Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Clippers Game 1 Breakdown
A breakdown of how Devin Booker took over the game, and Mikal Bridges finishing it off in game 1 against the Clippers.
Chris Paul didn’t play, Kawhi Leonard didn’t play. Both players being out sucks, but what a game 1 that was to watch. There was a moment in the 3rd when it seemed like Paul George and Devin Booker were going to go shot for shot, then Booker just decided it was time to take over. In this breakdown, we will look at a lot of clips from game 1 to see how the teams might counter, change or build on the different concepts and schemes moving forward.
The Clippers started the game playing the usual small-ball lineup that finished off the Jazz, but with Morris hurting his knee to start the 3rd the Clippers went with Zubac. Overall it seemed like Zubac was not that bad in ballscreen coverage and they mixed up the coverages against Booker, but if it was Zubac or Demarcus Cousins - it just did not matter.
Devin Booker vs Drop Coverage
Overall Devin Booker had 16 possessions against drop coverage against the Clippers, with 11 of those coming against Zubac. Here is the breakdown of Booker scoring against the drop coverage from the Clippers:
16 total possessions
24 total pts scored
11 vs Zubac (15 points)
3 vs Cousins (5 points)
2 vs Morris (4 points)
The one that really stands out was Morris having to play drop instead of switching since the switch really took away from the Clippers’ small ball strengths. Against Zubac, it was essentially Booker snaking the ballscreen and getting to the nail for a pullup, and a big part of that is when the Clippers put ball pressure the screen is much more effective at getting Booker easier looks in the mid-range.
Deandre Ayton Dump Offs
Against the Clippers the Jazz did not do a great job of driving the ball into the land and putting pressure on the rim to free up Gobert for easy dunks, something the Suns do a great job of. The Suns are one of the best teams at playing when a play breaks down and one of the ways to attack the Clippers’ smaller lineups is to drive the ball and find Ayton for dunks. They did a great job of this in game 1 and Ayton is always ready and willing to catch these passes, something that not every big man in the league is willing to do.
Horns Out First
Another example here of the Suns being able to continue to make fantastic reads out of their plays. They scored against the Kennard/Cousins pairing with the simple action of screening at the Elbow and Cam curling into the lane for an easy layup to start, then when Kennard denied him the next possession they hit him backdoor. 4 easy points off easy reads in their most common set.
Short Rolls vs Traps
One of the advantages the Clippers found against the Jazz was to trap Mitchell at various times, and when Gobert set the ballscreen the Jazz DO NOT want him handling the ball. When Ayton or Saric set the ballscreen and the Clippers trapped Booker, Ayton and Saric made really good decisions out of the short roll and will be huge to combat the aggressive defense of the Clippers.
Horns High Low vs Switch
The Suns opened up the game by attacking the switching of the small-ball Clippers defense by running a Horns ballscreen set with Ayton getting a switch and then sealing the switch on the high side for an easy layup. I expect this set to stay in the playbook and the Suns run it moving forward.
Hunting Devin Booker
From the very beginning of the game the Clippers made it clear: they were going to get Devin Booker involved in actions and take advantage of him on defense. They repeatedly hunted Booker throughout the game, and even though they may have not scored off the direct switch, the advantages created allowed them to get easier scoring opportunities.
Putting Ayton in the Corner
Continuing the theme of putting the big defender guarding the corner, the Clippers designed an after-time-out to take advantage of the bigs helping at all costs. In their 5-Out they had Paul George set a flare screen for Batum then open up and attack off the catch. When Paul George attacks Ayton helps off the corner and allows an open corner 3, GREAT play design.
Late in the game, the Clippers blitzed Booker to get the ball out of his hands and make the other players beat them. A normal pass for the Suns and every NBA team is to kick it as quick as they can to the corner for an open corner 3. Knowing this, teams have gone to closing out to the gap to take away the extra, and stall out andy advantage the offense might create. Bridges looked to pass to the corner, but seeing and reading that Reggie Jackson is jumping out in the gap ends up ball faking and then driving into an easy dunk.
Late in the game Bridges made perhaps the biggest play of the game off the ball in help defense. Reggie Jackson was able to get downhill into the paint and force the Suns to help, notably Ayton attempting to stop the ball. This left Bridges to “Play the 2” or split the 2 offensive players and closeout to the first pass.
In this example, Bridges does a good job of chesting the ball and is able to react to where the pass is headed. Ayton does a good job of forcing a high pass and Bridges uses his length and reactions to steal the ball leading to a 2 on 1 dunk.
To close it out after a timeout from the Clippers the Suns went to their Horns Flare/Slip set that Monty traditionally ran with a bench unit vs switching or to get a quick-hitting score. Here we see them set up the Flare/Slip look with Ayton who I haven’t seen run the slip and Monty & Crowder were not pleased at all that Ayton did not want a free dunk!
Even though Ayton did not slip he sets the screen for Booker and Paul George was caught switching and recovering and because Ayton put pressure on the rim by rolling hard it forces George to drop and try and recover onto Ayton as well as Jackson tagging the roller - which leads to Bridges knocking down the 3 and finishing off game 1.
I LOVED this game 1, I cannot express enough how excited I am for the rest of this series and try and catch all of the adjustments and counters going forward.
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