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Let's look at the Kristaps Lob: A simple, effective play the Knicks are still mastering

In each of the last two games, the Knicks have needed a quick bucket inbounding in the final seconds. In both cases, they have run the same play, and, in terms of scoring points, have failed, but the play actually looked pretty nice both times, I think, and it's a set Derek Fisher can (and does) use in halfcourt sets throughout a game. Here's what we're talking about:


It's not complicated. On the weak side of the floor, Kristaps Porzingis, who is both a threat to shoot and to be very tall at the rim, receives a backdoor screen. He reads the defense and, in the case of a switch or a mix-up, receives a lob at the rim.

It worked perfectly. The screener, Carmelo Anthony, took Tristan Thompson out of the play (with some low-key moving and holding), and the guy who was forced to switch -- LeBron James -- didn't do that at all. Kristaps could not have been more wide open for that lob, but the pass from Lance Thomas went pretty much the only place it couldn't go -- the side of the rim. That's a fluke away from being a very easy two points.

The game prior, against Charlotte, Porzingis read the defense differently in a similar quick-bucket set:

Cody Zeller sniffed out the lob and buried himself way in the paint, out of range where Melo would bother to screen him. Identifying that the lob alley was closed, Kristaps just popped up to the top of the key to take a wide-open three that would have won the Knicks the game if Charlotte's clocks weren't run by Michael Jordan's chapter of the Illuminati.

Still, those are two well-read, well executed versions of the same play in rushed, last-second situations. It's a cool set, and it's thankfully not one the Knicks reserve for the ends of games. Here it is in a regular, mid-game halfcourt set:

Again, it works nicely right up until Jose Calderon throws his lob at the ceiling. Here it is against the Cavaliers:

Melo just missed that one. For that second Kevin Love was caught by Calderon's screen and scrambling, Kristaps had an easy lane to catch the lob and only shitty little Mo Williams around to deter him:


He just swung the ball to Calderon instead, but the option was very much there.

Finally, since you've put up with enough little screw-ups, here's the play working wonderfully through one of its secondary options:

Here you see more variety in simplicity, as dictated by the defense picking its poison. Williams ditches the screener, Calderon, to contain the lob, while Love fights over the screen to do the same (with a nice little jersey-grab as well). Calderon continues to the top of the arc after the screen, and he's wide open:

lob doublecover

This underscores the fact that the screener in this set must also be a shooter. You don't want Robin Lopez setting that screen, because it's an easy decision to collapse on Kristaps's dive without threat of giving up an open three. Derek Fisher needs to figure out who his best passer is here, but he's got the right personnel for the action itself.

Basic, but elegant, and full of options. Defenses will get better at scouting and contesting it, but the Knicks will improve, too, at making those quick reads and getting the passes on point. Good stuff!