Chris Finch on Howard, late game isolations

Via Jason Friedman

JCF: To that end, I think there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding how the offense works and is supposed to run. Last year, for example, some criticized the late-game offense because it had a tendency to get too iso-heavy and used that as an indictment of what happens when you don’t have an encyclopedic playbook to draw from when the game slows down as it so often does late in games or in the playoffs.

CF: I would counter this by saying that our late-game situation was the antithesis of our offense; it wasn’t a byproduct of our offense. We actually abandoned our offense too much to go to late-game isolation situations and you see what happens when you have players in isolation or in simple NBA sets where the defenses, which are at heightened intensity at that point in time, are locked-in on game plan and taking away what you do best: they’re forcing your best players into hard shots and then when you have other players who aren’t able to create their own offense the way a James Harden can, it becomes even tougher.

So the key for us this season is staying with that fluidity later, keeping that unpredictability as well as mixing in sets that emphasize Dwight’s touches, James’ touches, and whoever else has it going that we feel has a mismatch or is playing well in that game.

Definitive proof that the late game hero-ball was not the call from the bench.  Readers might recall I once described one of those instances as “an utter disgrace.”

We have basically a dozen different ways to get the ball inside within the flow of our offense, and we’re hitting our guards daily with the message that we can do this two ways: we can slow the game down, call a ton of plays and get Dwight his touches, or you guys can figure out how to get him involved in the flow. And to a man they all want to get it to him in the flow because that’s how we’re so used to playing. So now we’ve got to get Dwight comfortable with that, too; understanding the things that he can do, and that A leads to B, B leads to C, and then C means he gets the ball.

Another interesting nugget the manifestation of which will be fascinating to watch.  I recall an adjustment made by Van Gundy whereby, rather than beginning plays with Yao Ming, the Chinese center was fed as the end result of previous misdirection.  It made the latter seem virtually unguardable.

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About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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