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How They Drew It Up: Mike Miller’s first game

It’s amazing what a competent coach can do

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’m just going to get right into the article because I’m far too excited about Mike Miller. It’s amazing what a competent coach can do for a team. Let’s begin!

Morris yields the Hammer

I jumped from my Joybird sofa (please sponsor The Posting & Toasting Show so Shwin and I can get free sofas, Joybird) when I saw this play to start the game. The Knicks actually ran Hammer?!?!

For those not familiar with the action, this is a pet play of the San Antonio Spurs. The ball-handler on the strong side drives to the rim and attacks towards the baseline. On the weak side, the player in the post sets a screen for the player on the wing to free him up in the corner. Frank’s pass is a little behind Morris, which allows the defender to recover to stop the three. But Morris pump fakes and gets a clean, open midrange shot. I think the last time I have seen the Knicks run this action was when Steve Novak was on the team.

You can’t run this play all the time, unfortunately, because the defense can adjust real quick. It’s best used sparingly, and when it is executed well, it’s a devastating play. Not gonna lie, Mike Miller effectively won me over right then and there because Fizdale would never do anything this tactical.

Pistol on my side, you don’t want to hear that thang talk

First Hammer, now a variation of Pistol?!? Who is this mad genius of a coach?! Sarcasm, obviously, because all Miller is doing is what any reasonable coach would do with this roster.

This action may be called something else, but it functions in the same way as Pistol does in transition since Pistol is a transition play. The ball-handler passes it to the wing as he crosses half court and then sprints towards the corner. It’s not completely dissimilar from the most known automatic of the Triangle, but the big is down in the post and the ball-handler’s pass comes a bit later.

In any event, Robinson actually makes contact on a screen (shocking, I know), which allows Barrett to operate with some space, and the duo connect for the magnificent alley-oop. Just look at how much better the spacing is on this play compared to anything, really, the Knicks have done this year. Not only does Barrett have Robinson as the vertical option, he also has both Ntilikina and Randle as options for either a three-point shot or to kick out and re-attack the collapsed defense. This brings tears to my eyes, because it’s simply beautiful basketball.

Revenge of the Triangle

Okay, so technically this isn’t the Triangle, but the spacing and the play is certainly inspired by it.

Frank posts up the smaller Holiday, but neither Gibson nor Barrett have a good angle to get it into Ntilikina. I suspect that this post-up served more as a decoy, but I can’t be 100 percent certain. Anywell, when Gibson passes to Barrett, he clears out from the wing and to the left side dunker spot, Ntilikina moves to the corner, and Barrett attacks at the perfect time. Again, look at spacing. It’s f--king amazing. Barrett draws the foul, something he is quite good at. Another play I just absolutely love, and something Fizdale would never do.

Revenge of the Triangle redux

Alright, this is actually the Triangle... sort of. It’s basically the offense if they made some shortcuts. It’s the stuff I wanted Jeff Hornacek to do, but never really did it. Run actions in the spirit of the offense, not the offense to the T on every single possession.

Traditionally, when Barrett would bring the ball up, Ntilikina would be on the right wing to receive the pass. Barrett would cut to the corner and Ntilikina would give Gibson the ball in the post. Both Ntilikina and Barrett would cut towards the rim to receive a potential back-door pass and if that’s not there, they would have screened for Morris so he can receive the pass from Gibson at the foul line. From there, Randle would attack the rim from top of the key and either have a layup or pass the ball to Barrett in the corner. This is Triangle 101.

Instead of performing all the steps of the first Triangle automatic, Barrett and Gibson try to get an early clock pick-and-roll on the strong side. Myles Turner sealed up the driving lane so Barrett had no where to go. Just like when the entry pass isn’t available in the Triangle, the wing player swings it to the play at the top of the key to run a two-man game, which is exactly what Randle and Morris do. TJ Warren this time takes away Morris’ driving lane, so Morris swings it back to Barrett and RJ attacks hard. He clearly got fouled but made the tough layup anyways.

This right here folks is how you “modernize” the Triangle while still adhering to all its fundamental principles.

Payton post-up

I love it when point guards post up, especially when they have some size on their defender. Payton posts up TJ McConnell on what eventually became the weak side and it leads to an easy triple for Dotson.

This is far from revolutionary stuff. It’s quite simple, actually. But what Miller managed to do without a full practice is change the spacing and player position on offense to open up better passing angles and driving lanes for players. Dotson is in the perfect position to receive a pass when his defender hedges onto Payton, and Payton delivers the pass at the perfect time. Basketball really isn’t complex when you execute basic actions that have worked for decades across levels.

If you want to read some more on what Miller is more than likely doing and going to do on offense, check out this article my cohost Ashwin Ramnath shared with the P&T team in our Slack. It’s about Rick Adelman and the Corner Offense. Obviously read the whole thing because this was Prime Kevin Arnovitz, but here are some import snippets from the article:

At its most basic, a corner set will feature three players on the strong side -- at the wing, corner and a big man at the elbow who has the instincts and skills to facilitate offense on the fly, players such as Chris Webber, Vlade Divac or Brad Miller. Offensive players size up the defense, then choose an action that best exploits what the defense surrenders. In short, read and react.

A lot of cool stuff can materialize with the corner, and most playbooks around the league include a couple of “C-sets” with multiple triggers. Ultimately, the collective instincts of the five-man unit drive the offense, and each player on the floor is empowered to do something over the course of the possession to test the defense and keep it guessing. The ball moves and, when run correctly, the offense never starts and rarely finishes with isolation basketball. The corner doesn’t offer the level of structure found in the Triangle or the continuity offense in San Antonio, but it’s easier to pick up and allows players to be a bit more creative — which can be both an asset and a drawback.

This stuff sounds familiar, right? Even looks familiar, too. Miller appear to have the same philosophy as coaches like Adelman, Pop, and Phil. I sure hope this type of stuff becomes the norm for the remainder of the year because this type of offense is exactly what this team needs to be competitive.