1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Hit-traps-and-peel-switches-the-two-chess-moves-that-end Rockets

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by HP3, Oct 1, 2020.

  1. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    D-rock, hakeem94 and Rudyc281 like this.
  2. Reeko

    Reeko Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    28,881
    Likes Received:
    78,331
    To the casual NBA fan — or even the more engaged, in-tune one — the name Željko Obradović might not exactly roll off the tongue.

    And before you say anything, no, Obradović isn’t the next best prospect to come out of Europe or hasn’t featured on Sam Vecenie’s draft board — he’s 60 years young. But his name carries a ton of weight both in the NBA and overseas — particularly more so abroad.

    Obradović is perhaps the most decorated European coach of all time, garnering 63 distinctions in a career that spans over three decades. In his time manning the sidelines for esteemed foreign clubs such as Panathinaikos, Fenerbahçe, and Real Madrid, Obradović won 11 EuroLeague championships, made 18 EuroLeague Final Four appearances, 16 national championships across the Turkish and Greek leagues, multiple Coach of the Years, a FIBA World Championship, and a host of other awards. In short, Obradović is good and knows his basketball.

    Those who are familiar with Obradović’s work identify his offensive philosophies and heavy pick-and-roll as the biggest staples of his influence. But his defensive acumen is also there, one that stems directly from how he views the game from its offensive lens.

    What we mean by this boils down to spacing and the importance of effectivespacing. The dimensions of FIBA courts are quite similar to their NBA counterparts — NBA courts being the traditional 94 x 50 feet, and FIBA’s being 91.9 x 49.2 feet.

    On the surface, that doesn’t purport itself to be that much of a difference. Tactically, however, it makes a difference. With the NBA court being an eighth of a foot wider than FIBA’s, spacing becomes more important overseas. An eighth of a foot can be the difference between an open shot and a contested one, a good enough window to make a tight pass, or even that much more space to attack open areas and lanes.

    We talk about spacing so much because, in essence, it’s the bane of Houston’s existence, somewhat. First and foremost you must discuss the positives, and James Harden and Russell Westbrook were given as much breathing room as possible to express themselves offensively. Up until the second round, the Rockets had largely benefited from such spacing. Harden led the league in scoring for a third consecutive season, and Westbrook was playing some of the best ball of his career with the small ball push. There was no Clint Capela to muck up driving lanes and shooters understood their role.

    But as much as Houston’s spacing was a weapon, it was also a crutch. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets were able to get by in seven games off the backs of their skill, given the fact that Billy Donovan had adjusted tactically to keep up with his high-octane opponents. Luguentz Dort was a thorn in Harden’s side early on, but the necessary tweaks were made in order to free Harden from Dort’s Haitian vice grip — higher ball screens, inverted pick-and-rolls, quicker direct scoring actions.

    The Lakers, on the other hand, presented a much bigger problem — literally. Initially, the only noticeable tweak Vogel made was removing Dwight Howard and Javale McGee from the rotation, opting to go with Anthony Davis as the lone “big”. That’s where it gets tricky for Houston, and why offensive and defensive tactics go hand in hand.

    It’s a common coaching belief that more skill on the floor makes the floor functionally larger. With Davis as the largest player on the floor — a seven-footer at that with the ball skills of a guard and the grace and power of a forward — their version of ‘small ball’ is actually just skill ball, something the Rockets love to talk about.

    Vogel going small on offense also meant that he could tweak his defensive setup at the same time. Small ball and switching defenses go hand in hand, something seen to an extreme in Houston over the last couple of years.

    That the Rockets’ system involved little ball and player movement only played into the Lakers’ hands. It’s easy to key in on one player and figure out how to slow him down if the other 4 players on the floor aren’t making themselves to be something to pay attention to or worry about. In some ways, Mike D’Antoni and Harden are to blame for this development. Harden’s effectiveness in both pick-and-roll and isolation is so profound that opposing coaches had to come up with something to slow him down.
     
    BigShasta, Invisible Fan, AXG and 7 others like this.
  3. Reeko

    Reeko Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    28,881
    Likes Received:
    78,331
    “Without any ball movement, I personally feel it’s impossible to win a championship,” an anonymous scout told The Athletic. “Individual offense can only carry you so far. If you move the Lakers side to side they struggle on the weak side. But if you continue to look run the same offense they will make non-shooters beat them. They have been really good at not letting James beat them and making non-shooters have to make shots and beat them. When Harden is trapped without a “big” that can put pressure on the defense by rolling it will be impossible to score consistently unless they have one of those unbelievable shooting nights that there capable of.”

