Assigning proper responsibility for the Magic’s inability to box out Josh Smith

In general, Kevin Arnovitz does a solid job breaking down the different “actions” involved in a NBA game.

In this instance, however, he has incorrectly pointed an accusing finger in the direction of Rashard Lewis for Orlando’s apparent failure to box out Josh Smith on the last second follow-up dunk which was the difference in last night’s victory for Atlanta.

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The Incredible Finish in Atlanta

Just over a minute later, Vince Carter deadens the crowd when he nails an off-balanced, contested bomb from beyond the arc.

Game tied.

The Hawks must race the ball up the length of the court with no timeouts and 9.9 seconds left on the clock: 

 

Watch the play again. How does Josh Smith get free for the follow?

Ask Rashard Lewis.

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If you take a closer look at what transpired during this sequence, you should be able to see is that: 

ORLANDO PLAYER
LOCATION

ACTION
ATLANTA PLAYER
LOCATION

ACTION
1. INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UPS IN DEFENSIVE TRANSITION
Carter Left Back Court Defend dribble Johnson Left Back Court Dribble-up
Redick Left Wing Defend in passing lane Horford Left Wing Fill lane
Nelson Middle of Floor Sag into middle Williams Right Side Trail Spot up for 3
Lewis Right Wing Sag into middle Smith Right FTLX Spot up for 3
Howard Middle of Floor Protest basket West Right Elbow Spot up for 2
2. INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UPS IN DEFENSIVE TRANSITION AS THE BALL CROSSES CENTER 
Carter Left Front Court Defend dribble Johnson Left Back Court Dribble-up
Redick Left Corner Defend in passing lane Horford Left Wing Spot up for 3
Nelson In Middle of Lane Step toward Williams Williams Right Side Trail Spot up for 3
Lewis Right Wing Sag into middle Smith Right FTLX Spot up for 3
Howard Middle of Floor Protect basket West Right Elbow Spot up for 2
3. INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UPS IN HALF-COURT D AS THE BALL IS DRIVEN TO THE BASKET 
Carter Left Wing Defend dribble Johnson Left Front Court Drive to Left Short Corner
Redick Left Corner Defend in passing lane Horford Left Corner Spot up for 3
Nelson In Middle of Lane Sag into middle Williams Middle Trail Spot up for 3
Lewis Upper Right Block Sag into middle Smith Right Wing Prepare to Off Reb
Howard Left Block Slide over to help vs drive West Right Elbow Prepare to Off Reb
4. INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UPS IN HALF-COURT D AS THE SHOT GOES UP 
Carter Left Short Corner Prepare to Def Rebound Johnson Left Short Corner Rises for pull-up jump-shot
Redick Left Corner Prepare to box out Horford Horford Left Corner Prepare to Off Rebound
Nelson In Middle of Lane Prepare to box out Williams Williams Middle Trail Spot up for 3
Lewis Upper Right Block Step over to box out West Smith Right Corner Off Reb below Right Block
Howard Left Block Stop and watch flight of ball West Right Elbow Off Reb above Right Block
5. INDIVIDUAL MATCH-UPS IN HALF-COURT D AS THE BALL CAROOMS OFF THE RIM AND IS DUNKED BY JOSH SMITH
Carter Left Short Corner Def Reb Johnson Left Short Corner Fall out of bounds
Redick Left Corner Box out Horford Horford Left Corner Move to Off Reb
Nelson In Middle of Lane ?, Watch flight of ball Williams Middle Trail Spot up for 3
Lewis Upper Right Block Box out West Smith Right Baseline Off Reb below Right Block
Howard Left Block ?, Watch flight of ball West Right Block Off Reb above Right Block

the Orlando player who was most responsible for allowing Josh Smith to go unchecked during the rebounding phase of this defensive possession was actually Dwight Howard.

i.e. When Joe Johnson stopped his drive towards the basket and, instead, pulled up for his running jump-shot, from the Left Short Corner, it was Dwight Howard’s responsibility to:

I. Recover back to the weak side of the floor [i.e. where the majority of rebounds are directed];

and,

II. Box out, either:

A. Josh Smith [which would have alllowed Rashard Lewis to concentrate on boxing out Mario West, exclusively];

or,

B. Mario West [which would have allowed Rashard Lewis to concentrate on boxing out Josh Smith, exclusively];

… instead of trying, in vein, to box out both Josh Smith and Mario West.

Unfortunately for Orlando, Dwight Howard did neither of these 2 things.

