After Eric Gordon drilled a 20-footer with 4.2 seconds left to give the Hornets an 85-84 lead on Monday night, it was Alvin Gentry’s turn to design a game-winning play that would catapult the Suns to a home-opener victory.
As seen in the video above, Gentry drew up a play that would, ideally, have Steve Nash throw the ball in, come off a Robin Lopez screen and receive a cross-court pass from Markieff Morris for a game-winning jumper. Morris’ pass sailed out of bounds, however, and the Suns never got a clean look at the basket and fell to the lowly Hornets.
Here’s a closer look at the play and what went wrong:
As you can see here the play starts by Lopez setting a backscreen for Hill, who spaces the floor by filtering over to the right corner. Meanwhile, Morris is screening for Dudley, who pops out to the opposite corner. Neither Hill nor Dudley were legitimate threats, they simply came off of screens to do nothing more than space the floor.
After Morris screens for Dudley, he pops out to the free-throw line extended and receives a pass from Nash. Lopez then hunts down Gordon, who’s defending Nash, in attempt to pick him off and spring Nash for an easy jumper.
But here’s where things go awry. Lopez does a terrible job getting a body on Gordon and Nash is unable to shake free immediately. Even with Lopez’s poor screen, however, Nash has some space to work with.
As you can see above, he has a clear lane to the hoop with 2.8 seconds left and the ball still in Morris’ hands. But instead of cutting all the way to the hoop, Nash slams on the breaks and fades to the right wing.
Morris thought Nash was going to curl harder and threw an errant pass. In addition to their miscommunication, Hill wasn’t deep enough in the corner and threw off the Suns’ spacing. Overall, I’d chalk this up to a simple miscommunication between Nash and Morris.
This wasn’t a bad play by Gentry at all. Designing a play to free up one of the league’s best shooters for a jump shot to win the game can rarely be faulted.
But putting the ball in the hands of a rookie playing his first NBA game is definitely questionable. Morris, although he’s a solid passer with a decent basketball IQ, is the last guy I would want to make a pressure-packed cross-court pass.
I would have either brought Channing Frye off of the pine or used Hill as the passer, as he clearly has great chemistry with Nash. It clearly wasn’t a bad play call by Gentry. If Nash cut all the way to the hoop, he would have had a layup. Or if Morris knew Nash was fading to the wing, Nash probably would have gotten a shot off.