    A tremendous amount of praise should be given to Vogel and his staff for the job they did on the defensive end. Casual fans and chunks of #NBATwitter may not be privy to Vogel’s chops on that side of the floor, but his Pacers teams were known for being sharp defensive units, whether it was utilizing center Roy Hibbert in drop coverages (one of the first to do so), or George Hill and Paul George’s length to rotate and cause havoc. The Pacers finished 10th in defensive rating when Vogel first took over in 2011, then would finish 1st, 1st, 8th, and 3rd until he departed following the 2015-16 season. This ability certainly had to factor in LeBron wanting to work with Vogel in Los Angeles.

    Vogel made the simple decision: get the ball out of Harden’s hands. It was howhe did it that was effective.

    Vogel didn’t invent trapping defense. Traps are used for a number of things and can be utilized in a number of spots on the floor. But Vogel didn’t just throw out a traditional trap against Harden and the Rockets. Remember Coach Obradović? He’s largely credited with “hit trapping”, a method Vogel used extensively following Houston’s Game 1 win.

    Hit Trap
    A hit trap, by definition, is “a perimeter double team that generally comes from the loaded/strong side to force the ball out of a primary scorer’s hands in isolation.”

    Right off the bat, we see the problem with Houston’s setup. Take this typical Houston possession in an elimination Game 5. Harden has what he wants, a right-wing isolation on a mismatch in Alex Caruso, and a 3-1 alignment (Robert Covington strongside, three others on the weak side).

    But the Lakers have the upper hand here, and it’s due to Houston’s spacing — or lack thereof. Look where Eric Gordon is, for goodness sake. Gordon is shooting around 32 percent in the bubble on nearly 8 attempts per. The Lakers will take those odds, and will damn sure take them if he’s standing ways beyond the hash.

    Now, look at Westbrook. His lack of shooting makes that left wing functionally smaller so naturally, he’ll look to get to the middle of the floor. But watch his movement. He takes an odd path, running straight into the help. All the Lakers have to do is guard three on three.

    Green “hits” Harden around the 15-second mark, forcing him to attempt a jump pass to Westbrook in the tinniest of windows, with Davis’ 7’6 (!) wingspan, LeBron’s 7’0 wingspan, and Caldwell-Pope’s 6’8 wingspan lurking:
     
  4. Reeko

    Reeko Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    28,881
    Likes Received:
    78,331
    The second play here starts at 12 seconds to show you two things: D’Antoni’s gripes about playing slow and the problem with the over-reliance on Harden’s isolations. In general, the Rockets coaching staff prefer to play faster because not only does it play to Westbrook’s strengths, but also can prevent good defenses from getting set.

    “In general you want to limit the time running your halfcourt offense because that is the only time that a trap can occur,” Rockets “defensive coordinator” Elston Turner told The Athletic.

    According to Houston’s analytics — years and seasons worth of research — this isolation-heavy offense yields the best look possible or at least is the best initiation play. After all, isolations can chain into shots for others if the defense collapses, a stepback three if Harden desires, or a shot at the rim/foul attempt.

    But pay extra close attention to the shot clock. By the time the Rockets finish this action to get Harden the ball at the top of the key, there are just 7 seconds left on the shot clock. Rondo “hits” Harden with 5 seconds left, forcing him to get the ball to Austin Rivers at the free-throw line. Again, the Lakers can defend three on three and it’s up to Rivers to create offense in just under 4 seconds. Covington receives a pass outside his shooting pocket, allowing Rondo’s closeout to take more time off the clock before he can throw up a prayer.

    This approach that the Lakers took with Harden wasn’t only successful during the playoffs. Per Sportradar, Harden turned the ball over on 19.3% of his possessions against the Lakers (regular season and playoffs), the fourth-highest such figure over 30 teams and actually 5.2% higher than his season average.

    Peel Switches
    Naturally, when a team decides to trap — in this case, the Lakers on Harden — a 4-on-3 advantage should occur for the team with the ball. It then becomes a matter of making a quick read and subsequent smart play to punish the defensive gamble. The main reason why Houston should, in theory, have an advantage isn’t necessarily because of the numbers advantage. It’s because a defense then has to readjust to account for gaps, which usually leads to scrambling or collapses.

    “Man, it’s not rocket science and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way,” another scout said. “Harden for the most part gets the ball out of the trap, which is important, and once he does that they are playing 4 on 3. It’s just a matter of them making the right read and making shots.”

