Harper: Film analysis of Kevin Love's game-tying 3-pointer, forcing OT
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MINNEAPLOLIS -- Kevin Love is the superstar for the Minnesota Timberwolves. While some people may question whether or not he's a true superstar in the NBA, that's the role he fills on the team. He gets paid the most out of any player. He gets the ball thrown into him more than any player. He is the Wolves.
When you need a bucket to tie the game and avoid an embarrassing loss, you call upon your star player and hope he finds a way to execute the play. That's what the Wolves needed when they were down three with 12.5 seconds left after leading by 17 points at one point in the season opener. The Orlando Magic had clawed back into the game and taken a three-point lead.
A loss wouldn't bury the Wolves by any means. They'd feel sorry for themselves, head to dinner, and go to practice the next day looking to figure out what went wrong. Even with the victory, the Wolves will head into practice on Thursday and try to figure out how to correct the bad parts of the game. That's what you do in the NBA if you want to be a good team.
Needing a big 3-point shot from their star player, the Wolves called upon an old play they used two seasons ago in Los Angeles. Against the Clippers in the 2011-12 season, the Wolves were tied 98-98 with 1.5 seconds and in possession of the ball. They ran this play to get Love the game-winning opportunity.
That was the ESPN game that helped put the league on notice that the Wolves were becoming a pretty good team. Unfortunately, injuries derailed that season and the next. Here's the play the Wolves ran Wednesday night when they had to make a 3-pointer to tie the game.
These two plays look a little similar, right? Let's break them down and see just how the Wolves managed to execute both plays.
In the play against the Clippers, the Wolves bunched Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Wayne Ellington together around the free throw line. They had Derrick Williams curling around the stack and toward the lane.
The Wolves did a similar thing with Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic. They stacked all three players around the foul line but it was closer to the inbound passer. Instead of running the curl action with Kevin Martin toward the passer, they ran it away to clear the area they wanted Love catching the ball.
Because Williams was able to get in front of Griffin on the curl and made his defender chase him, DeAndre Jordan had to keep an eye on protecting the rim. As this happened, Love darted between Ellington and Rubio as they converged to screen Jordan, who was supposed to be guarding Love.
With Pekovic and Brewer squeezing in to provide the screen for Love to pop out, he's able to flash to the left wing where he receives the pass. You can picture the two screens essentially acting as closing elevator doors to keep the defenders out. You can see a variation of this screening concept utilized beautifully by the Golden State Warriors.
There is so much room for Kevin Love to fire off this uncontested, wide-open shot. Ellington and Rubio have clogged up the free throw line area and Jordan is now resigned to fighting past his teammates in addition to the Wolves' screeners. There's so much room there that you could probably park that KIA Blake Griffin jumped over in the dunk contest.
See? It's pretty much a perfect fit.
Once again, Love has an incredible amount of space to get the shot off without having to worry about the defense actually contesting it. It doesn't hurt that Pekovic is setting a pretty aggressive, probably illegal screen on the Orlando defender desperate to get to Love.
The result is a game-tying 3-pointer that Love is supposed to take in these situations. Minnesota practiced this play on Tuesday, trying to figure out a way to perfect the execution with the action moving away from the ball, finding the tight area for Love to slip through, and getting him to knock down the shot. Love finished the game with 31 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists, while showing leadership with this team.
Ideally, the Wolves wouldn't need it to come to this when playing a team like the Magic (a team that is clearly looking toward the draft instead of fighting for the playoffs). However, it's nice to know the Wolves have it at their disposal when they need a big shot and they have the player to take that shot.