Old trick from NBA playbook trips team


Just a simple pick-and-roll play. It's been around since Dallas coach Don Nelson was slender.

In your first year of playing basketball, you learn how to run it. And it's such a good play that you may never learn how to defend it. At least if you play for the Portland Trail Blazers. That's the way it looked Wednesday night in Dallas when the Mavericks used the pick-and-roll to hammer the Blazers down the stretch of a Game 2 loss.

The Blazers couldn't stop the play, which the Mavs used almost exclusively in the last six minutes of the game, because 'coach' Maurice Cheeks refused to adjust (or couldn't figure out how to adjust) to what was killing his team.

With Scottie Pippen in uniform, the Blazers can switch on defense against the pick-and-roll, because Pippen is 6-foot-8 and capable of defending either Steve Nash or Dirk Nowitzki. Even with Pippen on the floor, though, continually switching a pick-and-roll is a recipe for disaster. It's exactly what the defense wants you to do.

Wednesday, Pippen spent the evening in street clothes, posing for the TNT cameras as the team's caring father figure Ñ which he probably is.

The standard NBA defense for the pick-and-roll is for the man guarding the player setting the pick to jump out and 'show' Ñ holding up the dribbler long enough for the man guarding the dribbler to stay with him. Or if you wish, you can simply double-team the man with the ball and use weak-side help to pick up the player setting the pick as he rolls toward the basket. The Blazers tried that a lot in Game 1, and Nowitzki killed them with open jumpers.

Portland defenders switched men Wednesday on the pick-and-roll and ended up with bad matchups. The final one was the clincher Ñ when Dale Davis had to try to defend Nash on the perimeter. Nash bluffed a drive and faded back into a three-point shot that Davis couldn't react to quickly enough to stop.

That shot meant that even a mystery foul call by Bennett Salvatore on Nash three seconds later couldn't rescue the Blazers Ñ who had squandered so many timeouts they had nothing left with the game on the line.

Portland wasted a terrific one-man show by Bonzi Wells and a very solid, three-man performance by the officials Ñ who tried gallantly to keep Nowitzki off the free-throw line and seemed determined to give the Blazers a chance to win the game. Another thing worked in Portland's favor a little, too Ñ Derek Anderson was injured early in the game and, with Pippen out, the herd was thinned enough that the Blazers actually had a semblance of a playing rotation.

But that wasn't enough to overcome the obvious: So far in this series, Nelson is doing all the picking and Cheeks is getting rolled.

Dwight Jaynes' sports talk show airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..