20 October, 2020
09 May, 2021
Lassi Tuovi (STRA)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board - Call the Butler

MADRID (Spain) - The Regular Season is over and oh boy, did it go out with a bang. With 5.5 seconds left on the clock, game tied, last game of the Regular Season, qualification on the line for both VEF Riga and Peristeri, Riga head coach Janis Gailitis called timeout. What followed was the perfect illustration of all of the reasons we love the sport of basketball.

Under intense pressure, Gailitis was cooler than Captain Sully with the engines off. The calmness in his tone filtered into his players as they went out and executed the plan to perfection. It's also worth noting that we often give all the credit to coaches for executing out of a timeout. In this case, it is beholden to us to recognize that the players are the ones that actually play. 

Kristers Zoriks, in particular, repaid the faith that his coach put in him (not for the first time this season) by creating himself some separation and making an incredibly tough shot for a right-handed player: fading to his right in the deep corner, with a hand in his face. See for yourself in the video below (SOUND ON) as Riga executed word for word out of the timeout. "Money"!

The other thing we are also beholden to mention is that Peristeri actually defended the play well. If you notice the inbounds pass to Alex Madsen resulted in a heavily contested catch for the big Fin. Peristeri had recognized the play and switched in good time. But this is what makes the play so difficult to defend, as switching that screen automatically leaves Madsen with a height advantage against a smaller player to catch the lob pass. 

Not only did Peristeri recognize the play that Riga were running, but that play may also look familiar to you, and as well it might. This is a play made famous most recently by Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics and before that, with his Butler college team. In fact, the history of this exact, game-winning play is even richer. Read this excellent article on the "NBA's Most Stolen Play", trust me it's well worth your time. 

It is also far from the first time this season that we have seen a team call the Butler play with the game on the line. Just one game earlier VEF Riga themselves were on the wrong end of it. Watch below as SIG Strasbourg and Lassi Tuovi tweaked the play by running it so that the shooter is the receiver of the inbounds pass, in this case, Bonzi Colson. Also, notice that Riga elected not to switch the screen and Colson leaked all the way out to the weakside corner. The combination of this tweak and Riga not switching left Colson just enough space to let it fly. The outcome was overtime and eventually, SIG capitalized to win the game. 

We don't need to go much further back in time to find our next example. This time from November's game between Tofas Bursa and JDA Dijon in Turkey. The difference this time was that Dijon and coach Legname disguised the play by having #3 Chase Simon fake to set a back screen before eventually screening for Vanwijn to catch the inbound pass. Once the ball reached David Holston as the shooter, the result was inevitable. And again, Dijon went on the win the game. 

And finally, it seems like no column about plays coming out of a timeout is complete without Tenerife. When it comes to tactics, Txus Vidorreta and Tenerife are like the kid at school that always had the most expensive sneakers before anyone else. Just running the play as it is, obviously wouldn't be good enough for Tenerife. Nope, the Canarians see the bet and raise you again. 

The play below is from the game against Galatasaray just one day earlier than JDA Dijon in the play above and again, a Turkish club on the wrong end of it. This time watch how Tenerife set the play up to look like the inbound is going to Shermadini and then Sasu Salin as the shooter, only for the traditional action to be a decoy. As all eyes are on the far side of the court, Bruno Fitipaldo nails Tyler Cavanaugh's defender with another back screen. Galata reacted well and switched but that left Tenerife's power forward against R.J.  Hunter so close to the basket that there was nothing he could do. 

Unless I have missed one, that makes it four separate occasions already that the same play has been used in a late-game situation this season. And we haven't even reached the Play-Offs yet. No doubt VEF Riga will not be the last team to call the butler when they need help this season. Hopefully now you know what to be on the lookout for.

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.