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Why I Criticize Luke's Offense: A Sample From The Bucks-Lakers Game

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#1 bfc1125roy



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Posted March 03, 2019 - 03:00 AM

Grab some popcorn everyone, because this one's going to be a long post. Since our second preseason game this year, I've criticized Luke Walton's offense for being uninnovative, and most importantly not putting our players in a position to succeed. The schemes are extremely basic, and ultimately we were outclassed by a much more efficient Bucks team. Over the course of this season, with Cranjis, LFR, and Magic himself giving Walton some heat for his terrible offense, some people have come around to realize that while our defense is bad, our offense is no better. And we need a significant change in our game planning if this team hopes to make the playoffs. While much of the media and our fanbase gives Luke the excuses of injuries, no shooters, etc. I'm going to show you why none of that has a bearing on the basis of my argument: that Luke and his assistants do not do a very good job with designing this offense.
The majority of Luke's offense is focused around trying to push the ball and create fast breaks whenever possible. Given the average age of our roster, this is largely a good thing. However, at some point, especially when playing good teams, we will need to execute in the half court, and this is where he largely falters.
The best thing to do would be to put our scorers and playmakers (LeBron, Rondo, Ingram, Kuzma) in positions where they can get an easy basket or create one for others. Instead, Luke shows he is unable to run an offense thats even as deep as what most high school teams are pulling out these days.
I'm going to take a sample of the third quarter of last night's game, right around the time the Buck's made a run, and show you why we had a difficult time keeping up.
Some of these are situations where our individual talent (i.e. LeBron, Ingram) was still able to generate a positive outcome. That should NOT be the conclusion of this. Rather, we need to be examining the QUALITY of the play. If we just give LeBron the ball and tell him to attack, he can create something 50% of the time. But if we set LeBron up in the high post and gave him multiple split cuts to hit for a pass, for example, he would be able to get something maybe 80-90% of the time. So before you salivate over Ingram's ability to attack the rim from half court, consider this fact.
Let's start with the first play...
The Lakers try to run a double ball screen. Bullock sets the first screen, but the defender goes under the screen and keeps up with Rondo, essentially rendering no advantage from the play for the Lakers. LA should be prepared for this coverage every time Rondo is involved in the PnR, as the defense is not afraid of him pulling up from 3. On the second screen, Kuzma doesn't even make contact, again creating 0 advantage for LA. At this point, Rondo gets trapped in the paint, and the LeBron cut is well covered by Giannis. Rondo is forced to kick it out to Ingram who catches it almost at half court with 10 seconds left on the clock. He has no help here, and is forced to create something out of nothing. He settles for a contested, fading away jumper that bricks.
Second possession:
There's no real play here. The Lakers get it to LeBron who has to just blindly attack and gets stripped going into the teeth of the defense. Luckily, the Lakers are bailed out with a foul call, but it's not one we would get late in the 4th. The only positive here is that they at least get it to him at the pinch post, where he's closer to the rim and has an easier time. But again, they don't create an advantage for him. No meaningful off ball movement by anyone else on the team, either.
Third play:
This is another PnR with LeBron and Bullock. Remember, the high PnR is the play defenses are the MOST prepared for, and it shows here. Giannis knows LeBron isn't fast enough to quickly pull up with a little space (unlike say, Curry), so he's able to get around the screen pretty easily. From there, again with NO advantage (notice the theme?) LeBron tries to attack the basket with some momentum, and is again stripped.
Fourth play:
The Lakers actually run a decent play here and they desperately need a bucket, but they are clearly not well coached. Bullock is supposed to come off two screens here and get an open look at a 3, but neither of the screens make any significant contact, so his defender can stick with him and the play blows up. Their back up plan is... you guessed it! High PnR, with Kuzma and Rondo. Kuzma sets a good screen, but Mirotic is more than able to contain Rondo's desperate attempt at an attack. As a result, the play blows up, and we go to our second back up plan... which you probably guessed as well: ISO! This time, it's LeBron catching the ball on the perimeter with 6 seconds left on the clock. He drives against Giannis, and again gets bailed out by a whistle that the refs will likely swallow in the fourth.
