NC State closed out the game against Duke by scoring on four straight halfcourt possessions with the same offensive set, and in this edition of Pack Pride's Film Session we take a look at the Double Stack Ball Screen.
When you have a point guard as dynamic as Dennis Smith, it's critical that you put him in positions to make plays, whether for himself or for others. NC State head coach Mark Gottfried and his staff found a set that really gave Duke problems in the Wolfpack's 84-82 win over the Blue Devils.
The Double Stack Ball Screen has certain elements that really fit the Wolfpack's personnel. It requires shooters to space the floor, a rim-running big, and a point guard capable of getting to the rim off the dribble and/or finding the shooters.
As you can see from this picture, NC State begins the set with Smith at the top of the key and post Abdul-Malik Abu and wing Maverick Rowan setting a ball screen at the top of the key. Guards Terry Henderson and Markell Johnson are in the corners to provide spacing and shooter options should their defenders play help defense.
We'll first look at this set with NC State down three, 70-67, with 3:40 remaining in the game. Smith comes off the Abu screen, and Duke elects to double Smith, leaving Abu to roll to the basket, unguarded. Henderson's defender, Jayson Tatum attempts to help on Abu, but Smith's terrific pass results in an Abu dunk.
Here you see Smith's ability to probe and find Abu while also showing how you can attack even with help, if the execution is simply better.
After the two teams exhange three-pointers (Smith's came in transition), NC State runs the same set again. This time, trailing by one, Duke defends the set differently. Instead of doubling off the screener, Grayson Allen, who is defending Rowan, shows on Smith with Smith's defender, Matt Jones trailing after going over Abu's screen.
As you can see, Rowan sets a great screen for Abu, who is now left unguarded. Because of the defensive change, either Tatum was either told to not leave Henderson or he's simply unable to do so because of how the quick action. It enables Smith to find Abu wide open for an alley-oop dunk to put NC State back up 1, 74-73.
After getting a defensive stop, NC State comes back to the same set again. This time, as you can see, they set up differently. Instead of Abu setting a high screen, he's now stacked alongside Rowan. Smith dribbles right, as he'd done on the two previous possessions, and while he drags out his dribble, Rowan quickly pops to the top of the key. His defender, Kennard, gets caught up under Abu, who is again unguarded as his defender, Jefferson, cheats into the lane anticipating a Smith drive.
Smith quickly passes back to the top of the key for an open three-pointer that Rowan hits to put the Wolfpack up four, 77-73. Again, this is essentially the same set but with Abu now screening for Rowan instead of rolling to the basket.
What did NC State do on their next possession, still up four after getting a defensive stop? They went back to the same set. This time, Smith dribbles left off the Abu screen, who rim-runs. As Smith clears Abu, Rowan screens Jefferson, who left Abu looking to defend Smith but couldn't get through Rowan's screen. After screening Rowan flared to the top of the key, but it didn't matter because now has a clear lane to the rim with only Rowan's initial defender, guard Luke Kennard to defend.
Kennard can offer no rim protection, and Smith makes the left-handed layup, giving the Wolfpack a six-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. As you can see, this is the same set, but now Smith dribbles left and two screens are perfectly executed which opens up a driving lane for Smith to the basket.
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried put the ball in his best player's hands down the stretch at Duke, and he used a set that might be simple but is extremely difficult to defend if you have great execution and a playmaker like Smith.
Four different possessions, four different baskets, one set... double stack ball screen.