    The way Houston saw it, if they were able to exploit the Lakers traps over and over, they would eventually stop or at least revert to a traditional scheme. But that takes a combination of good shooting and capable playmaking. With Danuel House not being available for Game 3 onward, this became a difficult task for Houston to maneuver. His ability to make plays was crucial, especially when Westbrook wasn’t on the floor and considering Westbrook didn’t have a particularly good series.

    In any case, Vogel was already one step ahead. He trusted his lengthy defenders enough to trap over and over again, installing a scheme to account for the numbers disadvantage. It’s referred to as a “peel switch”. It’s a term and scheme that is used more overseas than in the NBA right now, but this is a copycat league. Will Voight, the American head coach of the Angolan National Team is a big fan of it and uses it frequently.

    Essentially, if a situation arises where a defender is beaten off the bounce or cut, they don’t chase the man. Rather, they “peel” away to find the open man, and their original assignment falls to the help defender. The benefit of peel switching is that it avoids having two defenders watching the ball and giving up a 4 versus 3 advantage. The Lakers were able to shift from trapping to peel switching and back so smoothly at times that Houston just couldn’t take advantage.

    When it’s carried out effectively, it looks like a zone. One defender will rotate to protect the rim while the remaining four teammates watch the action behind to snuff out kick out and swing passes.
     
  5. Reeko

    Reeko Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    28,881
    Likes Received:
    78,331
    In the play above, the missed Green layup started with a soft Laker trap, but once Houston is able to reset it gets interesting. Harden doesn’t have the ball therefore the Lakers won’t trap again — a mini-win Rockets win — but both he and Gordon are stationed beyond the hash almost near halfcourt. Watch Green’s eyes here, who’s located at the nail. He senses Westbrook’s kick-out pass to Gordon coming, seeing as he’s the only “open” man (a pass to Tucker is possible but risky).

    The pass is high meaning by the time Gordon comes down with it, Green is already able to recover. It’s somewhat of a hard closeout, so Gordon gets by, but Green “peels” off Gordon and finds Jeff Green who relocated from the middle of the floor to the right wing. Had this been a normal setup with no peeling, Green would have followed Gordon, leaving a wide-open man for an easy catch-and-shoot look. With that valve shut off, Gordon tries to create something for himself against the longer Markieff Morris with the shot clock winding down.

    The beauty of subtle tactics like this is peeling gives you the safety net of mistakes, assuming you recognize them quickly. It appears the Lakers want to hit trap here with Kyle Kuzma at the nail waiting. Kuzma doesn’t need to close out that hard on Harden’s pass to Westbrook, and doing so allows Westbrook to get a first step on him towards the basket. But instead of Kuzma trying to chase Westbrook, he peels onto Rivers and Davis can rotate accordingly. The fact that Houston’s three shooters in this play (Rivers, Tucker, Gordon) didn’t move prior to the drive also helps a peeling defense. Without the threat of body movement or cuts, those defenders don’t have extra work to do.

    “Once the on-ball defender is beat and peels off, it may be better for the player they’re trying to peel onto to cut as they’re high side, creating a 2 on 1 versus the lone help defender,” overseas coach Zico Coronel told The Athletic. “It may force the corner defender to help on the cutter which would give the kick out to the corner 3. The peel switch would need to continue running on to the corner but this would involve them realizing this on the run, and would approximately double the distance of their recovery — they probably don’t get there in time. Challenge would be the angle of the cut and spacing the 2 versus 1 on the interior appropriately.”

    “They move well, they close ground and gaps with good speed,” Coach Turner added. “They went from point A to point B. Anytime you trap, you’re leaving somebody open. And when the ball moves someone has to get there, and they got there pretty quickly.”
     
  6. Reeko

    Reeko Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    28,881
    Likes Received:
    78,331
    there’s some video clips throughout the article I’m not able to copy and put on here so y’all are gonna have to use your imagination lol
     
  7. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    Thanks a lot of this bro, it's much appreciated.
     
    fattz, D-rock, Rudyc281 and 1 other person like this.
  8. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    So basically from what I gather here is that our spacing was just fundamentally not good enough. There plan was to get it out of Harden's hands, the release valve was surprise surprise dude's who coulndt shoot Westbrook and Rivers. They were never a threat to shoot show they had to put the ball on the floor(Rivers in particular has a slow release a little bit). The defender pealed off of one of them whenever they were beat and let Davis handle the interior. To add to this Russ and Rivers were pretty terrible decision makers out of the trap so that made things even worse.

