Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum and center Robin Lopez are working well together this season, and coach Terry Stotts has made a point of involving the two on plays together. In fact, they've been so successful that a fifth of Lopez's made field goals have come from Batum passes. Likewise, nearly a fifth of Batum's assists have come from passes to Lopez. Let's take a look at how the two work together in this week's breakdown.
The double-pick play
One way you'll see the two work together is in this double-pick play. Batum is on the left block with Lopez on the right elbow. Batum received a down screen and comes to the left elbow to receive the pass from Damian Lillard.
Lillard clears the floor by receiving a pick from Lopez and running to the far corner. After Lillard is clear, Lopez moves toward Batum and they initiate a pick-and-roll across the top of the arc.
In this instance against the Kings, Batum pulls up as the two Kings defenders sag to the baseline. Lopez is very good at finding open space, and he moves to just below the free throw line as Batum kicks to him for an easy jumper.
Alternate hand-off variation
A variation of this play involves Batum receiving the same down pick (arrow) with Lopez (highlight) on the opposite high post.
In this version, Batum receives a pass from Lillard but the Blazers point guard stays put. Batum then gives the ball right back to him on a handoff, and runs to receive the flare screen from Lopez off the right high post.
From here, Batum can shoot a jumper or initiate the pick-and-roll with Lopez by dribbling to the baseline and forcing the help defender to leave the lane. More often than not, this allows an easy pass to Lopez for a score at the rim.
The weak-side pick-and-roll
Portland also runs a very basic weak-side pick-and-roll play for Batum and Lopez that has proven quite effective. It starts with the ball (arrow) on the left side of the floor with a wing in the corner (highlight) and both Blazers big men at the high post (highlights). The spacing is essentially a clear-out for Batum and Lopez, and you can see all the open floor on the right wing and baseline.
Lopez comes up and sets a pick on Batum's man as he drives to the baseline.
Meanwhile, Lopez rolls to the lane and is usually open for a lay-up or a dunk.
These two have been successful largely due to Batum's lengthy arms creating passing lanes that are incredibly difficult to defend and because Lopez has incredibly soft hands. Batum is able to throw him passes that not many true centers in the NBA would be able to catch, much less finish at the rim. Lopez is extremely underrated in this regard.
The connection between Nic Batum and Robin Lopez has been a surprise part of the Portland offense this year, and fans are always happy to see the two hook up for a score. They can spark a stagnant offense with penetration off the pick-and-roll that often helps open up the arc for Portland shooters. See if you can pick out these plays during the next Trail Blazers game you watch.
Video via MySynergySports.com | Top image via @Genelaor
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