Since the New Year rolled along, the Brooklyn Nets have been the best team in the NBA. (No, really. They’re 10-2). One of the reasons for their new found success has been the ball movement. Unlike earlier in the season when they couldn’t buy a bucket, the Nets have been moving the ball around the perimeter with crisp passes, which has led to plenty of good looks each and every night. It also helps that Jason Kidd seems to have finally figured out a good rotation, which currently involves a small-ball starting five of Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, leaving Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic to come off the bench.
But despite their recent surge, they dropped a gimme on Monday night, losing to the division leading Toronto Raptors. They had the game in their hands, but let it slip through their fingers thanks to a sloppy turnover in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter by their leader, Deron Williams. Had they won that game, they would’ve pulled themselves within 0.5 games of dismantling the Raptors at the top of the division, but now they’ve got a little more ground to make up. Luckily for them, there’s plenty of basketball to still be played this season.
But that’s enough about the implications of that game. Now, I want to focus on an out-of-bounds play they ran just before half-time called “Snake” because its craftiness got Joe Johnson a wide-open look for a three.
Step One: The Set-Up
The Nets set up in a box formation with Kevin Garnett and Shaun Livingston on the baseline. The play is designed for the in-bounder to get an open three in the corner, so Joe Johnson finds himself passing the ball in on this one. (If the Nets decide to run this play again sometime in the near future, Mirza Teletovic or even Deron Williams could replace Johnson). When the referee gives the Nets a heads up that their 5-seconds has started, Livingston sets a brush screen on Kirilenko and moves toward Teletovic, who is stationed at the other elbow.
Step Two: This Seems Pretty Basic
Kirilenko pops out to the other corner, taking himself out of the play. Teletovic sets a screen on Livingston to create some space between him and the ball hawking Kyle Lowry. With that, Livingston jumps out to the top of the key. While this is going on, Garnett runs to just inside the three-point line to get the ball from Johnson. After he’s passed the ball in, Johnson steps back onto the court and begins to move towards the basket.
Step Three: SIKE!
Garnett gives the ball up to Livingston. Johnson walks Terrence Ross close to the basket and makes a quick V-cut out to the corner on the same side that he in-bounded the ball. Ross clearly has no idea what the play is because he falls right into the trap. Garnett moves in close to the block to set one of his infamous screens, which, as we’ve learnt over the years, are impossible to get over. Teletovic stays put at the free throw line and Livingston has his eyes on Johnson who has all the space in the world.
Step Four: The Open Look
Ross can’t get out to the three-point line and if Jonas Valaniunas decides to switch, Kevin Garnett would find himself with a huge mismatch in the post, which may actually be the better option given his shoddy shooting numbers this season. But as you can see in the image above, nobody comes close to contesting Johnson’s shot and he’s left with a wide-open corner three.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t knock the shot down, but seeing as he got a good look from one of his best spots on the floor, we can call this play a success.
Here’s a video of the play:
Even after their horrendously slow start, the Nets seem like a lock to make the Playoffs now, mainly because the Eastern Conference is so weak. But make no mistake about it, they are playing good basketball. They’re not as good as everyone expected them to be before the season tipped off, but it’s progress. Defensively, they’re shutting teams down. Offensively, they’re starting to click. And this play is just one example of how they’re getting creative, which has helped them get things rolling on offense.