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Rudy Recap: Breaking Down the Defense

Since it’s been one of the primary items up for discussion in the early analysis of Rudy’s Olympics tournament I thought I’d reserve this recap specifically for a detailed examination of his defense.  Throughout the contest I did nothing but focus on Rudy (which is what I’ve done throughout) and only watched Spain’s defensive possessions, using the offensive time to keep notes.


Overall Impression:


I was surprised by some of the comments in the Gameday Thread about Rudy having a poor game, as this was by far the best game I’ve seen him play defensively.  (Keep in mind I did not see the fourth quarter of the U.S. game or Spain’s last qualifying round game.)  In fact this is the best defensive game I’ve seen Spain play overall.  They really helped each other out on defense this time around, almost as if they realized that single elimination is a whole different game.  To be fair they were aided by the general slowness and non-athleticism of Croatia.  Spain had a large advantage coming in but it’s still to their credit that they never let the opponent get off the mat offensively.


Specifics About Rudy’s Defensive Game:


Having watched Rudy a few times now it seems pretty clear what his defensive strengths and weaknesses are.  They have held steady throughout the tournament.  His biggest asset by far is his quickness.  He can get to spots in a hurry.  This helps him in transition and in help defense as well.  Another asset is his ability to see the floor and his willingness to help out.  He rotates often and roams the passing lanes.  The liabilities which hamstring him are two.  First, even though he gets to spots quickly he’s just not adept at imposing his will when he gets there.  He’ll close out quickly but end up out of position anyway or just watch his man dribble by him.  He’ll double team but allow the dribbler to split it.  Second, though he sees the floor well he doesn’t always make good defensive decisions especially when given a choice between two defensive options.  He’ll pick the wrong guy to move to or the wrong time to move.  More often than that, though, he’ll simply split the middle between the options, moving into no-man’s land and ending up guarding nobody.  The latter is by far the biggest flaw in his team defense.  A fair amount of plays simply go by him while he watches or finds himself with too much distance to cover.  At times you can have fun playing the “Who Is Rudy Guarding?” game.


Possession-by-Possession Breakdown of Tonight’s Game:


I recorded Rudy’s contributions to each defensive possession for Spain tonight.  They are listed in order, by quarter.  I apologize that I didn’t have time to record the clock position for each one, as there was only so much time to get this stuff down.  The possessions are simply numbered.


After each possession in which a significant positive or negative thing happened for Rudy I marked either one or two plusses or minuses, depending on the severity.  Note that this does not necessarily correspond to the overall result of the play.  Some of Rudy’s plus plays may have resulted in baskets for Croatia anyway and the minuses might have eventually led to stops for Spain.  The interior defense was so solid for Spain tonight that the latter actually happened quite often.  But we’re not charting overall defense here, just Rudy’s slice of it.  Plays in which Rudy’s contribution didn’t really help or harm that much are followed by “no result”.  That doesn’t mean Rudy was useless.  It was just a normal play.






1  Rudy ends up in no-man’s land on the right-hand side.  His man gets by.   -

2  Rudy pressures the ball, but no result

3  Rudy stays near his man on the wing, no result

4  Rudy stays near his man on the wing, no result

5  Rudy dodges a pick and then doubles hard.  Then he cuts off the dribble of a second man.  ++

6  Rudy stays up top, no result

7  Commercial interruption …unable to see

8  Rudy cuts off the dribbler on the break  +

9  Rudy stops the ball on the perimeter but then loses his man after it’s passes out and back.  His man drives down the lane.  -

10  Rudy runs to close out on a perimeter guy after Spain blocks a shot.  He overruns the play and gets dribbled by.  -

11  Rudy stands on the wing, no result

12  Rudy runs up on a dribbler in the open court and forces a travel  ++

13  Rudy hanging around the perimeter, no result

14  Rudy tries to poke away a Croatia rebound and is called for a foul, no result

15  Rudy hangs on the perimeter and makes an appropriate rotation into the lane, no result

--Rudy goes to the bench around 2:40






--Rudy enters the game around 8:38

1  Rudy gets rubbed off on a pick but catches up.  Then he switches to another man and forces a bad pass.  +

2  Rudy rotates into the lane but too late to stop a drive.  Questionable no-call, could have gone either way.

3  Rudy assumes primary defensive possession on a dribbler on the break but then abandons it, allowing him to get up a shot which Rudy then has to try and block from behind.  -

4  Rudy denies the ball in the post and then blocks out against a possible rebound  +

5  Rudy steals the ball off of a pass  ++

6  Rudy makes an alert switch, then pressures with a quick double team, then runs and takes a third man.  (This was the play of the game for him.  You hear the announcer comment about Spain’s weak-side defense on this possession.  He’s talking about Rudy.)  ++

7  Commercial interruption

8  Rudy moves to double the ball-handler but then leaves him to drift into no-man’s land  -

9  Rudy on perimeter, no result

10  Rudy stands a bit then ends up in no-man’s land behind the man he’s guarding  -

--3:15  Rudy goes out






1  Rudy doubles, then returns to his original man, then makes an appropriate rotation.  Decent but no result.

2  Rudy drifted into the lane guarding nobody and leaving a guy wide open on the wing but it’s a decent play because the shot clock was expiring.  No result.

3  Rudy teams with Ricky Rubio to trap a dribbler on the break.  +

4  Rudy switches out to the perimeter, no result

5  Rudy quickly doubled but never got back to his original man, drifting into no-man’s land instead, and ended up behind the play.  -

6  Commercial interruption

7  Rudy fought past a pick in the lane but when he caught up to his man the guy spun around him immediately off of the dribble  -

8  Fast break, Rudy is behind play because he ended up on the floor on the offensive end, no result

9  Rudy fights past a pick again exactly as in Possession 7.  This time he gets double-team help and the man is stopped before he can dribble by.  No result

10  Rudy presses full court.  Decent, but no result

11  Rudy presses full court again and gets beat.  -

--Rudy goes out at 5:15






1  Rudy helps down low but nobody returns the favor by rotating to his original man.  No result (but shame on his teammates)

2  Rudy fights through picks, gets help on the double team, and they force a turnover  +

3  Rudy pokes the ball away temporarily, later gets an unopposed rebound.  Decent but really a no result

4  Rudy draws the offensive foul in a push-off scrum down low.  Nice toughness.  +

5  Rudy follows the dribbler through traffic but then matadors a double team he goes to force after the pass is made

--6:50  Rudy goes out




++  4

+    6

-     9

--   0


As you can see, the tally is almost evenly split between plusses and minuses, with weight being given to the positive because there were four double-plusses and no real double-minuses in this game.  That’s why this was pretty much his best game.  He’s had double-plusses before but he’s also balanced them with some groan-inducing mistakes.  Not so much tonight.


Even as it is, his defense needs work.  It’s not like he has nothing to offer, but he’s too inconsistent at this point.  Possessions are coveted dearly in the NBA, especially on a Nate McMillan team.  Unless a guy makes an incredible offensive impact to balance it out most coaches won’t bet on a coin-flip defensive guy…at least not for long.  Also some of those minuses that he gets away with against Olympic competition are going to look bad in the NBA where almost every guard has the potential to fry your cookies one-on-one.  Hopefully Oden and Aldridge will compensate for some of those mistakes but we’re just talking about Rudy here.  (In any case, you’ll still want him to improve.)  Notice also that, as we said in the beginning, we almost never mentioned him not getting to a spot.  Rather his mistakes happen because he got to the wrong spot or got himself out of position after he got to the right one.  The good news is that those things can be taught far easier than effort and speed.  There’s some hope that with seasoning we can see many of those minuses disappear.


--Dave (