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NBA Playoffs Playbook: The Heat’s Triple Screen Action for Ray Allen

The Heat weren’t able to pick up a win in yesterday’s Game 1 meeting with the Indiana Pacers, losing 96-107. But despite losing the game, they still ran some cool actions to free up Ray Allen for open looks from behind the arc. And since figuring out how teams get their shooters open is one of my favorite things about basketball, I figured we could take a closer look at what the Head did on Sunday.

Ray Allen is one of the best shooters this league has ever seen. You know that, I know that, and of course opposing teams know that. So any time Allen is on the court, the defense pays special attention to him. This means the Heat have to devise more intricate plans to get him open shots. One action they have at their disposal is a triple screen with Allen starting in the corner and running to the opposite wing. They used it multiple times throughout the season, and yesterday went to it twice. So let’s take a closer look and see exactly how it works.

It begins with the ball-handler bringing the ball up on the left side of the court. Allen runs to the left corner and stays there, waiting for the first screen. In the first example, it comes from Norris Cole, while the second time around it comes from Mario Chalmers.

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Allen then runs baseline, making his way towards the opposite wing. Meanwhile, two Heat players are already there, waiting to set a double screen. As you can see, the first time it was James Jones and Birdman, while the following go around it was Udonis Haslem and LeBron James.

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From this point, it’s all over. Even if Allen’s defender is able to recover from the first screen, he now has to fight over a double screen, most often from two of the Heat’s biggest players. This is also the point in which we see Allen’s greatness. As he prepares to use the screen, he reads which way his defender is trailing him. If the defender is running behind him, Allen can curl off the screens, getting an open look. However, if the defender tries to cheat and cut off the pass (which the Pacers do on both occasions here), Allen stops short, making the screen more effective. Allen’s mastery of footwork and decision making when using screens is just as important as his pure shooting ability.

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Allen buries the first look, though luckily for the Pacers, the second one rims out. But whether or not he makes the shots isn’t the point—at least for us.

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This was a chance to take a closer look at how the Heat scheme to get Allen open looks with multiple screens, and how Allen’s genius when using said screens makes the action even more effective. This was a play the Heat used often during the regular season, so it stands to reason they’ll use it again during this series.

So pay attention when you see Allen starting in the corner, because he may be preparing to run off of three screens, catch a pass and bury a three. Taking a closer look at something and then recognizing it when it’s happening live is one of the coolest things. Trust me, you’ll feel so smart. Plus then you can explain it to your friends and they’ll marvel at your basketball knowledge. It’s a win-win-win situation: the Heat win for getting a three, you win for feeling smart in front of your friends, and I also win for writing a great post explaining how the play works.

Jack Maloney