clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Film Study: Nets beat Knicks because they executed the game plan

After Friday's game, Cindy Westphal tweeted the whiteboard where her husband and the rest of the staff laid out the Nets game plan for the Knicks. Reed Wallach looks at the plan and how the Nets followed it.

Cindy Westphal via Twitter

When NBA coaches aren't on the sideline taking notes, shouting out defensive coverages or helping their players exploit a weakness, they are are most likely breaking down film. Ask their wives!

Following the Nets loss to the Timberwolves Wednesday night, Paul Westphal's wife, Cindy, tweeted that her husband and assistant coach John Welch were staying in Brooklyn overnight to break down film and prepare the Nets for the team's game Friday night against the Knicks. Here was what their hard work --and that of the whole staff-- amounted to.

Mrs. Westphal is right, the Nets executed the coaches' game plan perfectly. Some stats that stick out from the box score: the Knicks turn the ball over a little more than 14 times per game this season, good for tenth best in the league. The Nets are not a great team at forcing turnovers, they only force about 12 turnovers per game. While it isn't a huge difference, the Nets forced the Knicks into 15 team turnovers, and definitely made the Knicks "feel us" as the coaching staff put it by putting pressure on the ball.

Also on the team's checklist was "to make them [Knicks] settle." Oh boy, did the Knicks settle.

Knicks shot chart

The Knicks took 33 of their 90 shots outside of the paint and inside of the three-point line, one shot less than they did at the rim. The Nets did a fantastic job of closing driving lanes and forcing the Knicks into fifteen footers. The Knicks shot 11-of-33 on those mid-range jumpers. Job well done, Brooklyn. It must be noted that the Nets did take mid-range jumpers more than any other shot Friday night as well, but the team also took 23% of their shots from beyond the arc and nearly 26% of their shots at the rim to go with 28% of their shots coming from the middle of the floor. A much more balanced attack.

The Nets were visually into the game and did not give up anything on the defensive end.

This is a common triangle play, called Triangle Post (as written on the white board above). Simple triangle action here, but the wrinkle is when Carmelo Anthony sets a cross screen for Jason Smith. Johnson knows that pick is coming and remains in the middle of the floor, cutting off any entry pass from Samuel Dalembert to Smith. After Smith gets the ball and the Nets close in on him, Dalembert is forced to take a mid-range jumper, something he is not so fond of (for his career, 19% of his shots come from 10-16 feet, per Basketball Reference). Dalembert bricks it and the Nets are off the other way.

The Nets recognized triangle plays from the onset of the possession throughout the contest. Such as here:

Here, the play Triangle Flash consists of the opposite ball forward to come up and receive the ball at the foul line extended. From there, any sort of action can happen, either a hand off to the off-ball guard (in this case Tim Hardaway Jr.) or in the case of this play, a double screen for Melo. After THJ cuts through, the double screen for Melo goes into motion. Johnson can not get through the two well set screens from the Knicks, and Mason Plumlee recognizes that. The Team USA center can match up with Melo considering his freakish athleticism and does so. Melo can't take Plumlee of the dribble because Johnson and Brook Lopez have one foot in the paint ready to cut off a driving lane. Anthony has to settle for a notoriously inefficient 18-footer which is contested by the outstretched arm of the seven-foot Plumlee. Another miss.

That same play, Triangle Flash, can be used with more of a focus on the forward who gets the ball in the post, namely, Carmelo Anthony.

Unlike the play above this one, the weak side forward who gets the ball is likely going to take the shot, but that does not mean the Nets should let their guard down. It is nearly identical action as the prior play, and Bogdanovic does a stellar job once again of making sure the second-year pro, Hardaway Jr., does not get the ball driving towards the rim. The Nets clog the middle of the floor—Deron Williams literally stands under the basket when covering J.R. Smith to make sure Melo gets no real estate in the paint—and Mirza Teletovic forces Melo into yet another contested mid-range J.

The Nets not only showed last night that they are the better team in New York, but that they listen to their coaches and pay attention to the fine details. Coach Westphal and Welch (because they lived farthest away) stayed up all night to put together this game plan and the Nets went out and flat out executed it. If Brooklyn brings this intensity and focus to every single game, the sky is the limit.

So thank you, Mrs. Westphal!