Triangles and Zones

I don’t know why this is such a point of confusion for people. It’s really, really simple:

The Triangle offense, which Phil Jackson cannot coach without – in fact he doesn’t coach ANY team with ANY other offense, is all about movement and creating spacing. Its success depends on picks, screens, and all sorts of motion.

The Triangle offense can’t function against a zone. There’s no “motion” to be gained when defenders never leave an area. There’s no picks or screens because every “gap” ends up with two defenders nearby. Passes to the post end up with at least three and most times four defenders in the offense’s face. Dribble drives end in charges more often because the defender doesn’t have to move “far” in order to take a charge – just a step or two – and many times the offense is dribbling into two defenders, making it that much harder to avoid the charge.

Do a Google search on video of the Triangle and you can see the spacing involved. Then imagine a 1-2-2 or a 2-3 zone sitting there and you now are forcing the offense to spread out and take perimeter jump shots.

That’s not what the Lakers are calibrated for – they are not the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA. In fact, they were 23rd this season at .341, tied with MINNESOTA and barely above Oklahoma City (.340). The Suns, on the other hand, were the best in the NBA (.412). That translates to roughly about 9 extra points a game.

Yes, the Lakers were the best this season at defending the 3 pointer, however the Suns were no slouches either (17th) – but the 17th best defender of the 3 pointer on the 23rd best shooting team yields less points than the best defenders on the best shooters. The Suns will win this battle over the course of a series.

So the bottom line is, Phil Jackson is going to have problems with the zone for the remainder of the series because 1) he doesn’t know how to coach any other kind of offense but the Triangle and 2) even if the Lakers get hot from 3-point range, they have proven they can’t sustain it over 4 quarters, let alone a-best-of-3 series. And Game 4 proved that Kobe, as good as he is, can’t carry his team anymore for an entire game – his injuries and age have taken some of the gas out of the tank.