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How Are The San Antonio Spurs So Good From Three? – Breaking Down The Spurs’ Flex-Action Set

For the last few years, the regular season has been dominated by the San Antonio Spurs. While they haven’t had as much success as they’re used to in the playoffs, they have been spectacular in the regular season.

Mar 11, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (4) shoots Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the first half at the AT

Once again, the Spurs find themselves among the best records in the league, currently sitting at 49-15, the best mark in the Western Conference. Also, despite being labeled as “boring” by many casual NBA fans, the Spurs once again have one of the best offenses in the league. They currently boast third best offensive efficiency rating, scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions.

So why are the Spurs consistently one of the best teams and offenses in the league? Well they are blessed with great players – Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker – and a fantastic coach in Gregg Popovich. But they also run crisp sets and shoot very well from three, (38.2% this year) where they have been among the league leaders in both attempts and percentage in the last few years.

One reason they shoot so well from three is that they often get a lot of open looks. Today I want to take a look at one of my favorite ways the Spurs free up their shooters.

This is a flex action set that they like to run for mainly either Danny Green or Gary Neal.

In the first example below, it starts with Danny Green coming across the lane to set a cross screen for Boris Diaw. As soon as Diaw uses the screen, Green starts curling up towards the top of the key.

Waiting near the free-throw line is Tim Duncan, who sets a down screen to free Green up at the top of the key. Diaw, who had received the ball in the post, then kicks it out to Green, who is wide open and buries the three.

The rest of the clips vary slightly, but the main concept is the same. First, either Green or Neal sets a cross screen on the weak side block. Then, as soon as the screen is used, they start to curl up towards the top of the key, where a down screen is waiting for them. After coming off the screen, the ball is swung their way, and they knock down the shot.

A fairly simple set, but one that works often for the Spurs. The defense is often confused or bogged down by the multiple screens run in succession. It also works on a regular basis because the Spurs are crisp and disciplined on the offensive end.

jmaloney