Manu shows you how to defend a two-on-one fast break
It was only a minute into the first regular season game of the year, but already Manu Ginobili did one of those Manu Ginobili things. Manu seems not only capable, but masterful, at turning long odds in his favor. Such was the case last night when Manu thwarted a Grizzlies two-on-one fast break.
A two-on-one break is usually an easy two points. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I would expect the success rate for the offensive team on a two-on-one break is extremely high, especially in the NBA where it’s easy to simply float the ball in the air and have a high-flying athlete catch it and throw it down.
Last night against the Grizzlies, Manu Ginobili showed aspiring players out there, and all you pick-up players, how to defend a two-on-one break.
Mike Conley has the ball and he’s pushing it up court. He’s got Tony Allen on the right side and Manu Ginobili is defending down the middle of the floor. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are both trailing the play. You can see by the fact that he’s on the Spurs logo at mid-court, Manu is positioned exactly in the middle of the floor. He looks like he’s shaded more towards Allen because, well, Allen hasn’t taken a very good angle on the break at this point. Ideally, on offense you want to be pretty wide, the closer the two offensive players are together, the easier it makes things on the defense.
In this next screenshot, you can see that Manu is shaded more towards Tony Allen now. From my playing experience, defending a two-on-one break (and we practiced defending two-on-one breaks, it was the most fun drill we had) is about forcing the ball handler to make a decision. The longer you give him options, the more screwed you are. By shading towards Allen, Manu has basically said take the shot Mike Conley, it’s yours. The longer Conley has options, the harder it makes for Manu when it comes time to actually try and stop the play. At this point, Conley’s mind should pretty much be made up. He’s got an angle to the basket and Tony Allen is covered, Conley is going to the bucket.
And now Conley is committed. He’s got an angle to the basket. Even if he tried to get it to Allen here, Tony Parker has recovered enough to make a swipe at any bounce or chest pass in Allen’s direction. The only available pass would be a lob and Allen isn’t much of a high flyer. With his mind made up, the play is easier for Manu. He knows that Conley’s got to put up a shot, and though Ginobili isn’t as spry as he once was, he can still make a play on the ball in the air. Which he does.
Does this strategy always work? No, especially in the NBA. If it was Rudy Gay pushing the ball, do you think he would have cared that Manu was taking away the pass? I would expect that Gay would’ve just hammered it home and Ginobili would’ve been powerless to stop it. But Manu knew who he was dealing with and what he could get away with. There’s a good chance Conley’s first instinct would’ve been to pass on this play, he’s a point guard after all. Manu probably would have forced Gay to pass by taking away his drive if they were in that situation, hoping Parker had recovered enough to make a play on Allen. In this instance, though, Manu made the right play by taking away Conley’s options on the break and forcing him into something Manu could defend. Which is exactly what happened.