Analysts love to talk about the qualities of players. Wingspan, vertical and lateral quickness are buzz words. Vision, athleticism, size, strength all are attributes people love assigning to players.
However, sometimes it’s simply about shot-making.
The original premise of this Film Room was going to be IU’s execution offensively as they ended the second half and overtime with some massive shots. However, upon rewatching, it became clear that IU DIDN’T execute, but instead, James Blackmon Jr. and Curtis Jones simply made some fantastic plays.
Much of what the Hoosiers did, or were forced to do due to foul trouble, down the stretch was simple. Nearly everything Indiana does offensively is predicated with a ball screen.
The first play comes just past the halfway point of the second half with the game still very much in the balance. At this point, JBJ had just five points in the second half, but a ball screen frees him up for what is realistically a routine shot, one that helps get him in a rhythm.
The very next time down the court, JBJ’s aggressiveness is evident as he charges downcourt and hits Devonte Green for a three of his own. It’s pretty clear JBJ is locked in.
After a three-point play a bit later on, Blackmon hits possibly his most important shot of the game. The Hoosiers needed a basket to keep pace with Frank Mason, who was drawing fouls at will.
Without Robert Johnson on the court, the offense had stagnated prior to a whistle to wipe the floor after OG Anunoby took a spill. Off the in-bounds, Blackmon takes advantage of a ball-watching Josh Jackson, comes to the ball and buries another big three.
Again, on the next series, the Hoosiers run something resembling their offense, but without any hard cuts and lots of standing around, the shot clock ticks down and Blackmon again comes to the ball.
This time, Blackmon rises up on Mason and draws a three-point shooting foul while still nearly getting the shot to drop.
In unquestionably the biggest shot of the game, Blackmon once again bailed out the Hoosiers. With Robert Johnson and Thomas Bryant gone, the offense lacked anything resembling fluidity. The play is blown up when Anunoby can’t get a handoff to Bryant and digresses to a motion offense.
Morgan sets a “screen” for Curtis Jones before a “down-screen” (and I’m using these terms loosely) on Blackmon’s man, freeing him up. JBJ creates enough space to hoist up another three that falls through, his final points of the night.
In the final big shot of the night, Curtis Jones did his best Blackmon impersonation. In another sloppy play, it appears Blackmon comes through what should have been a pair of screens, but neither Anunoby nor Morgan make contact and thus there’s little separation.
Blackmon isn’t able to create the space needed to get a shot off and then panics a bit, running into the corner before giving the ball up. Jones does a good job of relocating to the open space, then does an even better job of creating room for a shot with the step back. The shot isn’t something you can draw up.
The takeaway from all of this is the Hoosiers still have some work to do offensively, which isn’t in the least bit shocking considering they lost their top two ball-handlers, one being a four-year point guard.
Granted, in overtime, the Hoosiers were running an offense with a transfer PG, a backup center, a freshman guard and JBJ who missed two-thirds of last season. They aren’t going to find themselves in that position often. That being said, the offense was far too lackadaisical and not nearly as crisp as needed to be, though that’s to be expected in the first game of the season.
At the same time, though, having players who stepped up in those moments is vital going forward, especially with Blackmon. Prior to the season, I talked about the importance of Anunoby and Bryant making the jump to become The Guys. And while that is still important and paramount to this team’s success, neither are particularly adept offensive players, or at least not in the same manner as Blackmon.
Blackmon can, as we saw, create his own shot and shots for others. The biggest hole left by Ferrell’s absence is exactly that. Yogi could get to any spot on the floor he wanted, knew where his teammates were going to be and knew where he could get shots of from.
Blackmon doesn’t have all those attributes yet, but if the starting point we have is “He’s really good at creating his own offense and isn’t afraid of The Moment” then IU is starting off the 2016-17 season very strongly.