Holding specific basketball players accountable for their individual failures at the defensive end of the floor, or in terms of executing their defensive rebounding assignments properly, can be tricky business, even for the very best of bloggers.

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5 Responses to “Assigning proper responsibility for the Magic’s inability to box out Josh Smith”

  1. Dan Williams Says:

    Brandon Bass could have won the game for the Magic last night had he been on the floor. Unlike Lewis, Bass doesn’t take plays off. He hustles after every loose ball. He tries to prove himself every chance he gets. I know the Hawks were out of timeouts and the smart thing to do is leave Lewis in the game and hope the Hawks miss. However, Gundy needs to take this opportunity to humble Lewis. He should use Bass as an example of what a NBA player should be. Lewis has all the talent in the world, but doesn’t take advantage of it. He sees himself as a scorer. His job is to shoot the 3 ball. He needs to take a look at Bass’ work ethic and character. He could learn alot.

  2. Scott G Says:

    Hmm… While there’s no doubt that DH12 turned into a statue when the shot went up, I think it might be a lot to ask for him to race across to the opposite side of the hoop (after having come over the the strong side to help on the drive before JJ pulled up).

    I say Nelson is the bigger culprit here, since he WAS in good position to put a body on West, but simply stood there while West slid around him (causing Lewis to slide over to help on West).

    Not Lewis’s fault, no doubt.

  3. khandor Says:

    Dan Williams,

    1. Welcome aboard! :-)

    2. How SVG has chosen to handle Bass’ PT this season has been interesting to watch. There’s a great deal of talent on this squad, such that a solid performer like Bass, or Anderson, or [even] Gortat, pretty much has to sit out every game for the Magic.

    3. If asked to choose between Lewis, Bass, Anderson and Gortat to play heavy minutes for the Magic, alongside D-12, I would rank these 4 players in the following way:

    i. Lewis [3FG's; good size; agility to check SF's; post-up game on the block]
    ii. Anderson [3FG's; big enough to check average sized PF's inside]
    iii. Gortat [Rebounder; solid interior defender vs Opp Bigs]
    iv. Bass [mid-range J; under-sized PF with above average quicks + good strength and work ethic]

    It’s a great luxury to have, as each one is a solid player, overall, and also has a speciality which he brings to the table.

  4. khandor Says:

    Scott G.,

    Although Marvin Williams chose not to actively go after the offensive rebound on this play, from a technical coaching perspective, Jameer Nelson’s primary responsibility … at the instant when Johnson’s shot went up … was to ensure that his own check was properly accounted for and not able to get the offensive rebound.

    If he looked, saw that Williams wasn’t making a play on the ball, and then went to box out Mario West instead, then, that too would certainly have been an acceptable response from him.

    [IMO, if this would have happened then Rashard Lewis would have responded in-kind and shifted over to box out Josh Smith, exclusively.]

    At no point, however, can Nelson actually be faulted for not boxing out Mario West because his first priority had to be ensuring that Marvin Williams was not coming in late for the offensive rebound from the top of the key position … because of Williams’ size advantage over him, which would have made Williams a very dangerous rebounder, if he, too, hadn’t been sleeping on the play and just watching things unfold from beyond the arc.

    The key point in the entire sequence is that …

    When Johnson stopped his drive to the basket and released his shot, Vince Carter was in a solid position to collect any possible rebound which might have fallen back towards the original strong side of the floor …

    and what Dwight Howard, then, had as his primary responsibility on the play … as any top notch rebounder, like Dennis Rodman, for example, knows from first-hand experience …

    is to:

    i. Not watch the ball; and, instead,

    ii. Get his rear end over to the weak side of the floor;

    … because THAT is the direction where the vast majority of missed Corner 3′s actually end up bouncing off the rim.

    If D-12 would have done his homework, as The Worm use to do, ad nauseum, then he would have been in ideal position to either:

    A. Box out Mario West [which would have sent Lewis over to Josh Smith];

    or,

    B. Box out Josh Smith [who was only coming in late on the play, and which would have allowed Lewis to maintain his contact with Mario West].

    IMO, the primary fault, in this specific instance, lies with Dwight Howard.

    ——————

    Either way … it was certainly a bang-bang play that Josh Smith took best advantage of, given that Rashard Lewis was put in a tough spot by the actions and decisions of [i] Howard and [ii] Nelson.

  5. Scott G Says:

    ok — your point is well taken about nelson having to look out for marvin. sad to see TWO apathetic rebounders on the most important defensive possession of the game. maybe a little too close to home for us raps fans? ;)