San Antonio got a wide open three with a play it’s been running for YEARS.
The San Antonio Spurs are so famous for the so-called Hammer Play that we wrote a 1,700-word article about it in 2014. You’d think, three years later, the Spurs couldn’t keep running the exact same play with teams falling for it. Fortunately, Wednesday’s primetime game reminded us that nothing has changed since then.
San Antonio lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-106, but this inbounds Hammer Play for Patty Mills almost helped the Spurs come back after the Blazers went through a mini-implosion. Here it is in all its glory.
Let’s break it down. After Kawhi Leonard catches it, he hits Manu Ginobili on the pass and establishes the strong side of the play. For the Trail Blazers, all eyes are on that side of the court.
Obviously, Ginobili is a three-point threat, and Portland doesn’t want to give up a dunk to the rolling Pau Gasol. If either of those options had presented themselves, of course the players had room to improvise and take those shots. But NBA defenses are great at defending initial actions, and the plan was never for Portland to fail on that alone.
Your eyes still gravitate toward Ginobili in this screenshot, just like the defense does. But the real key for this play is LaMarcus Aldridge setting a back pick on Damian Lillard, who is matching up with Patty Mills. Ginobili drives baseline and Mills sprints to the corner.
Ginobili makes the pass, and there’s Mills with a wide open corner three. You can see from the way Ginobili picks the ball up with one hand that it’s totally planned and 100 percent intentional. Man, that’s just so good.
Yes, it helps that Portland has the — hang on, checking the NBA’s stats page — fifth-worst defense (by defensive rating) in the league. Jusuf Nurkic isn’t nearly mobile enough to cover enough ground to prevent Mills’s shot attempt. But the play was brilliantly executed, Ginobili is one of the best in the league at throwing that baseline pass, and an open corner three-pointer with Mills as the Spurs were attempting a comeback is exactly the type of shot they wanted.
If this hasn’t satiated you, here’s a four-minute video with the Spurs running the same play.