Did you expect this kind of a turnaround in the Finals after the comfortable 2-0 lead by the Suns?
Well, I for sure didn’t. So I took some time to figure out what goes wrong for Chris Paul & Co.
Knowing what I know now, I cannot unsee what the problem is.
And I want to share it with you before the tip-off of a possibly decisive Game 6 tonight.
People praised Phoenix throughout the season and play-offs for their style of play. Their ball movement even provoked some comparisions with the 2014 San Antonio Spurs.
By definition, the use of the Corner 3 guarantees an optimal spacing of the court. I like to call it “the canary 🐤 in the coalmine” for an efficient offense. Few corner threes indicates a problem in the floor balance.
The Corner 3 has been an important ingredient part to the success for the Suns this year.
Well, one thing is for sure. Phoenix’ canary 🐤 has been lying dead in his cage for three game in a row now…
Let’s go over the numbers first to make my case.
Afterwards I’ll be specific on what the Suns need to change in order to turn the tide.
The Phoenix Suns ranked #4 in the NBA for attempts from the corner during the regular season. Furthermore, they averaged 9.2 corner attempts in the series against the Lakers, 10.3 versus the Nuggets and 8.7 vs the Clippers.
Over the two home wins in the Finals, they shot 12/21 from the corner.
But in the last three losses they combined for … 3/12. Four corner ball attempts a game is less than half of their average of the season (!!!).
It points out the lack of ball movement and it proves that they didn’t challenge the defense of the Bucks to stretch out.
Enough numbers for now. Because I don’t believe in the value of analytics when it’s nothing more than the nerdy maths… 🤓
“Jacking up as many threes from the corner as possible” won’t be the winning gameplan for game 6, right?
But more than ever, I’m convinced of the value of combining the best of the two worlds of analytics and coaching:
WHAT‘s going wrong in these last games for Phoenix? WHY is this? And HOW can they correct it?
1. Less corner threes in transition
Most analysts agree that the Suns have to make it a half-court ball game against these Bucks in order to win it. And Milwaukee is taking care of the ball extremely well, which doesn’t help the Suns to create easy transition plays. So fair enough, no worries here. They give up a couple of shots for a higher goal.
2. Not agressive enough towards the basket
The best quality corner three is the one assisted from within the paint. After a penetration or hard dive/cut. It’s clear that the Suns haven’t been agressive enough towards the basket during game 3-4-5. The fact that the Bucks stepped 26 times more to the FT line over these games confirms this.
3. Play calling!
In several games and series the Spain Pick-N-Roll (aka “stack PNR“) has been Phoenix’ bread-and-butter. Basically it’s a three-man action in the middle of the court with one shooter (Bridges, Crowder, Johnson, …) in each corner. It works extremely well when Chris Paul uses the middle PNR of Ayton, who gets on his turn a backscreen from Booker.
The addition of a third player in the PNR complicates the defense. On top of that, there’s no “two side” on the court from which the roller can be tagged. Any help from the corner defender will be punished by a corner three, like in the video below 👇
I can see it work out extremy well against these Bucks. For sure when Brooke Lopez is on the court.
But I wonder why they run it so rarely…
If you ask me, this play could be the gamechanger in these Finals. Milk it dry.
I’ll be analyzing also Game 6 for Eleven Sports on Belgian TV. And I know I’ll be waiting for that corner ball by Bridges! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your take on these Finals!
Oh, and one more thing before I leave you to it.
I’m excited to announce a new partnership with Instat, the magnificient tool that allows me to slice down these Finals like it should be done. I’ll tell you more on our collaboration next time.
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