If you follow my Twitter feed during games, you already know that one of my favorite plays is the kind where two quick passes set up a quick bucket, and the first play from Friday night's win is a good example. The ball goes from Tim Duncan to Danny Green to Tiago Splitter in less than a second and the Dallas defense can't even begin to react. You can see how Chandler Parsons tries to cover the middle while watching out for the cutting Green, but he doesn't see Splitter who's placed himself in perfect position for the second pass and the reverse layup.
Duncan and Tony Parker work the two man game here, which we've seen so many times over the years. It's so pretty the way they work themselves around the opposition's defense, but what struck me is the way they manipulate Tyson Chandler on this play. He's a terrific defender, and you can see that Parker takes pains to find a high percentage shot without having to challenge him. In fact, Chandler doesn't even leave his feet as Parker's tear drop is out of his hand before there's any time to react.
Here's a transition basket where the pressure the Spurs exert early in the shot clock creates a quick basket. Kawhi Leonard brings up the ball quickly and drops it off to Boris Diaw, who has posted up Al-Farouq Aminu. Tyson Chandler has done a great job getting back on defense, but he's left his man, Duncan, in an attempt to stop Kawhi. Watch how Duncan passes Chandler just as he's looking to find where Tim is. Diaw's pass is perfectly placed and timed.
This is about as quick a two-pass score as you'll see. Three-quarters of the court is covered with two passes in the blink of an eye. The Mavs even have three guys back, but it doesn't matter as Patty Mills and Leonard are on the same page. Watch how fluid Kawhi's catch and shot are; a single motion secures the pass and delivers it into the basket.
Diaw has so many moves that his defender must respect them all, making him incredibly difficult to guard when he's on his game. He's able to get to the middle against the smaller Aminu, and since no one else is around, he goes with his looping hook shot. A lot of guys will bring the ball up, and then shoot their hook, but notice how Boris uses a single continuous motion from the point at which he begins his shot. This allows him to adjust to any bump his defender might give him along the way.
(Bonus content: notice how it looks like the Spurs are going 4-on-5 here. I don't know who else was on the floor with Diaw, Leonard, Splitter and Mills, but it didn't much matter as all of the other three guys are moving without the ball and ready for Diaw to pass to them. Pretty to watch all that motion, even if Bobo just takes it himself.)
It's crazy the way Manu Ginobili finds guys wide open even when it appears impossible for him to even see them. Diaw has to move to his right to snag the pass, but he cans the three all the same. Also, notice the way Marco Belinelli thinks the pass is for him and has to backtrack as Boris catches it.
People often talk about how Ginobili loves to go to his left, and he does ... even if he has to go right first. Manu loops around Splitter's screen to find a wide-open lane to drive through. What I love about this play is how Manu sees the lane before he even heads to his right.
This pass is made possible by the vision of Manu, once again seeing what's about to happen before it does. That's a pinpoint perfect hook pass delivered beyond the reaches of two different Maverick defenders.
Manu okie-doke's Richard Jefferson to the wrong side of Splitter's pick, then he fools Dirk Nowitski into trying to block a jumper which clears a path to a rotating Diaw who drops in a running hook that swishes without the use of the backboard. This is such a difficult shot that Diaw makes look incredibly effortless. (More about Manu's vision in a story coming tomorrow.)
Mills works the ball up the court quickly and Diaw moves both of the defenders away from Green who is sprinting toward the corner for yet another open three. Boris does such a good job of making the pass only once Jefferson has committed to stopping his path to the basket. Green's release is so smooth.
This play is the result to Leonard running the floor and drawing no less than three defenders. Once Mills gives it up to Green, he's wide open from up top and he cans the shot -- which couldn't have come at a better time. Dallas had cut the lead from 22 down to 4, and this basket was much-needed.
It's always fun to watch the Spurs move the ball around, but watch how little time Green needs as he moves to his left, plants his feet, catches the ball and shoots ... all while ignoring the assistant who's trying to play verbal defense. (When will the league outlaw the ridiculous antics that so many of the league's coaches use to try to distract players as they shoot from the corners?)
Manu's pass to Splitter speaks for itself.
Diaw's understanding of spacing is as good as it gets as he dribbles baseline and uses Duncan to get a wide open jumper.
Finally, Leonard's no-look pass leads to Diaw's prettiest bucket of the night. As I tweeted when it happened, it's not so much that he shoots this as the ball leaves his hand on its own. He holds it aloft as if it were a little bird that he's setting free. "Fly away and be free, little ball. Or just drop through the net without even approaching the rim .. that works too."