Spurs’ late 3s vs Celtics & Suns out of Spread P&R Formation

Photo courtesy: NBA.com

Over the weekend, the San Antonio Spurs completed their first sweep of a back-to-back set this season, as they earned late game victories against the Boston Celtics Friday, and then they held on to their lead Saturday in Phoenix against the Suns.

In order to push ahead against their opponents late in their last two games, the Spurs had to rely on the 3-point shot out of the Spread Pick and Roll formation. First, before going into detail on each late game three, let’s look at the basic concept of the Spread P&R.


The Spread P&R is a versatile set in that it doesn’t always have to be traditional 1s, 4s, or 5s using it, because it can be used by any ball handler and screen setter on the floor, so long as the other three players that spread the floor have reputations of being 3-point shot makers.

For the Spurs, having their ball handlers and screen setter (Aldridge) flanked by shooters in Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, and Rudy Gay, it doesn’t allow the defense to provide help defenders from beyond the arc and instead the Spread P&R turns into a 2-on-2 scenario.

3/5 Spread P&R vs Boston

Tied at 102 all, with 13.3 seconds left, Manu Ginobili (3) called for a Spread P&R with Aldridge (5) against the Celtics. This turned into a 2-on-2 matchup as Jayson Tatum was guarding Ginobili and Al Horford was guarding Aldridge. Initially, the Celtics tried to ICE Ginobili’s route of going middle by trying to funnel him to go toward the sideline so Horford could step up and close the floor on him along with the sideline. Aldridge recognized this and he quickly flipped the screen so that he made contact with Tatum, then Aldridge rolled, which gave Ginobili a sliver of room to hoist the game winner over Horford.

Usually out of a Spread P&R set, you’re trying to get a quality shot that might be a shot at the rim or an open spot-up look. But, with the Celtics guarding the play well, even Ginobili admitted after the game Friday the shot required a bit of luck to go in.

“It was just a shot,” said Ginobili. “It just went in. I saw Tatum going with LA (Aldridge). But, I just saw the replay and Horford contested great. I just gave it a little more air to shoot it higher and it just went in. I think I got a little lucky because it’s not my usual shot. I had to shoot it higher.”

1/5 Spread P&R vs Phoenix

The next night with the Spurs missing Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green, and Pau Gasol, the Spurs almost lost a 19-point lead from the third quarter, as the Suns were ahead 101-99 with 29 seconds to go after Josh Jackson made a pair of free throws.

Going to a 1/5 Spread P&R this time with Mills as the ball handler (1) and Aldridge as the screener (5), the Spurs got a wide-open spot-up look for Forbes, as he made the shot with 21 seconds left, to give the Spurs the 102-101 lead. With the Spurs bringing the ball off a made basket, Mills pushed the tempo as he tried to beat Mike James off the dribble to initiate drive and kick action, but, James stopped the dribble penetration and Mills waited for Aldridge to set the screen.

After Aldridge set the screen, he rolled to the basket and both James and Tyson Chandler made the mistake of following Mills toward the top of the arc. This allowed Forbes to move up to the left wing three while his defender (Jackson), went toward the paint to prevent the Aldridge catch on the roll. Mills saw this and took advantage as he fed Forbes with the wide-open spot up shot, which Forbes made.

After the Forbes three, the Spurs made stops on the other end and two clutch free throws from Mills helped the Spurs earn their first sweep of a back-to-back set this season.

Once the Spurs are fully healthy, they’ll continue to use the Spread P&R set since they have multiple outside threats and ball handlers or players who can set the screen. It may become a ‘pick your poison’ scenario for defenses trying to stop the Spurs’ Spread P&R when they’re fully healthy, depending on which lineups are on the floor for San Antonio.


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