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2015 NBA Playoffs: Hawks' defensive miscommunication led to Paul Pierce game winner

While there is a valid argument over what Hawks' personnel was on the floor for the final possession of Game 3, it was a defensive miscommunication that gave Paul Pierce enough room to make the final shot.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the hoopla over who was or wasn't in the game and the reasoning for it was an apparent miscommunication by the Hawks defensively on the final possession of Game 3 which led to Paul Pierce's buzzer beater. Kyle Korver began the possession matched up against Pierce, but an ill-timed switch by Dennis Schröder gave Pierce just enough room to bury the game winner and thus bury the Hawks.

Here is the initial setup for the final possession:

Pierce 1

As you can see, Korver is matched on Pierce in the corner while Schröder is guarding Will Bynum. As the ball is entered, Bynum goes to set a down screen to free Pierce.

Pierce 2

Korver is engaged with Pierce and tries to fight through the screen. Schröder on the other hand is clearly playing the switch. As Pierce clears the screen, Korver fights through and pursues. Notice how far he goes before seeing that Dennis has switched and then retreating to Bynum.


Here is a look at the play in real time. Keep your eyes on how Schröder plays Bynum's screen and how far Korver goes once he clears the screen.

The Hawks list Schröder at 6-1 and Korver at 6-7. Would those six inches have made a difference on Pierce's attempt? Maybe or maybe not. Wouldn't have mattered much had DeMarre Carroll been in the game if Schröder was going to switch that screen at all costs.

We used to make fun of switching around these parts a few years back when Mike Woodson employed the practice to no end. It has become a staple in today's NBA and opponents often use the strategy to combat Atlanta's ball movement. The Hawks switch a lot also, but it requires good communication and an understanding of the situation by the players involved. This was not an example of a perfectly executed switch. To Schröder's credit he did a good job of defending the shot, but a little more length might have been the difference.

As Korver and Schröder walked off the floor it appeared that they were talking about the final play. I'm no lip reader and certainly can't say for certain, but I'm guessing that Korver wasn't looking for a switch in this situation.