The Bucks have punched their ticket to Las Vegas.
In the Quarterfinals of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, Milwaukee blew out New York to advance to the Semifinals. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge for the Bucks with a near triple-double of 35 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Damian Lillard chipped in with 28 points and seven assists.
Antetokounmpo and Lillard’s fingerprints were all over the game, but there was one particular possession involving the two of them in the first quarter that stood out.
You know what that means — to the film room!
Damian Lillard-Giannis Antetokounmpo pick-and-roll potential in one play
🎥 The play
Lillard brings the ball up in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
On the court with Lillard are Antetokounmpo, MarJon Beauchamp, AJ Green and Bobby Portis Jr. Beauchamp and Green park themselves in opposite corners while Portis makes his way to the dunker spot on the left side of the court.
That opens up the floor for Lillard and Antetokounmpo to run a pick-and-roll.
Antetokounmpo makes his way toward Lillard, who is at the halfcourt line. Lillard’s defender, Donte DiVincenzo, isn’t giving him much breathing room. Antetokounmpo doesn’t even make contact with DiVincenzo on the screen, but Julius Randle shades toward the sideline to prevent Lillard from pulling up or driving to the basket.
With all of the attention on Lillard, Antetokounmpo slips to the middle of the court and receives the ball.
Antetokounmpo isn’t much of a threat from the perimeter — he’s a career 28.6 percent 3-point shooter — but Lillard’s gravity has pulled Randle 30ish feet away from the basket. (More on that gravity and why the Bucks set screens for Lillard at the logo here.)
There aren’t many players who can pick Antetokounmpo up at this sort of distance and stay in front of him:
Sure enough, Antetokounmpo blows by Randle. That forces Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein to step up.
Hartenstein tries (and fails) to draw a charge, leading to a three-point play for Antetokounmpo.
🤔 Why it matters
Much was made of the potential of Lillard-Antetokounmpo pick-and-rolls after the Bucks acquired Lillard from the Trail Blazers. Surprisingly, the Bucks haven’t gone to it as much as many had hoped.
Antetokounmpo is screening and rolling more this season than he did last season, but the difference (1.8 possessions per game as the roll man to 2.3) is marginal. Lillard is still running more pick-and-rolls than just about everyone in the league, but a good chunk of them have come with Brook Lopez or Bobby Portis as the screen-setter, not necessarily Antetokounmpo.
Some have wondered why the Bucks don’t just run a Lillard-Antetokounmpo pick-and-roll every possession they’re on the court together. They’re joking — no team spams a single play the entire game, no matter how effective it is — but that speaks to how dynamic putting the two of them in pick-and-roll should be.
“Should” is the key word, because it’s clear Lillard and Antetokounmpo are still figuring each other out. Antetokounmpo in particular has never been a high usage screen-setter. His decision-making out of the short roll will be tested all season long because the only hope most teams will have of slowing him down in those situations is building a wall and banking on him not being able to make the right pass at the right time.
Antetokounmpo has improved tremendously as a passer in his career — he’s averaged 5.7 assists per game since the 2018-19 season — but he’s currently turning the ball over at one of the highest rates in the league when he rolls to the basket. Easy as someone like Draymond Green makes it look, playing out of the short roll is a skill that requires quick decisions and pinpoint accuracy.
Look at the attention Giannis draws on the Dame-Giannis pick-and-roll. Three guys go to him, had Brook Lopez wide open in the corner and Barrett guarding two but missed the pass. pic.twitter.com/aZRD0ieGk7
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) December 6, 2023
The Bucks, of course, have 82 games to figure it out. They are starting to involve Lillard and Antetokounmpo in more pick-and-rolls. The numbers when they are involved in the same action are starting to tick up. Even if there are times when it still looks like an unfinished product, there are also times when it looks as unstoppable as anticipated.
Just ask DiVincenzo, Randle, Hartenstein and the Knicks. It’s basically a game of pick your poison.
Source : ESPN.com