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Bubble observations: Bucks use favorite Hawks play design in crunch time

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks took the floor in the early game in the NBA’s Orlando bubble. In addition to the afternoon time slot, this was not a normal game from a roster standpoint.

To be fair, none of Brooklyn’s game right now qualify as normal without Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie (not to mention no Kevin Durant), but Bucks head coach (and former Hawks head coach) Mike Budenholzer decided to not play a number of his best players down the stretch. Finally, Brooklyn elected to sit three healthy starters — Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert — and the Nets were 19-point underdogs at tip-off.

As it turns out, however, the Bucks had the ball in the final seconds of regulation and they needed a three-point bucket to attempt to tie the game. On cue, Budenholzer turned to a very familiar play.

It is a high pick and roll designed to free up a shot for Kyle Korver (also of Hawks fame) for a three-point attempt in the right corner. The Nets defended it well, and Milwaukee’s unit had a hard time improvising. In fact, they didn’t even get a shot up.

This is also a favorite after timeout (ATO) play of Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

To be fair, it is a favorite ATO across the league, and the day before all of this transpired, I tweeted it about here.

Still, I’m going to break it down here, in part because I don’t have a character limit.

The play above is an example of Atlanta running it successfully. To be fair, though, it’s not a final possession in a late game scenario against a defense playing to limit any three-point attempt.

On this possession, Kevin Huerter and John Collins operate in the pick and roll. De’Andre Hunter gets a (very liberal) screen from Vince Carter and clearly benefits from it. The rookie forward knocks down the corner three-pointer.

This is exactly how the Bucks hoped their play would go when Budenholzer drew it up on Tuesday.

Have the Hawks ever gone to this late in a game when they needed three points? Well, it’s not a do-or-die situation, but let’s take a look at a variation Atlanta ran in a somewhat similar situation, trying to play catch-up against the Miami Heat earlier this year.

The set up is the same, albeit not as close to the sideline. Collins and Trae Young execute the pick and roll portion of the action. Hunter and Cam Reddish work to set up the screen action for the shot from the corner.

In this case, however, Hunter slips the screen action up toward the three-point break, just as Young attacks the Miami defense with dribble penetration. The timing is executed perfectly, as Hunter eases up the floor as Jae Crower helps on the interior on Young’s drive.

The beauty of this design is that it offers two viable shooters from the arc instead of just one. Of course, not every team construct has a point guard that can break down a defense in the way that Young can.

As he did in the previous example, Hunter also knocks down the three-point attempt in the play above.

Even in the absence of the Hawks participation in Orlando, it is fun to see what one can find that can be traced back to what they do from time-to-time in terms of Xs and Os.

As the bubble continues, I’m going to try share observations such as this from time to time.