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The Spurs stopped the Knicks from beating fronts and made Robin Lopez work

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After the Knicks played the Heat, we looked at how New York beat undersized Miami defenders fronting their big gentlemen in the post.

Instead of trying to lob the ball over the top of the front, the Knicks found Robin Lopez flashing to the middle of the floor, and Lopez redirected the ball *around* the front to find Kristaps Porzingis.

You and I both predicted teams would adapt to counteract this, and hey, look at that, the Knicks happened to play a very good defense in their very next game. The Spurs had Lopez's man sag way off him when he flashed to the middle, supplementing the front to make sure that guy (pretty much always Porzingis or Carmelo Anthony) absolutely could not receive an entry pass. Let's watch how Lopez dealt with that on three different occasions:

First of all, it's nice that the Knicks actively developed those mismatches with quick pick-and-roll.

Most of all, it was fun to watch Lopez explore. With several feet of open paint in front of him, he tried a few different approaches.

1. Just shoot a mid-range jumper


Result: Nope

Lopez is a bad mid-range shooter. That's the shot the Spurs wanted.

2. Try to pass over the top


Result: Nope

Tim Duncan, helping way off his man, easily prevented Porzingis from catching the ball. It happened to carom back out to Lopez, who found a way to score, but this still wasn't well executed.

3. Put the ball on the floor


Result: Yup

Lopez started by head-faking at Arron Afflalo on the far wing, which made Danny Green scramble back to prevent that kick-out. Smart! Lopez then executed something he's done with increasing success: dribble, spin, and finish lefty. It's a lovely way to punish Duncan for sagging.

So, to run that all back: The Knicks adapted to fronting defenses by using Lopez as a sort of high-low relay man, a standard Triangle action. The Spurs adapted to that adaptation as expected, by helping way off Lopez to prevent the entry pass. Lopez adapted to the adaptation to the adaptation in a variety of ways, with mixed success. The jumper's definitely not a good choice. Passing between two defenders can work, but it's hard. The more Lopez gets comfortable with his own moves, the more that final choice becomes the favorite.

Of course, there are other options. Lopez can (and did) kick to the far wing or back up to the top if one of the perimeter defenders helps too hard. And, depending on the lineup, that could be Porzingis instead of Lopez flashing to the middle. Do this with Kristaps and suddenly teams can't afford to sag and allow a mid-range jumper.

This is all fun. The more we watch, the more it becomes clear that the Knicks have an observant coach and some competent team players. When they're organized on offense, teams really have to scheme to defend them, and it's cool to watch that chess match unfold, even when it doesn't turn in New York's favor.