How Jeff Teague used ball screens to beat Indiana

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Teague tore through the Pacers defense; he embarrassed one of the NBA’s best pick-and-roll defenses. Quick point guards have given Indiana problems this year, but it has usually been from hitting mid-range jumpers, which Indiana will live with.

But Jeff Teague got all the way to the rim, all night. Teague had 28 points, 12 of which came from field goals off of pick and rolls. He was 9-of-10 from the free throw line, and six of those attempts came off of pick and rolls.

The Pacers had no answer for Teague. They couldn’t force him into low efficient shots, and the Hawks shooters kept the help defense from being able to crash hard into the paint.

Teague used the high ball screens in a way that Indiana could not defend. Paul Millsap or Pero Antic would come and give Teague screen, then switch to the other side of George Hill and set another screen. But what Teague did to get into the lane was go away from the second ball screen.

Teagueoppo_medium

Here Scola is in position to defend Teague if he actually used the screen. That’s Lance Stephenson – not George Hill – falling the wrong way as Teague crosses over to start his drive. So the two players defending the pick and roll are essentially useless now.

Kyle Korver is going to drop back into the corner and Hill goes with him. Paul George offers some help defense, but it is merely an arm wave. Teague gets a layup.

In this next example, the Pacers have Hill and Roy Hibbert defending the Millsap/Teague pick and roll. Millsap is setting the second screen, while Teague is going away from it.

Teagueoppo2_medium

Hill takes one wrong step, and Teague is gone. But notice Hibbert’s positioning. Typically he would be a step or two to his left. That way Teague wouldn’t have an open lane, and would likely pull up for the long two pointer.

There are two reasons for Hibbert’s positioning. First, the multiple ball screens that Millsap sets confuses Hill and Hibbert as to which way Teague will go. Second, Millsap can shoot threes, and Hibbert doesn’t want to get to far from Millsap from fear that he’ll get an open shot.

This means it is up to Hill to defend Teague through the ball screen all by himself. Throw in that he gets screened on both sides and Teague may go either way, and Hill has to be perfect. Possession after possession.

Obviously that task was too tall for Hill, so the Pacers actually switched multiple ball screens in the fourth quarter. But that isn’t a sustainable strategy for stopping Teague. Frank Vogel can’t rely on Hibbert or any of his other big men to contain Teague one-on-one.

Given the way the Pacers prefer to defend the pick and roll, the best way to stop Teague will likely be switching Paul George on to him.

"Teague is playing at a high level," George said. "His speed, it’s in elite class. He’s up there with Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook. Same way you guard those guys, you gotta load up and make sure the help is behind you."

George won’t have perfect footwork, and he’ll take a wrong step that lets Teague get some room into the lane. But Paul George is one of the best defenders in the NBA because he can recover with speed and length.

George can make up ground that Hill cannot. George can contest shots that Hill cannot.

But with that switch, Hill is likely chasing Kyle Korver around. He can likely do a pretty good job of that, but he doesn’t have the length that could bother Korver’s shot, or even prevent him from taking it.

Don’t think Hill is all of a sudden a defensive liability. Stephenson couldn’t contain Teague either. The Hawks’ skill sets exploits the Pacers defense, and the way Indiana is playing, they can’t make up for it in other aspects of the game.

The Pacers were built to stop LeBron James, and the consequence of that is when the team is struggling, they can’t guard different styles at a high enough level to make up for the pathetic offense.

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