Lyle, Miles, and the rest of the defending champions are no strangers to pressure, or putting teams on their backs. With the playoffs looming, the #ThompsonTrain is just pulling out of the station. Lyle has upped his involvement in the offense, and the Swarm are going to need all of the upping they can get from him to stay in the hunt and secure a spot to defend their title. With his trusty sidekick Randy Staats returned from injury, the Swarm are starting to surge and peak at just the right time.
One big way that Lyle can create more offensive production is by taking more pick-and-roll ball handler possessions.
Lyle does a great job of getting his defender, Latrell Harris to misplay this pick. At first glance, this doesn’t look like anything super special, just a quick shot after the pick is set to beat the close out. But in understanding the context and taking a closer look, we can see how Lyle Thompson is pushing his team into the playoffs. Watch Lyle’s defender going into the situation. All of the quick peeks he is taking away from the ball are over his right shoulder. Why? Logically, it’s because Harris assumes that the pick will be coming to his right, helping Thompson go down the alley. But why would he assume? The fact that he’s assuming a direction makes him unable to react to the communication of the pick direction from his teammate, Bill Hostrawser, which severely limits their options defensively if Lyle doesn’t go exactly where Harris is assuming. Thompson knows this. He also knows that because Ben McIntosh will be approaching to set the pick from the middle of the field after a hard cut, Hostrawser likely won’t be able to keep up and will have to play this 2-man game with a “Drop” ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/drop-part-i-42add19791f1 ) coverage.
So, Lyle predicts the coverage and knows how to beat it, which is to get his defender, Harris to go under the screen. And how does he do this? He orients his body to go down the alley until right as the pick is set. Then he jump cuts right, Harris goes under the pick, Hostrawser’s closeout is late because he’s dropped, and Thompson gets a goal.
This kind of setup ability is what make Lyle one of the most dangerous pick-and-roll ball handlers in the game, and is a skill that the Swarm will need to rely on more if they’re going to #DefendTheCup. But for defenses not to swarm Lyle and Staats on their side of the field, they’re going to need someone to help make the offense go on the opposite side of the floor. Enter Jesse King.
This is a good example of the patience that King has a roller in the 2-man game. He sets a good pick that gets a solid switch for Lyle and creates room for him to roll back down the alley. But after the initial pick, we can see King adjust his facemask, and then notice that no defenders are looking at him, and that Lyle has rolled back down the alley. So, he floats in his defender’s blind spot, perfectly timing his movement with the head turns to end up on the back pipe for an easy goal.
The Swarm have a great chance to repeat. It remains to be seen if they can handle the pressure.