Since the Golden State Warriors brought Elevator Doors into our lives last season, many teams have, for good reason, put a spin on it and added it to their playbook. The play itself puts a lot of pressure on the defense because it forces them to make a split-second decision. Get one of the bigs to help and there will mismatches everywhere, but order them to fall back and it forces the guard to fight through a pair of 240-pound screens, which tends not to end well seeing as the set is always drawn up for a sharp shooter that is looking for just a slither of daylight.
Just in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, we saw the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards run a variation of the play at least a couple of times. In Game Four, the Pacers used it to set Paul George up for a three that wound up changing the pace of the game, and last night, in Game Six, the Washington Wizards used it to free Bradley Beal up for a good look in the first quarter when they were struggling to break the Pacers’ defense. The difference with this one, however, was that it came on an out-of-bounds situation instead of the usual half-court set.
Step One: The Formation
The Wizards set up in a line formation on ball side. The two big men, Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden, position themselves closer to the in-bounder, John Wall, with their backs to him. The two guards, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster, move closer to the middle of the court, facing the opposite way. To prevent anyone from cutting backdoor and getting an open look at the rim, Ian Mahinmi and David West position themselves just outside of the paint, while Lance Stephenson and Paul George stay close to who they are guarding.
Step Two: Final Call
Beal is the first to move and he curls around Gooden and Gortat. Webster soon follows suit. However, instead of going all the way to the basket, like Paul George expects, Beal quickly v-cuts back towards Gortat and Gooden once he is in-front of them to set himself up for a three-pointer. Webster, on the other hand, curls around the two bigs and takes Lance Stephenson out of the play by going all the way to the basket. Mahinmi is in help position and West is simply watching the play unfold, so neither can help George, who is already a step behind the play.
Step Three: Closing The Doors
Once Beal cuts between the two, Gooden and Gortat ‘close the doors,’ forcing George to go over the screen. The play has moved too quickly for either Mahinmi or West to react, so George is left on an island and Beal has all the daylight he needs to get off a good shot. John Wall gives him a pass on the money and Beal casually knocks down a three to cut the Pacers’ lead to four.
Here’s a video of the play:
There’s no wonder why more and more teams are using the play — it has proven to be an effective way to get shooters open looks and defenses have yet to figure out what the best way of shutting it down is. But the beauty of it is that it leaves a lot of room for creativity. The most important part of the play is the closing of the doors, as that is the moment that sets the defense off course. What happens before that, whether it is a high pick-and-roll, some off-ball screens or pin downs, is up for the team to decide, and that’s why we will likely be seeing a lot more of this play over the years to come.