This concludes our look at the sets and actions integral to each NBA playoff team's success. Read about the Knicks, Celtics, Heat, and Bucks here; read about the Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors here.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams and the UCLA cut
Brook Lopez has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the block this season, but it’s still Williams who makes this team go. Thanks to improved health, the Nets star guard has been on a tear lately and has transformed the Nets from first-round fodder to an intriguing wild card in the Eastern Conference playoffs. To slow Williams down in the coming weeks, opponents will have to defend an action dating all the way back to the days of John Wooden — the UCLA cut.
The UCLA cut is a simple, straightforward movement that involves the ball handler throwing an entry pass to the wing before making a vertical cut off a big man waiting at the elbow. Though it seems relatively simple, this can be incredibly tough to defend on the NBA level because of the sheer talent of a player like Williams. The Brooklyn guard is adept at taking advantage of any defender who doesn’t display solid technique while navigating the screen.
When David Stern’s magnanimous grin flashed across an LED jumbotron in metro Manila Monday afternoon to announce that “the NBA will play its first preseason game in the Philippines this October,” a pulse of enthusiasm shot through Filipino communities from Mandaluyong City to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Daly City, California. Basketball has been the most popular team sport in the Philippines for generations, and it’s one of a handful of nations, alongside Lithuania and a few others, where the game is part of the bedrock of local culture. Yet even though the Philippines is a place where commuters regularly ride in multicabs and jeepneys decorated with NBA team logos and Jerry West’s iconic silhouette, the league has never brought its product there. For many Filipinos, the news that the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers will play a preseason game October 10 at Metro Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena was a proud moment. Finally, the NBA — the league that served as a model for the Philippines’ 38-year-old PBA — will recognize Filipinos’ love for the game. For the first time since eight players from the 1979 Washington Bullets visited Manila to play a PBA all-star selection (and Dave Corzine almost got into a fistfight with a local legend, 6-foot-1 shooting guard Atoy “the Fortune Cookie” Co), real NBA teams would be playing on Philippine soil.
James Harden was delightful on Wednesday night in his Houston debut, looking every bit like a quirky max-level wing player for a pick-and-roll era of NBA basketball. And in a bit of fun NBA plagiarism, the Rockets ripped off one of my absolute favorite Harden-centric Oklahoma City plays — Harden skipping a pass from the left sideline, all the way across the court, to a shooter hiding behind a surprise back screen from a big man. Here’s Carlos Delfino nailing a 3 out of this action in the fourth quarter:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports last night.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, Michigan took advantage of several Virginia Tech errors to win the Sugar Bowl 23-20 in overtime. Michigan administrators were disappointed to learn that they wouldn't receive an actual bowl of sugar for the win, since they thought it might attract some of the flies away from the lingering stench of Rich Rodriguez.