What happens when you’re a team that doesn’t have a go-to scorer?
Do the next best thing — have a go-to play.
It’s true that the Orlando Magic’s preferred crunch time lineup — Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vucevic — is one of the most efficient five-man units in the NBA this season, averaging 115.6 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com’s stats database (minimum 50 total minutes), which ranks seventh in the league.
But this is a classic case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Individually, Nelson, Redick, Afflalo, Davis, and Vucevic aren’t effective go-to scorers. Redick has historically proven to be the best and most efficient crunch time scorer out of the group, yet no one would ever mistake him for being Ray Allen either. Redick doesn’t have the pedigree.
In actuality, what makes the Magic effective in crunch time is their ability to collectively execute pet plays with consistency to circumvent the problem of not having a go-to scorer. And there is one pet play in particular, ran by teams like the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, that Orlando has heavily relied on this season when they’ve needed a bucket in crunch time. In fact, it was recently used in the Magic’s 102-94 win against the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
What makes this play so effective is the number of variations to it.
The play begins in a 1-4 set. Nikola Vucevic and Glen Davis are at the elbows, while Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick are at the wings. Redick initiates the play by making an entry pass to Davis in the high post.
Redick runs to the opposite wing and sets a screen on Jarrett Jack (Afflalo’s defender). Afflalo takes the hand-off pass from Davis. This is where the Warriors’ defense begins to break down. Draymond Green (Davis’ defender) switches onto Afflalo, while Jack switches onto Davis.
While Afflalo has the ball at the top of the key, Davis sets a screen on Klay Thompson (Redick’s defender). Redick curls around the screen and receives the pass from Afflalo.
As Redick receives the pass, Davis slips the screen.
This is where having the right personnel makes this play deadly. Because Redick is one of the premiere shooters in the NBA, if Jack cheats up on him as Thompson fights through the screen, Redick can dump the ball off to Davis for a layup or dunk. If Jack sags back, Redick can take an open elbow jumper.
In this case, Jack cheats up on Redick, who proceeds to make a pocket pass to Davis. Festus Ezeli tries to recover from the weak-side and help but he’s too late, as Davis draws the foul, makes the layup, and converts the and-one opportunity.
It’s hard not to imagine how devastating this play would be if Dwight Howard was involved as opposed to Davis.
Orlando has run a variation of this play time and again throughout the season, particularly in crunch time when they’re in need of a basket. It’s almost always successful (as long as there’s proper spacing) because Redick almost always makes the right read. That and teams generally struggle to defend it properly.
The Warriors were a prime example of that on Monday.