DM Film Room: Marcio was SMB’s Counter to TNT’s Drop Coverage

Marcio Lassiter finally woke up from a deep slumber as he re-introduced himself in the San Miguel Beermen’s Game 6 win over the TNT Tropang Giga in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals. 

Marcio Lassiter SMB TNT
Original photos via PBA Images

How is it even possible that the best shooter of the top offensive team in the league is only averaging 3.4 three-point attempts in a semifinals series? That was Marcio Lassiter’s average in the first five games of the Beermen’s best-of-seven semifinals battle against the Tropang Giga, and it was fitting that when his team was backed against the ropes, he became the answer to their problems.

Lassiter only averaged 7.6 points from Games 1 through 5, but it’s not because he didn’t make his shots — he just didn’t take a lot of shots. Prior to Game 6, the San Miguel resident shooter only averaged 6.4 attempts from the field, including 3.4 attempts from the three-point line. Reliable shooters don’t come in abundance in the PBA, and the Beermen knew that they had to make full use of Lassiter’s outside arsenal in Game 6.

In this series, TNT has been using the drop coverage to defend San Miguel’s pick-and-roll (PnR) plays. We comprehensively analyzed this defensive strategy here, but in a nutshell, the drop coverage prevents a direct pathway to the rim for the ball-handler and takes away a scoring opportunity from a screener in case he rolls to the rim.

There are two things that a drop coverage will give up: an outside shot from the screener and the jumper from the ball-handler. This has been effective against June Mar Fajardo because he lacks an outside shot, but San Miguel could counter if their ball-handlers can make their jumpshots. In Game 5, both Chris Ross and Terrence Romeo facilitated the lion’s share of the San Miguel PnRs but they didn’t capitalize on their jumpshots. 

So in Game 6, the Beermen came up with an adjustment that they should have made right from the start — let Lassiter facilitate the PnR and punish the Tropang Giga’s drop coverage.

Lassiter’s off-the-dribble marksmanship

By placing Lassiter at the head of their pick-and-roll plays, San Miguel essentially forced the TNT big man to either drop below the screen to take away Fajardo’s roll or show hard to prevent Lassiter from taking a wide-open jumper.

When the Tropang Giga chooses the former, this is what happens. 

Fajardo set the pick two steps above the three-point line, which gave Lassiter enough space to launch a triple after coming off the screen. With TNT’s Kelly Williams dropping to prevent the Fajardo roll, he was already so far out to effectively contest the three-pointer. With literally no defender in his space, Lassiter pulled up for the uncontested triple. Swish.

The Beermen ran the same play in the next possession, and the result was another Lassiter three. The drop coverage could be a better option when the pick is set inside the arc as you’ll just give up the mid-range jumper. But when Fajardo sets the screen far beyond the three-point line and the defender drops below the pick, the defense is basically giving Lassiter, one of the best three-point shooters of his era, the freedom to do what he does best.    

Lassiter’s pick-and-roll playmaking

One more thing that was a welcome sight for San Miguel in Game 6 was Lassiter’s playmaking off the pick-and-roll. He had three assists in the win, and he made a number of right passes while facilitating the PnR.

The problem when you don’t use the drop coverage in defending a pick-and-roll is that you will leave a pathway for the screener to freely roll to the rim, especially when the help defense is soft or non-existent. In the play above, Williams showed on the pick to prevent Lassiter from drilling the jumper, but it also put Fajardo in a position to roll to the paint. Lassiter made the right pass at the right time, leading to an easy and-one opportunity for the six-time Most Valuable Player.

This play didn’t result in an assist and actually led to a turnover, but this is another example of the good things that should come from Lassiter facilitating the PnR. Again, the pick by Mo Tautuaa was set high above the three-point arc. With Lassiter having hit his previous jumpshots, Williams was in a tight spot on whether to show on the San Miguel shooter or to drop and avoid the Tautuaa roll. But because he hesitated, Williams was not in a position to defend either of those two San Miguel scoring options.

Lassiter could have taken the heat check and attempted the triple, but he also made the right decision of whipping a quick bounce pass to the rolling Tautuaa. However, the ball movement was not crisp here for the Beermen as Tautuaa could have swung the ball to the wide-open CJ Perez at the right wing. Of course, this is something that Tautuaa can re-assess by watching the Game 6 film, but this goes on to show that Lassiter can also make the right plays in a PnR.

Lassiter finished the Game 6 win with 19 points on a stellar 5-of-8 shooting from deep, and his aggressiveness definitely was a major boost for San Miguel throughout the game. The decision to put him on more PnR facilitating was also a wise move for head coach Leo Austria, so look for San Miguel to give more ball-handling duties to Lassiter in Game 7.

Advanced Stats are now available for Philippine basketball! Through Ryan Alba’s ‘Stats by Ryan’, you can now look at team and player advanced stats for the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup (and the previous three seasons) via the Dribble Media website.

Check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.

You can also contact Ryan via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).

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