In the final possession of the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers, we saw the return of a play that’s designed to get Kemba Walker an open three. The Spain pick-and-roll is where a secondary screen takes place after the initial pick-and-roll action, with the caveat that the second screen is a back pick.
The point of a Spain pick-and-roll is to force the defense to collapse, before kicking the ball back out to the perimeter for a wide-open three. On this play, the back-pick set by Walker and Theis’ hard roll through the middle have put Tobias Harris under huge pressure to offer help defense.
Javonte Green takes advantage of Harris being occupied by Theis, and drifts towards the weakside corner. Now, Marcus Smart has two options, hit Walker for the guaranteed jumper, or Green who can either fire it from deep or attack the closeout on the way to a thunderous dunk.
Alas, Green’s attempt ultimately misses the mark. However, for the majority of the season, we have seen a steady diet of high pick-and-roll, with the team resetting or going into isolation if the play breaks down. It’s no coincidence that with Walker’s return, the team is now going deeper into their playbook to generate easy scoring opportunities not just for him, but his teammates.
To start the play, Green and Smart had lined up on the weak side corner, then ran a split cut with Green dragging Harris into the post and Smart relocating to receive the ball.
Using a split cut in this way would indicate the play call was an “open corner Spain PnR,” which, while possessing all the required off-ball movements of an ordinary Spain pick-and-roll, is initiated with the sole purpose of creating space on the weak side corner for an open skip pass.
The total play breakdown looks like this;
- The play begins with Marcus Smart and Javonte Green situated on the weakside wing.
- A split cut see Javonte Green drag Tobias Harris into the low post, while Smart relocates to receive the ball from Kemba.
- Daniel Theis comes over to set a screen on Tyrese Maxey. Theis then slips the screen just before contact is initiated - also known as a “ghost screen.”
- Dwight Howard is forced to drop towards the high-helpline to protect the lob threat from Smart to Theis.
- As Howard is back peddling, Walker sets a back pick, which forces Harris to provide help defense on Theis.
- Walker then fades out to the three point line with oceans of space to get a shot off.
- Usually Smart will hit Walker with the pass. But Harris helping on Theis’ drive has provided Green with enough room to drift into the weakside corner.
- Smart finds Green who can now either rise up for the three, or use his unique athleticism to drive the close out and attack the rim.
We should expect to see more variants of this play call as Walker continues to see floor time in his road back from stem cell treatment on his troublesome knee.