Lob Mob

Paul-Griffin connection poses challenge for Pistons

Griffin leads a dunk-crazy Clippers team that has made heavy use of lob passes.
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LOS ANGELES – However short you’d care to make the list of the NBA’s all-time great dunkers, Vince Carter is on it. Blake Griffin, in only his second season, might already be, as well.

When you pair phenomenal dunkers with Hall of Fame point guards, the effects can be devastating. The lob dunk, once a gimmick, has evolved into high art – high-wire art – and, Frank says, it’s also the most efficient way to set up a scorer in the paint.

“The lob is a very, very important part of the game,” he said. “You think about turnovers that happen in the paint in terms of type of passes. More turnovers happen on direct-line passes to the point as opposed to throwing it up there. Once you’re in the paint, throw it up there. The bounce pass is the slowest pass, the direct-line pass is the most high-turnover prone pass. The lob pass is a great pass.”

Griffin became an immediate sensation as a rookie a year ago for his highlight-reel dunks. Now that he has Chris Paul setting him up, the lob has become an even bigger part of the offense for the Clippers, who host the Pistons in a Sunday matinee. Not just Griffin, but DeAndre Jordan and recent addition Kenyon Martin are all accomplished finishers.

Frank had a good thing going in New Jersey, too.

“We had a pretty good combination, also,” he said. “We had a guy named Kidd and a guy named Carter. Just throw that bad boy up.”

The Pistons haven’t been frequent practitioners of the lob over the years, though Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince developed a healthy chemistry on transition lobs with Hamilton throwing and Prince receiving. Of late, Prince has been the quarterback and rookie Brandon Knight the finisher in lobs out of the half-court offense. That connection is the first option out of a Pistons set, Frank said, and it’s been in the playbook all season. But it takes chemistry so both parties sense exactly when the moment is right.

“You can run set plays for lobs, but teams can sniff that out,” Frank said. “You get them in transition. You get them on back-door plays. Everyone is a little bit different. With Blake, he gets his in transition, spin-out lobs off the post, rolls hard off pick and rolls and then he gets running head starts and he goes with force.”

Because the lob is such an integral part of the Clippers’ attack, their opponents have to devote game-planning time to countering them that they don’t for most teams.

“First off, make sure your shot selection and floor balance is proper, sprinting back in transition so they don’t get behind, in the post having the proper body position – especially against Blake Griffin – on spin-out lobs on the left side of the floor,” Frank said. “On pick and rolls, making sure on the weak side that you’re pulling over to protect.”

The second half of preparation for lob-dunking teams is understanding you’ll give a few up but not to let it count for more than two points.

“They can be momentum-change plays either way – if they don’t get ’em, impactful; if they do get ’em. But it’s almost like when you’re going against Kobe. You know Kobe is going to make some unbelievable shots. As long as you do your best to contest them. Go down on the other end, show no emotion. That’s mental toughness and resolve. Blake Jordan and DeAndre Jordan, they’re going to have a couple of blocks, they’re going to have some dunks. Great, go down to the other end.”