Faust's game clinching 3 with 1:20 to go was more than an open guy on the wing. It was the direct result of:
1) Dribble Penetration; and
2) Aggressive and consistent activity on the boards and in the paint by our big men all night long.
For astute Maryland fans, both of these items have been a point of contention this year. More recently against Pitt and FSU, our team lacked any type of paint offense and we had almost no activity in the paint by our big men. For those who don't understand what I mean by activity --it's not just about scoring points in the paint. It's about having your presence known because you are constantly crashing the boards looking for second chance points -- OR it's about looking to penetrate into the paint -- OR it's about flashing a man at the free throw line in order suck the defense off from the perimeter against a zone defense -- OR it's about posting your big men up down on the block to establish that there is a scoring threat both 2 ft from the rim and 20 ft from the rim. We all know Maryland is dangerous from the perimeter -- BUT -- without paint activity or paint presence, defenses can cheat and guard the perimeter which limits the effectiveness of outside shooting. This is EXACTLY how Pitt and FSU beat us -- We had no paint activity so defenders were able to cheat out to the perimeter.
In the game last night, I noticed Smotz, Shaq, Mitchell, and Wells were all active in the paint all game long. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense. I broke down Faust's game clinching 3 to give everyone an idea of how penetration and paint activity directly contributed to the success of the play.
Here is the beginning of the play. Faust is in the corner. You notice Faust’s man has shaded into the paint. He's circled in red. This is being done because on two prior possessions, Wells took advantage of a size mismatch by penetrating into the paint.
It’s blocked in the screen grab, but there is 11 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:21 remaining overall. We have a 6 point lead. This is GREAT time awareness by Dez Wells and the offense understanding the context of the game – let the clock work itself down while you look for an open shot. If it’s not there, re-start the offense and try to get a good look when the clock is under 10 seconds – which is what they did.
As the play develops a few seconds later, you’ll see the following:
You’ll now notice Faust’s man (circled in Red) has his attention set on Wells. Again, this is caused by the prior two possessions where Wells created scoring opportunities through penetration into the paint. You’ll notice something else begin to develop. Smotz (circled in Green) is on the elbow. Because of this, there is no passing lane to Faust. You can see by the blue line that the "congestion" has eliminated the passing lane into the corner. Part of playing EFFECTIVE help defense is eliminating the passing lanes from "inside out".
A few more seconds go by, and here’s how the play really begins to develop.
You will now see Faust’s man (circled in Red) has fully committed to stopping Wells in the paint. Remember though, this is a team game. There are two HUGE keys that happen within a second or two of this screen grab that allows this play to happen.
FIRST, look at Smotz (circled in Green). He isn’t standing on the elbow is he? Did he just stand around waiting for Wells to make a move? Nope. Smotz, who was incredibly active in the paint all game long, positions himself for the rebound on the lower left block. THIS IS HUGE for two reasons. One, as you can see, Smotz’s defender, while looking at Wells, cannot get to Wells because he needs to body up Smotz, who has been active on the boards all game long. Second, he cannot get INTO THE PASSING LANE because Smotz’s activity and position has sucked him underneath the basket. This is HUGE. If Smotz just stood there on the elbow or around the perimeter, chances are there is no passing lane from Wells to Faust in the corner or wing. If Smotz wasn’t so active in the lane all game, the defender could have still cheated off to protect the passing lane, but you can clearly see on the NEXT screen grab that the defender has absolutely no choice but to abandon any type of help defense on this play so that he can body up on Smotz.
SECOND, and less obvious is the movement by Faust. Remember in the first couple screen grabs Faust positioned himself in the corner? Where is he now? He’s slowly moving toward the wing. Why? – Because the wing offers the person with the ball in the paint the BEST passing lane possible. It creates a more favorable angle for the passer.
The play develops another second or two and now you can see the end result:
Faust is wide open on the wing with a HUGE passing lane created by prior paint possessions with Wells AND Smotz’s persistent activity in the paint. Butter.
This is why you hear guys like Bob Knight harp on getting the ball into the paint or creating "dribble drive" opportunities. By all accounts, Smotz had a terrible game. He was like 2/12. I have seen some suggesting he had an awful game in the comments section here at TT. The reality? Smotz didn’t shoot well but he had a tremendous impact on the game because he moved without the ball and he had high activity levels in the paint – the best I’ve seen all year and it had a HUGE effect on this play AND this game. Basketball, on offense, and in its simplest form is about 3 things:
- Taking advantage of favorable match-ups;
- Putting pressure on a defense by getting into the paint – whether or not points are being scored – the mere activity or presence of paint activity can suck a defense from the perimeter; and
- Taking advantage of whatever adjustments the defense made because you have been doing 1 and 2 all night long.
This play is all 3 of those things and it's why we need to do the small things, like being active in the paint, in order to have the type of success we had during the 2nd half of last night's game.