D’Antoni, Thibodeau show coaching chops late

Point Forward

Monday night's Bulls-Lakers matchup came down to an exhilirating ending.

The Lakers needed Nick Young to make three free throws after he was fouled taking a 3-pointer just to force overtime. Then Chicago stormed back from a five-point overtime deficit to take a two-point lead. D.J. Augustin was fantastic in leading that charge.

The game ended on two fantastic plays, concluding ultimately with Taj Gibson getting a layup with time expiring for the win in overtime.

Let's break down these two fantastic sequences from Mike D'Antoni and Tom Thibodeau.

The first play is the one that sprung Nick Young open for the game-tying jumper. D'Antoni is great at creating pick and roll matchups, but here, he uses a quick ball reversal and a solid cross screen to catch the Bulls napping and get his best jump shooter a good look at tying the game.

Pau Gasol here sets two screens. The first one frees up Jodie Meeks to receive the inbounds. The second, is a brush screen that bumps Jimmy Butler off just enough to give Young all kinds of space to receive the ball and get a good look. Butler is already chasing and that can only end with trouble.

What makes this play great is the pure execution of it. Gasol sets a perfect screen to slow Butler down. Without a hard hedge from Joakim Noah, Young is given almost a free run to the exact spot he wants the ball. Taj Gibson is not playing center field to force Young away from the basket out of respect for Ryan Kelly's shooting ability.

The play design is made better as Young runs a wide arc around the screen rather than running under the screen and hedging out to the corner. Young is making the cut with the intent of having his momentum moving forward toward the basket so he can be on better balance for his shot and prevent the defense from recovering.

The play is punctuated by a great pass from Meeks. He delivers the ball perfectly to Young at the elbow while Butler is still playing catchup. Young attacks quickly toward the baseline and, from there, it is all about whether he can hit the shot.

He does (at 1:43 in the video below).


So how did the Bulls win the game? If you look at the video you see it was a Taj Gibson dive to the basket and layin that clinched this big overtime victory. A little closer look reveals the play design had a hand in freeing up that space for Gibson.

With 0.9 seconds left, there is simply not a lot you can do. The hope is to confuse the defense into making a mistake and giving an open look. Thibodeau bets he can get that open look close to the basket and runs this interesting little play to get it.

The players start in a bunch formation at the free throw line. D.J. Augustin and Joakim Noah curl to the corners (Augustin to the 3-point line on the strong side and Noah to the opposite block). They do not receive any screens so unless there is a major breakdown, these are dummy runs to clear space. The point of the play is to get something close to the basket or have someone touch it and the clock expire.

So Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are the real players to watch in this play. They both dive to the basket hard. That gives the Bulls three players around the rim for a tip in or a chance to get the win.

Butler's dive acts as a sort of screen. It clears the defender away from the basket and gives Taj Gibson the open lane to the hoop. The only hitch is whether his defender, Manny Harris, can get in front of him.

For some reason, Harris starts off behind Gibson. Maybe he is expecting Gibson to try a pin down screen and bring Augustin around for a 3-pointer. That would be an extremely tough play. Maybe he is expecting Pau Gasol to make a quick turnaround to contest anything at the rim. Again, another tough play.

Harris' poor defense — and he is grabbing Gibson to try to get in front of him before the pass gets inbounded — gives Gibson the lane. Add on Butler's hard dive, which acts as a screen and almost takes Gasol out of the play too, and the play really is a pass and catch and finish play.

Two great plays from two great coaches at the end of this game.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily