The Knicks ran several minutes of near-constant spread-pick-and-roll down the stretch of regulation Sunday against the Raptors. We know the Triangle offense has room for pick-and-roll, both in the weak-side two-man game and from the fourth option in the strong-side corner. Those plays tend to take place on one side of the floor, though, and what we saw Sunday were more centrally placed screens, with shooters stationed on both sides of the primary action.
That's familiar from previous Knicks offenses and from, ya know, the basic sets every other team in the NBA runs all the time. Derek Fisher said it's something he's been working into the Knicks' playbook:
Asked Fish abt heavy use of pick-and-roll sets. Suggested it wasn't necessarily a departure from the triangle, but a progression in the O— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
Let's watch a few such plays, all from late in Sunday's fourth quarter:
Those are sets not unlike what we've seen the Knicks run for Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler in years past, and they're made with slight diversions from the Triangle. In the first two plays, the Knicks pretty much establish the sideline triangle, but the strong-side big lifts out of his station to set a screen:
Very simple, and I think we've seen them do that before.
In the next two plays, the Knicks get a little fancier. There's probably a name for this action, but I don't know it. Jose Calderon brings the ball up looking like he's going to set up the triangle on the left sideline by passing to Tim Hardaway Jr. and filling to the corner as Amar'e Stoudemire slides into the high post:
Instead, Calderon veers right while the off-guard, Pablo Prigioni, crosses to what is now the weak side of the floor. Instead of settling into the left post, Amar'e crosses to the strong side to set a screen while Melo sinks to the corner ...
... and now you've got a lovely, spaced-out pick-and-roll that feeds an Amar'e dunk:
In the latter version of this exact set (final play in the video) Calderon found Melo in the corner for an open three.
Those plays work pretty nicely! And since they resemble the Triangle at their outset, sprinkling them into the offense can use defenders' expectations against them, breaking up the predictability of the system.
Interestingly enough, Melo posited post-game that it's more important right now for the Knicks to drill down the rudiments of the Triangle than to delight in its more comfortable wrinkles. I agree, but I hope that-- depending on the personnel-- these more popular and readily accessible actions are part of Derek Fisher's offense in the long term.