10 March 2010
Every coach in this league has been trying to figure out how to stop or at least contain Brandon Roy.
On Tuesday night, that task fell to Paul Westphal and the Sacramento Kings.
From Sacramento’s pregame scouting report to the final buzzer and four quarters in-between, “Guarding Brandon Roy” was a constant work in progress with Coach Westphal throwing different defensive looks at Roy in hopes of throwing him off his game for 48 minutes.
The heave wasn’t heavy enough.
“You want to make it hard for him to get the ball where he likes to get it,” Westphal said before the game, as he sat courtside at the Rose Garden.
“You want to make him take tough shots and keep him off the free throw line. It’s the same with any great player. But that’s a lot easier said than done.”
As the game got underway, Tyreke Evans was initially assigned to match-up against Roy, with the Kings switching over to Donte Greene who was solid in limiting Roy in the first several possessions. While Roy floated around the perimeter as the first quarter unfolded, there were instances where he got into the paint. The first time around, Carl Landry bodied Brandon as he cut to the middle, forcing Roy to either put up a low percentage shot or kick the ball out.
When the Kings did allow Roy into the middle without putting a body on him – which was left wide-open after some blown coverage – the result was a left-handed dunk.
“Man, he’s strong,” Landry explained when asked what makes Roy such a tough cover.
“That’s something a lot of people don’t know about Brandon Roy. He’s a very athletic player but he’s strong at the same time. He can shoot that jump shot, but he can also get to the hoop at finish at the same time. A lot of people think because he’s a shooting guard, he’s not strong. He’s stronger than the average guard.”
Jason Thompson learned the hard way about that strength when Roy wrestled the ball away from him, and forced Thompson to go one-one-one with him on the perimeter. Thompson should have called for help. Instead, he bought Roy’s up-and-under move for the score.
At the end of the first quarter, Roy had 8 points and 5 rebounds, with Sacramento continuing to throw a variety of different players his way in the second quarter.
After starting the quarter on the bench, Evans once again grabbed Roy when he re-entered halfway through the second. Point guard Beno Udrih then took his turn on Brandon a couple trips down. Roy juked Udrih hard on the baseline, only to miss the reverse layup. Next time around though, Roy backed Udrih down in the paint and turned into the middle with a short hook shot. From there, Landry re-switched on Roy, forcing Brandon to shoot over him or try to take it inside – where Roy was promptly met by three Kings.
The lanky Dominic McGuire also played spot minutes on Roy in the second – switching here and there as the quarter drew to a close. His length didn’t appear to disrupt Roy as Westphal had hoped. Roy finished the half with a top of the key isolation on McGuire, who penetrated and passed to an open Rudy Fernandez on the wing. Fernandez couldn’t knock it down.
Sacramento’s overall game plan on Roy was successful in the first half and they threw a lot of obstacles his way: jamming him, forcing him to shoot over the defense, and keeping him stagnant on the perimeter. After adding two points in the second quarter, Roy finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds with no assists for the half. And that was the most alarming statistic – no assists - one the Kings tried to maintain in the second half.
“There is no key to stopping him,” Evans said of Roy. “You just have to hope he misses the shot.”
Westphal kept Evans on Roy to start the second half, and opted for Garcia to close out the game.
Evans forced Roy to miss back-to-back jumpers, before Nate McMillan pulled Brandon for a breather. Around the four minute mark, Roy returned and asserted himself with a drive past Evans, where he met Spencer Hawes at the rim, drew the foul and knocked down one of two free-throws. Evans then lost Roy on an in-bounds play from Andre Miller, where Roy made him pay by hitting a jumper.
About three minutes left in the third quarter, Francisco Garcia switched on to Roy. Next time down, Thompson couldn’t prevent Roy from crossing him over and getting to the rim with Garcia and Sean May caught out of position (May picked up the foul). Later as the quarter drew to a close, Roy backed-down Garcia in the post and May came over and double teamed Roy. It was one of the few times the Kings doubled Brandon on the night.
“We played him well. We doubled him a couple times and tried to mess with him a little bit and get him out of his rhythm. But he found the gaps and found guys, but he’s an All-Star,” Evans said of Roy, who tallied 15 points, 1 assist and 5 rebounds by the end of the third quarter.
After starting the fourth quarter on the bench, Roy checked back in with about 8 minutes left in the game and the Blazers up by two, 74-72. Garcia and Landry played tag-team defense, each taking their turn on Roy with Landry once again putting a body on Brandon in the middle.
Garcia couldn’t keep Roy from getting past him and into the paint, resulting in multiple trips to the free-throw line; just what Westphal wanted to limit in Sacramento’s scouting report. In consecutive trips, Garcia fell prey to Roy’s dribble-drive and step back jumper.
The first time, Roy made the shot. Next time down, he went to the same move, but this time drew the foul.
Afterwards, Garcia was miffed.
“He got some good looks, but he’s a great player even when we switched it up on him,” Garcia began, before trying to figure out how to stop Roy’s step-back jumper off the dribble.
“Nah, he’s good at that. He’s so good that you can’t really read him that well. He’s just so poised.”
Sacramento didn’t have an answer for Roy as the game came to a close in the fourth quarter.
His shot started falling and the Kings’ defense collapsed much like their offense throughout the contest. The combo of Evans and Garcia struggled down the stretch when they needed to lock down Roy the most.
“He got the job done at the end of the game. That’s a good move by him,” added Evans.
On the night, Roy’s numbers – 19 points on 8 of 16, 2 steals, 3 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5-7 from the line – although not eye-popping, did the trick for playoff hungry Portland.
“He wasn’t shooting it well. But at the end of the day, whatever he was doing on the floor worked,” said Landry.
For the Kings, they’ll have a couple more days to attempt to solve the “Guarding Brandon Roy” riddle once again, with the Blazers playing at Sacramento on Friday. Coach Westphal’s defensive game plan was solid, and for the majority of the game they stuck to it – switching defensive looks on Roy more than most teams. But how to keep Roy from getting inside and off the line remains the mystery.
“He’s a great player,” a haggard Westphal said after the 88-81 loss to Portland.
“He’s always going to have an impact on the game.
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