Friday, December 11, 2009

Monty Williams Calls In The Sleeper

We saw Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge return to their old ways Wednesday night. LA handled the work early, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and B.Roy closed the game, dropping in 10 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter. And both Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla deserve some kudos for scoring in double figures.

But one of the names singled out for praise by assistant coach Dean Demopoulos and the players was Monty Williams for a call he made late in the game.

The Pacers called a timeout down 89-85 with 5:30 to play, giving Williams a chance to dial up a “sleeper” play that would turn out to be the dagger.

Luther Head misses a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, with LaMarcus Aldridge grabbing the rebound. Aldridge passes to Blake (probably by force of habit since the upcoming play requires Blake to play off the ball) who then passes off to Miller. Blake jogs lackadaisically (by design) to the left corner and puts his hands on his knees, giving the impression that he’s taking this play off. The defender, AJ Price, either by design or instinct, opts to shade into the lane rather than sticking to Blake, presumably to help defend should Roy or Miller drive to the basket. He’s paying much more attention to the ball than his man.

Miller dribbles up to the top of the three-point line and passes off to Roy, just inside the three-point line, before cutting straight down the lane, taking his defender with him. Aldridge sets a pick for Roy, who had scored the last six points for the Blazers. Given the time and situation, it’s easy to understand why the Pacers would think the play would be for Roy, something assistant coach Williams realized during the timeout. Dante Jones is playing Roy tight, farther supporting the notion that the Pacers are expecting the play is designed for Roy. But they’re wrong.

Blake, who is still playing opossum with his hands on his knees, cuts to the top of the three-point line as Joel Przybilla sets a pick. The pick, along with the late jump Price gets because of his spying on Roy, gives Blake more than enough time to get open. Roy delivers the ball to Blake right as he’s squaring up to the rim unguarded. Blake takes and makes a three in rhythm, putting the Blazers up eight while basically crushing any chance of an Indiana comeback. The three also happens to be Blake’s 373rd as a Trail Blazer, tying him with Rasheed Wallace for fifth in franchise history in made three-pointers.

A great play call on many levels. It got Blake an open three, something he needed considering the mini-slump he had been in (Blake was 4-for-15 from three prior to Wednesday night’s game). It made the Pacers stay honest defense for the remainder of the game when they might have tried keying on Roy. And most importantly, it helped secure a key win on the road for a team that desperately needed something to feel good about.

Blake had to make the shot, Przybilla had to set the pick and Roy had to perform well enough throughout the entire game to draw the necessary attention which would allow the play to work, but it was Williams’ intelligence and intuition which gave him the foresight to make the call.

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