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NBA Playoffs Playbook: The Conley-Gasol Pick-and-Roll

The pick-and-roll is a simple, classic offensive strategy. Teams across the league have been using the play for years, and the Memphis Grizzlies are no different.

There are multiple combinations they can go to, but their favorite pairing is Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Last night we saw the Grizz utilize the Conley-Gasol pick-and-roll to great effect. As they showed, a wide variety of outcomes can arise from a simple idea and set up.

Here we’ll take a closer look at three times in which Memphis used this action to get different looks.

First, we see Gasol set Conley a high screen at the top of the key. Conley begins by going to his right, but quickly reverses direction back to his favorite left hand.

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As Conley moves off the screen, both defenders jump towards him. Conley is an adept passer, though, and is able to feed Gasol with a bounce pass that splits the defenders. Good spacing has left the paint wide open, leaving Gasol with a variety of options now that he has caught the pass here.

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Kevin Durant, the closest help defender, shows towards Gasol, but doesn’t provide very much pressure. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka—Gasol’s original defender—attempts to recover, but is unable to do so in time. This leaves Gasol with a simple jumper form the elbow that he knocks down.

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Next, we once again see Gasol arrive to set a screen at the top of the key. This time, Conley goes to his left from the start.

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Gasol, however, slips the screen, finding space in the middle of the floor that has once again been left wide open because of good spacing. Both defenders stay with Conley, but just as the last play we looked at, he’s able to find Gasol.

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This time, Durant does a better job helping and Perkins steps up as well, but once Gasol caught the ball in that area, it was all over. It’s not as easy a shot as the last one we looked at, but it’s one Gasol is going to convert more times than not.

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Finally, we’ll look at one more Conley-Gasol pick-and-roll that begins at the top of the key.

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As we’ve seen multiple times now, Conley goes to his left and both defenders follow him. And again, Gasol moves to the middle of the floor—which has been vacated due to the Grizzlies spacing—and receives the pass from Conley.

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This time, the Thunder play a stronger brand of help defense, rushing Gasol and forcing the ball out of his hands. Gasol is ready for this, however, and uses his impressive passing skills to find Mike Miller wide open in the corner.

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And even though he’s got some milage on him, we all know what happens when Mike Miller is left all alone from behind the arc. $$$.

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As you can see, not one of these plays was complicated or filled with lots of action. It was just crisp pick-and-roll basketball and some great examples of the multitudes of possibilities that can come from one simple starting point. The Grizzlies will surely run this countless more times throughout this series, so keep an eye out for it and the varying end outcomes it produces.

jmaloney