After an impressive homestand, the Spurs strong play appeared to continue Monday night as they led 28-7 after the first quarter. But fatigue quickly set in as Charlotte stormed back with 60 points in the second and third quarters combined. The Hornets ultimately won 91-88 behind great performances from Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee. But lost in the frustrating loss was one of the better offensive sets you'll see.
Down 70-67 with 1:44 left in the third quarter, Pop called a timeout. What ensued was incredible: the Spurs ran a variation of a weave play which resulted in an easy basket. The play included seven passes and would be the play of the year for almost any other team in the league. This play showed what's possible when the Spurs stay committed to their system for 48 minutes:
In its generic form, a weave is a perimeter-based set where a player moves towards another player on the perimeter and either hands-off, pitches, or passes the ball to them (this can start by dribbling at the player or with a pass). After the pass, the initiating player replaces the spot of the recipient. When done effectively, this swapping of places on the perimeter functions like a pick and roll with the passer bumping into the defender of the receiver and creating driving room. If you pause at the five second mark, you'll see Kawhi Leonard doing just that. He passes from the right wing to Patty Mills in the corner and they trade places essentially creating the same outcome as a pick and roll.
The Spurs of course take this to another level by adding in another concept: Pass & Pick Away. Pass & Pick Away is a simple counter to man to man defense typically run with three out on the perimeter. The player at the top of the arc passes to a wing and then goes and screens the opposite wing. The opposite wing then curls towards the ball and is usually wide open cutting into the lane.
At the same 5 second mark described above, Diaw has just passed to Leonard and screens away for Ginobili. Leonard passes to Mills as described above and Mills hits the curling Ginobili who is cutting full speed at the basket. Aldridge's defender helps off, and the dump-off for the slam occurs. This is textbook.. If you start the play from the beginning you'll notice the first three passes utilize this concept.
The impact of the perimeter based weave on a defense is two-fold: (1) Because players are screening away from the ball or replacing away from the ball, they are dragging defenders from the ball-handler. The defender's vision is now glued to their man who is running against the action. Players are unable to be in help position. (2) The Weave is run on the perimeter, which leaves the lane wide open. When Ginobili curls in he has tons of operating room. With the other defenders chasing, they are unaware of what's in front of them. Watch Nicolas Batum follow Leonard on the baseline rather than get into help position in the same sequence. The Spurs use five passes to pull Charlotte defenders in different directions.
The last component is of course Aldridge. LaMarcus simply straddles the lane to avoid the three second call, presumably as a decoy. With all the weave action, he is forgotten. Once Ginobili breaks the plane, Aldridge's defender is the only potential help defender (due to the impact of all the prior action). A once decoy becomes the most dangerous player on the court as he is all alone for the bunny.
This play is worth several watches. But if the explanation is not resonating try this (spoiler alert: Aldridge plays the role of the bear):