The Knicks don't know how to run the Triangle offense competently yet, but they've got pieces. Angles. Vertices. HYPOTENUSES.
One piece we saw repeatedly last night was use of a backdoor option with direct passes to the weak-side high ("pinch") post (I believe the actions you're about to see, wherein a weak-side guard cuts over a screen, qualify as "blind pig" actions). First, let me show you what I'm talking about.
Shane Larkin, J.R. Smith, and Jason Smith have formed the sideline triangle. Larkin has the option to enter the ball to the corner, enter the ball to the post, do some Shane Larkin things, OR pass to the weak side and initiate the two-man game. You see he can initiate said two-man game by passing directly to the guard (Tim Hardaway Jr.), or he can find the Amar'e Stoudemire flashing to the high post. Larkin chooses the latter, and that's what we're gonna focus on:
Tim Hardaway Jr. initiates a backdoor cut at the *exact* moment Larkin's pass to Stoudemire takes flight, which is crucial. Hardaway's half step on K.J. McDaniels gives Amar'e a window to pass him the ball, and means the Sixers have to bring help. He ends up with a shooting foul.
Let's watch some more, and some variations (all GIFs by BJabs). Jason Smith has already proven adept at that quick pass to the backdoor cutter:
J.R. Smith demonstrates what the cutting guard can do if help rotates over. Keep that ball up high, Amar'e!
And if the help comes off the 4 instead of the 5, the cutter can kick right back to the 4 for an open pop-and-shoot:
Instead of making the exchange instantaneously, the cutter can rub close to the 4 to lose his man, then accept a pass closer to the rim:
And here's what it looks like when the pass is telegraphed, the flash is well-covered, and the backdoor cut is a beat late:
Here's a different look with a similar result:
Iman Shumpert brought the ball up the floor and actually looked off Jose Calderon. The ball *starts* in the two-man game with the triangle clearly ready to form on the far side of the floor. Shump fakes an initiating pass to Calderon, then passes directly to Dalembert and makes a cut similar to the ones above. Melo (behaving like a 4) screens for the backdoor-cutting Shump just like Jason Smith did for J.R., but the pass is coming from the 5 on the opposite side of the post. THREE-man game.
It's not all that complicated, but it's an example of how working with the basic positions and movements of the Triangle can allow guys to improvise as a unit. Dalembert knows what Shump has in mind as soon as he receives that pass, because it's a familiar motion.
Now, this is preseason basketball against one of the worst defenses known to man. These plays are not simple, and they require fine tuning. It's nice to see the Knicks grasping some of those Triangle segments, though, and it's easy to see how variations and counters to these sets could emerge against different defensive looks.
Thank you to the Sixers for letting this happen, and thank you most of all to BJabs for making this post possible by collecting more and better GIFs than I anticipated.
Here's a bonus Shump spin move (via BJabs, of course) to take home as a goody bag: