Terry Stotts is a prominent offensive mind in the NBA and no where is that more apparent than when it comes time for Portland to run a play after a timeout.
These plays -- called "ATO" -- allow the Blazers to make up points when they need them most. Against the Los Angeles Clippers last week, Portland ran two incredibly crafty variants within the final minute to try and save the game.
Although Portland eventually fell to the Clippers, 106-102, the right shots were there and the Blazers could have made up five points on two possessions had all their attempts gone through the hoop.
Let's take a look at how these plays worked.
Damian Lillard's backdoor box
In this play with 37.5 seconds left and the Blazers down by four, Portland stood in a simple box formation to the right side of the court. It's important to understand that, at the start, this creates a negative space (yellow) in which to put a shooter.
For Portland, this play clearly communicates to Los Angeles that the most likely result is a screen by LaMarcus Aldridge for Damian Lillard for a left wing 3-pointer. This arrangement is misdirection, which makes the play by Stotts so juicy.
To start the play, Steve Blake and Nic Batum run a screen on the baseline. Batum ends up curling off of Blake's pick and coming to the left elbow for a pass from Wesley Matthews.
At the top of the arc, Aldridge sets the pick for Lillard, who is coming toward Matthews. Chris Paul plays the pass to the left.
This sets up an important piece found in many of Stotts' ATOs: misdirection. After the play starts, the negative space where a shot is most likely is now on the opposite side of the floor. More on that in a moment.
The ball is passed to Batum at the elbow. Meanwhile, Lillard has reversed direction and Aldridge has flipped around for a second screen on Paul. The backdoor trap is set.
DeAndre Jordan has to suck up to Batum to guard his shot and the newly-minted 3-point threat in Aldridge. Lillard is too quick for him, and the play is an easy cut for Lillard for a layup.
Wesley Matthews staggered misdirection
In this variant with seven seconds left, the Blazers are set up in a staggered formation similar to the kind of screens you would normally see in many of Stotts' offensive sets. Again, the Blazers are going to use misdirection with Lillard, only this time the Portland point guard is the bait.
The play starts with Matthews coming through a small screen and then flipping around to give a screen at the top of the arc. Meanwhile, Batum is cutting to the low block to clear space. As we've learned before, the negative space after the action usually dictates where a shot attempt will develop. It's no different here -- the shot will come from where Batum has just cleared.
Lillard then runs around a screen set by Aldridge and the one set by Matthews. Paul knows he has to fight high over Aldridge's screen to make sure Lillard can't get an easy 3-pointer at the top of the key. That leaves him trailing and forces Matt Barnes, who is guarding Matthews, to slide over and help until the Clippers PG can recover.
This is the crucial moment. Lillard continues his run across the arc as Matthews sneakily slides back toward the right side of the floor. His original defender, Barnes, is now occupied with Lillard. That leaves Matthews and Aldridge on the far side with just Jordan to guard them.
A quick pass from Steve Blake to Aldridge and a decision by Jordan to close means that Matthews is free to slip to the corner for a 3-point attempt.
Portland didn't win the game against LA, but these two plays illustrate what kind of offensive mind Stotts is and why we've come to assume that the Blazers will be able to score in late game situations.
By now, shouldn't we already know that?