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Patty Mills’ perpetual motion still yields the Spurs easy buckets

Patty Mills can shoot, but he also makes things happen just by running around.

New York Knicks v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images

Jakob Poeltl’s one handed dunk out of a side pick and roll with Dejounte Murray midway through the 4th quarter of a preseason win over the Grizzles pushed the Spurs’ lead back to double digits in a game they went on to win by 13. The play was remarkable less for its impact than for the ease with which the team generated the surest two points in the game. The quick-hitting action was a highlight of what was a relatively quiet night for both Dejounte and Jakob.

The thing is, though Patty Mills got no credit for the play, Jakob’s dunk doesn’t happen without his gravity and movement.

This is a typical pistol action, with Patty setting a screen for Dejounte on the wing before getting his own screen from Jakob on his way to the top of the key. Jakob then moves into a side pick and roll with Dejounte.

If the Spurs had stood around and watched at this point, Jakob would’ve been met by Dillon Brooks or Brandon Clarke, both of whom are staring at the developing pick and roll, in the paint instead of having a free run at the rim.

Patty’s open for a moment because Grayson Allen clearly expected to switch the screen, but Dejounte misses the fleeting window he has to make the pass, so Patty dives down the center of the floor before Allen can recover over the screen. The quick cut draws Brooks’ attention and muddles what had been pretty clear help responsibilities. By the time Allen realizes he’s moving into weakside help position, he’s under the rim and directly in the impact zone, which he wisely backs out of just in time to stay out of a poster.

This play shows how great Patty is in the screener role during pistol action. He’s small and quick, so he’s typically guarded by one of the smallest defenders on the other team, but he’s also willing to fully commit to the screen, meaning it’s a good way to get a mismatch for a bigger guard like DeMar DeRozan when opponents choose to switch. He’s also deadly accurate from three, which further complicates the coverage, as whether they switch or not, Patty’s defender has to trail him over the screen back to the center of the floor.

If they manage to deter the three from the top of the key, Patty can dive, as he does in this play, which forces both the big defender and the weakside help to divide their attention between his cut and preparing to guard the pick and roll. It’s not complicated, but it is difficult to defend without excellent awareness and communication.

Bryn Forbes can replicate a lot of this, too. He’s a better screener but not quite as deft moving off the ball. Keeping one of the two on the floor most of the time, as the team has done throughout the preseason, should open up multiple opportunities every game to create a little confusion and generate easy buckets just like this one.