Top Five Plays of the NBA 2012-13 Season

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Mar 17, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Atlanta Hawks player Josh Smith (5) and Atlanta Hawks Al Horford (15) celebrate during the fourth quarter of an NBA game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Hawks won 105-93. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

5) Josh Smith-Al Horford 4-5 Pick and Roll Alley-Oop Fun

This is a play so fun, exhilarating, and executionally flawless that it makes you forget you’re watching the Hawks. Josh Smith is a perpetually frustrating player for both Hawks fans and league executives attempting to quantify his value monetarily before this summer, not so much for what he does poorly but for how little he does the things he is best at. His tendency to play on the perimeter and settle for jump shots he has no business taking is maddening, but a constant that is continually undervalued with him is his excellent passing and, more specifically, the on-court chemistry that passing has helped create with Al Horford.

The 4-5 pick and roll is something, as you can see in the video, Atlanta keeps in its pocket till crunch time. Occasionally they will throw it out earlier in games but generally that is a go-to set play for the Hawks when things get tight. The beauty of the play, other than the emphatic Horford dunk (and pompous glare at any defender who dared get in the way of his war path) that usually bookends the play, is in its simplicity.

Smith usually gets the ball at the right extended elbow and the play is initiated as Horford goes to make his pick on Smith’s defender. Both Amare and Tyson Chandler expect a typical pick and roll and defend it as such.

Amare sees that Al’s pick is going to be shallow and thinks this is an opportunity to go under the screen and force Smith to pick up his dribble early, or at least cut off all visible driving and passing lanes. Tyson is expecting a regular pick and is already making his switch onto Smith. Before Horford even makes contact with Amare he is already launching himself towards the basket, merely hip-checking Stat on his way for good measure. The lane to the basket is clear as Atlanta has positioned two three point shooting threats in Kyle Korver (46%) and DeShawn Stevenson (36%) on the corners where their defenders cannot leave them.

Horford slips the screen and makes his way to the basket. By the time Melo can take a step in the paint to help, the ball is already airborne, soon to be slammed through a net with all the ferocity a man with Al Horford’s subtle countenance can muster.

Its a play borne of simplicity; using a little misdirection, the adept passing of Josh Smith, and the unspoken connection between two long-time teammates to create an easy basket when one is needed the most. This play would be higher on the list if it wasn’t for what happens when smarter defenders see the play coming and act accordingly, like Bosh did here.

Sink back early to cut off Horford’s lane to the basket and concede the open jumper to Smith. To the agony of his fans and the delight of the defense, he is almost always more then happy to oblige.

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