Plays of the Week: NBA Playoffs

By Gibson Pyper

The NBA Playoffs are underway and this is the best time of the year for any coach looking to add plays to their playbook. The best minds in the coaching world are on display for everyone to see and this years Playoffs have had some incredible sets already. Whether you are looking for Lob, Backdoor, After Time Out Specials or simple actions to get a good shot, these NBA Playoffs so fare have had it all.


Steve Kerr has been an incredible leader and his After Time Out plays this year have been outstanding. Against the Pelicans, in both game 1 & game 2 he ran an After Time Out set to get Draymond Green a quick layup. This year, the Warriors have ran more floppy action with Klay & Steph cutting off screens and Iguadola handling the ball. So, off this action Kerr has Klay cut to the wing, with the two bigs staying high as Iguadola passes it to Klay. Steph then turns and sets a “Rip” screen (backscreen on Draymond’s defender) to have Draymond cut to the rim for a layup.



Coaches generally watch what other coaches use in their offense and if they like the action or think that it can be used for their personnel, they steal it. Kerr uses a set that Doc Rivers has been utilizing for JJ Redick to get an open shot. This set flows in transition nicely for the Warriors who like to run the “Phoenix Drag” screen in transition, and they get good shots out of it. Typically Steph runs the point in this set, but against New Orleans Kerr has Iguadola handle in order to get Steph a shot. Iguadola dribbles at Steph who cuts backdoor, then receives a ballscreen (Drag) and dribbles off of it. Opposite wing cuts hard to the rim pulling his defender with him, then Steph sprints off down screen for a shot.


One of the most lethal actions the Warriors run is having Steph & Klay twirl on the wing. Usually Steph cuts to set a down screen for Klay, looking for a quick shot, in this set they “Twirl” or Klay cuts off of the screen and curls back inside setting another quick screen for Steph. Out of this action, the first guard receives a dribble handoff and the other cuts through off a double screen, looking for a shot. Kerr also runs a counter out of this where instead of cutting off double screen Klay is involved in the double screen and “Leaks” or slips out early to get a shot.



At the beginning of every game Kerr likes to run Klay off a pindown screen to get him going, and that is exactly what he ran in Game 2. Out of their “Zipper” Series, they run a fake dribble handoff for Steph and Klay sneaks out of a screen from Bogut to get an easy look.




Memphis Grizzlies run the “Thru Series” like the Spurs and like to get Mike Conley moving without the ball before attacking out of Pick & Roll or getting a post up for Gasol. To open Game 2 they ran the same Thru action but had Conley fake hard to the ball and cut backdoor.




New Orleans runs a lot of Horns sets, and one of their favorite sets is to pass to the elbow and have the point guard and opposite Big set a double down screen for the wing player (usually Eric Gordon) to attack out of a dribble handoff. Against Golden State in Game 1 they ran that same action with a nice counter; instead of executing a dribble handoff with the guard on the wing, the big turns and dribbles at the ballside wing who then cuts backdoor.




Gregg Popovich is one of the most creative coaches when it comes to creating sets to get his best players in the best positions to score. Here is a set that gets a quick lob for Kawhi Leanord, starting with a dribble handoff from Tony Parker to Duncan on the wing, 5 then sets a quick backscreen for Kawhi to catch the lob. I like this set because it allows Duncan to pull his man out of the paint & with 5 screening for Kawhi it removes any rim protection.



Late in Overtime of a thrilling Game 2, the Spurs ran a great backdoor play to get Kawhi a layup and essentially seal the victory. The Spurs run alot of Zipper action and this was setup by Kawhi baiting his man on the high side trying to prevent the pass up top, allowing him to cut backdoor. Notice on the weakside Duncan sets a weakside screen for Green (their common “Hammer” action) keeping the defense occupied and allowing for a shot if the defense overhelps.



After a timeout the Spurs run an “Elevator” set for Belinelli to try and get him an open look at a 3, and even though he was wide open, Kawhi Leanord misses him on the wing. This action is setup by the point guard cutting through & the bigs screening for each other, disguising this play until the last minute.




David Blatt has been adding new sets almost every single game throughout this season. To start the playoffs he added this new set “Zipper Cross” to try and get Kevin Love a post up in Game 1. Throughout Games 1 & 2 he then ran this set with different counters and options out of it, the main one being a high Pick & Roll for Kyrie Irving to attack out of. The set starts off with a Zipper cut (typically by Kyrie Irving) and then the bigs cross, looking to get Kevin Love to seal out of it. If the post is not open or if Blatt wants Kyrie to attack out of the Pick & Roll, the 5 man continues high and Love exits to the corner to space the floor. They have also ran this for Lebron to post & then counter that with him flashing to the Elbow for an isolation.






To open the second half of Game 2 the Cavs ran a really nice Double Ballscreen on the wing. Kevin Love set a down screen for LeBron who then set a ballscreen for Kyrie, at the same time Love turns and sets a ballscreen as well. What I love about this set is when Kyrie clears both ballscreens, LeBron dives to the rim & Love pops to the wing creating chaos for the defense. They have to defend Kyrie attacking, LeBron on the roll or Love at the rim for a 3. The opposite big is forced to help and Mozgov is available in the slot weakside & JR Smith is spacing the floor on the weakside as well. One of my favorite sets Blatt has run this year.





In the Chicago Bulls bigger lineups they have Mirotic at the 3, Gibson at the 4 & Noah at the 5, this lineup works well because Mirotic can shoot the 3 well and set ballscreens effectively. A set that the Bulls have run throughout the year is having Mirotic set a ballscreen and they turn and sprint off an elevator screen.




Here is the video compilation for all of the sets above:

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Creator/Owner of & half court hoops youtube channel. I love NBA & NCAA X's & O's and look to help coaches everywhere!

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