often among the handful of best crunch-time offenses in the league. After a momentary blip in last year’s lockout-shortened season, his Clippers sported the league’s second most efficient crunch-time offense this season, per NBA.com.

Much like when he was in New Orleans, Paul's Clippers simply run their normal offense late in the game. In Los Angeles, that offense essentially consists of letting Paul make all the decisions on a high pick-and-roll. 

On the first two plays in the video above, Paul dribbles atop the key and waits for a screen from Lamar Odom. The Clippers are trying to force a switch to get Paul matched up on a big man rather than perennial All-NBA defender Tony Allen. If he draws Darrell Arthur or even Marc Gasol, the Clippers are confident Paul can go right by him to the basket.

The gambit doesn’t work either time, so the Clippers just send him another screen. Blake Griffin comes from the right block to set the second screen, and Paul uses a deadly between-the-legs crossover to generate space for a step-back jumper over Gasol. 

On the second play, the Clippers again use Gasol’s man as the second screener, only this time it’s Odom. Gasol is an excellent pick-and-roll defender, but he may be even better as the back-line help when his man isn’t involved in the play.

By using his man to set the screen, the Clippers are drawing Memphis’ best help defender and rim protector out of the lane, and counting on Paul to be able to make something happen. Once again, Paul nails a pull-up jumper over Gasol’s outstretched arm. 

In play No. 3, the Clippers start the pick-and-roll out ridiculously high.

By the time Griffin sets his screen on Tony Allen, he’s all the way out at the Clippers logo near midcourt. That high screen draws Gasol all the way out to the three-point line, not exactly the most comfortable place for any big man, even one as nimble on his feet as Gasol. 

Paul turns on the jets as he comes around the screen, pressuring Gasol right away. Once he draws even with Gasol on his way to the hoop, the decision has to be made—continue all the way to the rim for a layup attempt, or take another pull-up jumper? Paul chooses the jumper, and again it drops in the bucket.

With the game tied with 13.9 seconds remaining, the Clippers tried something slightly different. The ball is inbounded to Chauncey Billups, and Billups hands it right back to Jamal Crawford, who dribbles above the top of the key guarded by Mike Conley. This time, the Clippers use Paul as a screener to try to get him a switch away from Tony Allen.

Paul, though, totally whiffs on the screen, so Allen is able to recover to him after contesting the passing lane, giving Conley enough time to get back to Crawford. 

Once Paul catches above the arc, it’s just a straight isolation.

Allen defends it about as well as you can ask someone to defend Chris Paul late in the game.

There’s a reason everyone accepts that this guy is the best point guard in the leagueand one of the best ever.


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