In the final two minutes of the victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night, Brian Shaw called a timeout and drew up three consecutive plays out of the "Hawk" set. I wrote about this set in my column on Tuesday and how I liked when the Nuggets ran the play in bunches, as they did against the Toronto Raptors, getting different looks on each play. The Nuggets would use that same strategy in the final two minutes of the game Friday night against the Clippers, only this time Shaw added a few neat new wrinkles that caught the Clippers off guard. This video breakdown explains how the Nuggets used their timeout to draw up three different plays using the same set and how each play was a setup for the play after it.
Hawk has been around for a long time. Hubie Brown invented the Hawk offense in the 1970's when he was coaching in the ABA. The offense was popularized when it became the base set of the Atlanta Hawks. Almost every team runs some variation of Hawk and the Nuggets have been using it as one of their primary offensive structures over the last few weeks.
Late game execution is a large part of what separates good teams from great ones in the NBA and the Nuggets have struggled mightily in recent late game situations. Tonight's game plan and execution is a big move in the right direction. The Nuggets also ran one pick and roll set in the final minute, a set that has been a death wish for them late in games throughout the year. However, the Nuggets added a few subtle but important changes that made the possession effective. First, they used Wilson Chandler as the screener which is smart because he is able to get open off of the screen if his man helps out on the ball handler.
Secondly, they had Chandler disguise the direction of the screen by jumping to Ty Lawson's left side at the last minute, forcing DeAndre Jordan to jump out of position on the roll. Lastly, they use proper floor spacing by having Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari on opposite ends, and use Alonzo Gee to set a back screen on Gallo's man. Gee sets the screen at the perfect moment, right as Ty is attacking the pick and roll. This causes Blake Griffin to freeze just long enough to fail to rotate over as Chandler fades for a wide open three. The shot misses, but contrast this to the 1-5 pick and roll that we have gotten used to in recent games when much more stagnant pick and roll possessions ended with shot clock violations and turnovers.