Z for three is great, but he needs to make the routine play

Column by Chris Graham

Sammy Zeglinski made the “SportsCenter” Top 10 plays with his off-balance game-tying three with 1.3 seconds left in regulation that sent last night’s Virginia-Virginia Tech game into overtime.

It’s a little thing that he consistently failed to do in the Cavs’ 76-71 loss that got my attention.

Tony Bennett’s motion offense features as a base set a play that has one of his post players catching the ball from the wing in the area of the top of the key to serve as a pivot for swinging the ball to the opposite wing, then moving over in the direction of the second pass to set a ball screen.

The ball screen either frees the ballhandler to dribble toward an open spot in the area between the top of the key and the lane, or, if the defender on him tries to cheat under the screen to that area, leaves him open for a three.

The play can also free up the screener on a screen-and-roll if the man guarding the screener hedges out to stop the ballhandler as the player defending the wing player slides under, freeing the post up for a hard cut to the basket or a pick-and-pop.

Mike Scott, as a post player, is particularly suited to taking advantage of this play, with his ability to finish in the midrange and down low.

Scott and Zeglinski ran this play set several times last night. By my observation, the combination did not once get a basket off the set, even though Zeglinski was able to fairly easily penetrate the lane with his man caught up in the screen with Scott.

The issue, from my vantagepoint, was that Zeglinski seemed intent on finishing the -roll of the screen-and-roll, to the point where he appeared to instinctively pick up his dribble in the lane and look for the pass back to where a cutting Scott might be.

Which is fine in that doing that would make Zeglinski appear to be selfless and all. Except that the play isn’t designed to be a straight feed into the post disguised as a screen-and-roll. It’s a screen-and-roll, which is designed to give you the myriad options outlined above.

Maybe Zeglinski is freed up for a run through the lane for a layup. Maybe he draws a post defender on his foray into the lane for a cutter on the other side to get a layup. Maybe he pulls up for an open 12- to 15-foot jumper. Maybe he hits a cutting Scott for a layup or dunk. Maybe Scott picks-and-pops and hits an open jumper.

None of that happens, though, if Zeglinski automatically picks up his dribble in the lane and looks for Scott.

That one’s not hard to defend. Zeglinski’s defender catches up to him eventually, Scott’s defender stays with him, and Zeglinski either tries to force a pass to Scott, or he passes back out to the opposite wing.

The sum effect of the play is a pass to a guy with a defender draped on him, a turnover, or a reset of the offense with five to seven seconds wasted on the shot clock.

Zeglinski is going to need to develop some confidence in his midrange game, or he’s going to be a millstone in the Bennett system.

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