Running plenty of high ball screens with one of the best pick and roll players in the world certainly isn’t exactly innovative, but Monty Williams’ offensive scheme isn’t given its due credit. In fact, if the Hornets perimeter players not named “Paul” could make some shots, the Lakers could be in big trouble. Because of Paul’s excellent court vision, the Hornets place a lot of emphasis on “back action” or filling behind the play in their ball screen sets. Against L.A. so far this series, they have done this in a variety of ways.
The first example of this is on a set used to free Carl Landry for a jumper near the elbow. Here, Emeka Okafor comes up to set the screen and then dives to the basket. By placing shooters in each corner, the help on the roller must come from Landry’s defender, X4 (usually Pau Gasol). Since Lakers bigs sag off to protect the paint and their guards trail, Paul is presented with a clean window to quickly hit Landry with the pass for a wide open jumper:
Another way New Orleans attacks from behind the play is by stashing Trevor Ariza in the strong side corner and letting Landry and Marco Belinelli start off on the weak side. As Paul comes off the Okafor screen, Landry cuts under the basket and ducks in on the strong side block, forcing his defender to ignore the roller and defend his post up near the basket. The responsibility on the roller now goes to X2 (usually Kobe Bryant or Ron Artest). He must pinch into the lane to jam Okafor rolling to the rim. To create a longer close out angle, Belinelli lifts higher up on the wing but still looks to stay in vision with Paul.
Here we see the damage done by this action. Four Laker defenders are caught on the strong side of the floor and X2 is forced into a long closeout on Belinelli. The Hornets wings can now squeeze off a clean look at a three or attack the defender with a middle drive to the rim:
Perhaps the most creative use of “back action” by Williams, in this series, was in Game 2. With the other perimeter players struggling mightily from the field, Williams had Jarrett Jack work in a roll-replace action with Okafor. By Jack mirroring Okafor’s roll to the opposite wing and Landry stepping into his range in the corner, the Lakers are forced to communicate which player (X2 or X4) must leave their man and jam Okafor’s roll. The other must then take responsibility to play half-way between Landry and Jack:
New Orleans also will sometimes force Los Angeles to deal with a weak side exchange while the pick and roll action is going on. Here Paul comes off the screen with Okafor while Landry ducks in. But to put more pressure on LA to move and communicate, Hornets wings (Green and Ariza in this case) exchange spots:
This “back action” has given Hornets clean looks all series long. The problem is, they’re making only 28.6% from three on the series, and that’s with Paul hitting seven of fourteen on his own. Until one of the Hornets wings (looking at you Marco) starts making shots, Paul will need to continue to win games by himself. However, if a shooter or two can get hot for New Orleans, look out L.A.