    Yea someone could have cut, but with better shooting on the floor(Maclemore playing more instead of RIvers) their whole trapping scheme fundamentally doesn't work, because they would actually have to close out hard on the initial pass. Dantoni was at fault for some of this no lie.......but man....Westbrook needs to learn how to shoot...and he needs to learn fast.
     
    BigShasta, hakeem94, Rudyc281 and 2 others like this.
  9. So Saith Red

    So Saith Red Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    51
    I hate to be the guy but those descriptions make it sound like the mid range was open. I understand it's not efficient but that's all they gave us.

    Not asking to blow up the system. Just take one or two a quarter to give the defender a second thought.
     
    hakeem94 and HP3 like this.
  10. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    I feel that if it was Chris Paul instead of Westbrook that mid range space if Paul got to the middle of the floor would be wide open OR they would actually have to close out on the extras shooter on the floor and Chris Paul would make them pay either way.
     
  11. Rudyc281

    Rudyc281 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2011
    Messages:
    8,402
    Likes Received:
    5,065
    A legit roll threat would of broken that up real quick.

    Either wide open drive for dunk or kick out to shooters.

    Russ was our zone buster but without the threat of roll threat who was a “big man” lakers where able to sustain that defense.
     
    HP3 likes this.
  12. ThatBoyNick

    ThatBoyNick Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    20,599
    Likes Received:
    25,762
    Winning basketball in the playoffs with Russell Westbrook is just an incredibly difficult challenge.
     
    BigShasta, hakeem94 and HP3 like this.
  13. rockets1995

    rockets1995 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,868
    Likes Received:
    4,968
    Russell Westbrook is a Football Player playing Basketball.

    He should be a Wide Receiver in the NFL.
     
  14. D-rock

    D-rock Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Messages:
    33,139
    Likes Received:
    49,531
    Better shooting overall would have been helpful but the real counter to the Lakers doubles, hit traps and peel switches is more players that can create (for themselves AND others).

    This is why article mentions House, he can put ball on floor and attack rim, pull up middie, pass or shoot 3ball.

    Green was too hesitant and neither RoCo, BMac, Rivers could create for themselves under pressure resulting in turnovers more often than not - never mind PJ.

    I hope Miami gets blown out, maybe then that rumor that Heat still covet Russ will be viable trade option.

    I want Russ for Herro/Robinson/Nunn. May need to throw in a SnT (Olynyk or Leonard) and/or Iggy.
     
    So Saith Red, Patience and HP3 like this.
  15. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    I have to disagree with you my guy, I would rather they trap and we hit the open shooter(or roll man) than rely on Russ or Westbrook to be a release valve. They should just be able to hit and make the defense respect their shots. It would also give Hardne great spacing.
     
    D-rock likes this.
  16. Rocketeer4Life

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,002
    Likes Received:
    651

    Don't you think OKC has tried helping/training Westbrick all these years to shoot? I wouldn't keep your hopes up. He is what he is.
     
  17. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    I dont know what he does in the off season...maybe he just needs to find the right coach.....man idk Im looking for something.
     
    hakeem94 likes this.
  18. tycoonchip

    tycoonchip Tilman has Aids!
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 1999
    Messages:
    6,711
    Likes Received:
    4,917
    That is why it was a stupid trade and we need to trade him!
     
  19. D-rock

    D-rock Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Messages:
    33,139
    Likes Received:
    49,531
    I agree, so everyone around Harden needs to be able to shoot (3P or midrange) or roll to basket or short roll and pass.

    Having players that can create AND shoot, around Harden will deter doubles/traps.

    Need younger more aggressive Jeff Green skilled type players like Domantas Sabonis, Jerami Grant, Christian Wood or Aaron Gordon.

    Or Tyler Herro, Kelly Oubre or Malcolm Brogdon.

    Not as urgent a need for those kind of players in Russ only units because no team is doubling Russ.

    Rockets also need to incorporate more movement in their offense especially when Harden doubled.
     
    #19 D-rock, Oct 2, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
    HP3 likes this.
  20. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    16,570
    Likes Received:
    20,938
    Like I dont need Roco(well maybe he can cut sometimes) and Tucker to move, they can just spot up. I need us to actually be able to run a five out offense without our second best player basically being a 6'3 center. That's not what we brought him here for.

    I agree with your additions though. I just think....like damn yall could just get one pass and shoot. Or have proper spacing so AD cant just camp in the paint, its really frustrating.
     
    D-rock likes this.

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now