Two Minutes And Forty-Five Seconds

Donte Greene made a 3-point jumper to cut the San Antonio Spurs’ lead over the Sacramento Kings to 99-96 with 5:11 left in the game last night. After trading empty possessions with the Kings, San Antonio would score on five of their next six possessions in 2:45 of game time to seal the victory. Below, I’ll show you exactly how it went down.

Possession 1 (Stephen Jackson fast break lay-up, 1-1)

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The first basket was the easiest of the bunch. Tim Duncan grabs the rebound and makes an outlet pass to get Tony Parker out in transition. Parker pushes the ball up the court and finds a streaking Stephen Jackson on the wing, who lays it in. The Spurs stretch their lead from three back to five.

Possession 2 (Kawhi Leonard baseline jumper, 2-2)

On the next possession, Jackson grabs the rebound and quickly gets the ball to Parker to start the break with the Spurs still up by five. Parker sees he has no numbers so he swings the ball to Manu Ginobili on the opposite wing. Ginobili hits Kawhi Leonard underneath the hoop to see if they can get a quick-hitting lay-up. Leonard doesn’t have enough room to get off a shot, so he kicks it back out to Ginobili. Now, the Spurs run the first of four pick-and-rolls that result in easy baskets.

The play calls for a side pick-and-roll with Ginobili as the ball-handler and Duncan as the roll man. Parker has cleared out the top of the key and moved toward the opposite corner, while Jackson spaces the floor at the elbow extended and Kawhi Leonard occupies the strong side corner. Ginobili is an incredible dangerous scorer off the pick-and-roll – his 0.92 Points Per Possession (PPP) ranks 19th in the NBA according to mySynergySports – so both his man and Duncan’s follow him off the screen. This causes Leonard’s man to have to rotate off and cover the rolling Duncan, leaving Leonard open in the corner.

Ginobili drawing two defenders and thus forcing Leonard’s man to rotate onto Duncan opens up the baseline for Leonard once he receives the pass. All he has to do is throw a pump fake at the recovering defender, and he gets right into the teeth of the defense.

As it is, Leonard gets right to the basket for a lay-up and a seven point lead. As you can see, however, he also has open passing lanes to Ginobili at the top of the key and Parker in the corner for wide open 3-pointers.

Here’s the play in real time.

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Possession 3 (2-3)

Kawhi Leonard traveled.

Possession 4 (Stephen Jackson elbow extended jumper, 3-4)

After the Kings cut the lead back to five, the next possession has the Spurs running a high pick-and-roll with Parker and Duncan. Parker, like Ginobili, is a big time threat to score out of the pick-and-roll. His 0.87 PPP ranks 28th in the NBA according to mySynergySports. This time, Ginobili spaces the floor in the weak side corner, with Leonard on the strong side and Jackson underneath the hoop.

Because Parker is such a threat to score, like on the previous play both his defender and Duncan’s chase him after he uses the pick. Both Leonard’s man in the corner and Jackson’s man in the lane get pre-occupied with protecting the paint from either a driving Parker or a rolling Duncan. Duncan, with 1.06 PPP as a P&R roll man, is obviously a big threat to score as well.

Knowing how much attention Parker and Duncan attract, the Spurs bring Stephen Jackson from his spot on the low block up toward the top of the key, where he’ll receive a screen from Duncan as well. The initial pick-and-roll action distracts the defense from the target of the play, and Jackson has plenty of space with which to work once he receives the pass.

Jackson winds up with a wide open jumper due to Duncan’s good screen, and the Spurs’ lead is once again seven points. With how fast the defenders are closing on him, however, he could have easily thrown up a pump-fake and gotten himself right into the teeth of the defense as well.

Now, in real time.

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Possession 5 (Tony Parker corner three, 4-5)

Still up by seven, the Spurs run another high pick-and-roll here, and this time they go back to Ginobili and Duncan. Leonard is again in the weak side corner, Parker in the strong side corner and Jackson coming up from the block to space the floor at the strong side elbow extended. Again, both defenders initially chase Ginobili off the screen.

This time, rather than popping out off the screen, Duncan rolls directly to the free throw line. Once he receives the pass from Ginobili, the entire Kings defense collapses around him.

As you can see, there are four Kings defenders in the lane surrounding Duncan. He has Jackson wide open for a three at the elbow extended, Leonard in the weak side corner and Parker in the strong side corner. He chooses to hit Parker.

Parker’s not that great of a 3-point shooter, but he has just about all the time in the world to line this one up, and he wound up making it to push San Antonio’s lead to 10 points.

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Possession 6 (Manu Ginobili driving lay-up, 5-6)

DeMarcus Cousins cut the Spurs’ lead down to eight points with exactly 2:00 to go in the game. The Spurs’ next possession, another high pick-and-roll between Ginobili and Duncan, looks almost exactly like the others at the start. Leonard occupies one corner, Parker the other, and Jackson spaces the elbow extended.

Duncan sets this screen for Ginobili much further out than the previous few. Right here, the Kings are already beat on this possession. Instead of showing hard off the screen and re-directing Ginobili, DeMarcus Cousins does a soft show and gives too big of a lane to drive through.

Cousins gets caught flat-footed and not in the right position, and Ginobili takes advantage by streaking through the wide open lane toward the basket.

Having gotten into the teeth of the defense yet again, Ginobili has options. He can hit Jackson at the elbow extended or Parker in the corner, or he can just go right up for the lay-up. He chooses the latter option and extends San Antonio’s lead to ten points, effectively ending the game.

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In 2:45, by executing one easy fast break and then running the same basic action four times (albeit with a slight twist once), the Spurs were able to turn a dwindling lead into a commanding victory. When people refer to the Spurs as the most well-coached team in the league, it’s because Gregg Popovich gives his players a distinct plan to work with and nearly always gets them to execute it to perfection. That was certainly the case down the stretch against Sacramento.

Jared Dubin

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He is the co-editor in chief of Hardwood Paroxysm and the HPBasketball Network.