In contrast, let's watch how the Bucks run the EXACT same play not too long after:
Watch how Snell makes great contact on his screen and anticipates Ingram's movement. He prevents him from contesting and as a result the Bucks get a good look at a 3. This is the difference between how a well-coached team executes, versus one that is clearly lost.
Fifth play:
This sequence clearly illustrates the Lakers really have no direction out there on offense. They just stand around till KCP decides he wants to go screen someone with 14 seconds left on the clock. He then decides last minute he doesn't feel like it, only to go back and screen again, at which point LeBron's fed up, and passes to Muscala who takes a contested 3 and bricks it. This one also lead to a transition baskets for the Bucks on the other end.
Sixth play:
This one was awful too. Ingram dribbles it up and just doesn't know what to do. He passes the ball to Rondo who's even more useless and just gives it back. At this point, he has nothing else to do but blindly attack the rim from the perimeter. Doesn't really get much of an advantage here and blows the layup.
Seventh play:
Here the Lakers again come up the court without a plan. KCP half heartedly tries to set the drag screen which does nothing. LeBron attacks the defense and draws Hart's man to help, but the Bucks are smart enough to know he's somewhat of a threat from 3 and rotate over quickly. Hart panics, and gives it up to LeBron who's smart enough to stay in the low post. He attacks and gets a very tough shot to go. Good outcome, but bad execution by the Lakers. They won't score like this consistently.
One possession earlier, the Bucks run a similar play, but watch how they mix it up:
Watch how the Bucks add a quasi-dribble handoff to occupy the defense a bit as the screen is being set. Hart actually plays this somewhat well, but is clearly hampered by his knees and not moving well laterally. This allows Connaughton to turn the corner and get to the basket. Again, just a simple mixup added to an otherwise trivial action. A good coaching staff will incorporate things like this to keep the defense on their toes.
Eighth Play:
The next time down, the Lakers decide to again go for the Ingram ISO. He attacks and it yields nothing, while everyone else just stands and watches. He kicks it out and with no other plan, the Lakers have nothing else to do and swing it back to him. Again, with limited time on the clock and Ingram out past the 3 point line, he again tries to attack, and draws the foul. Nobody bothered to help Ingram in this situation at all. Just bad preparation by the Laker's coaching staff.
Ninth Play:
This is the last Laker's halfcourt possession of the quarter. LeBron dribbles it up and Ingram decides to set a screen and then changes his mind and runs to the top of the key. This does little to bother the defense, and LeBron attacks before kicking it out to Ingram. The Bucks rotate well, but give Ingram room to shoot. Ingram takes the semi-contested look and knocks down his only 3 of the night. Nice shot, but again not something we can count on to consistently generate us baskets.
Now you might be thinking, Mike Budenholzer is a pretty good coach -- what did he do to help the Bucks go on that run at the end of the third. Honestly, our defense was so bad, the Bucks had to do very little to simply have Bledsoe attack and create something (looking at YOU Rondo!). He didn't need much other than the occasional screen. This does not mean that we can get away with running such basic schemes, as most teams we will face from now until the playoffs will have much better defenses than what we showed during that game. And anyone who has watched the Bucks knows that Budenholzer has a lot in his bag of tricks, he just didn't need to overcomplicate it when the simple stuff was working so well. He also had lots of little mixups to toss in there when needed, to give the Bucks an edge when it mattered.
Overall, you can see that once the Laker's initial action blows up, they have little to resort to other than a PnR or ISO. They show very little creativity in how the execute in the half court, relying on VERY thin playbook that centers around the high PnR, which is the play that teams are the most prepared for. While the Laker's individual talent is able to sometimes create a favorable situation from scratch, that is not a sustainable way to keep up with an offensive powerhouse of a team. Instead, the Lakers need to help their scorers and playmakers be in better positions to succeed. I hope the video evidence and breakdown shows that despite injuries and a lack of shooters, the coaching staff is doing little to help us win ball games.

Edited by bfc1125roy, March 03, 2019 - 03:10 AM.

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