The unique thing about this offense is that it doesn’t usually have set plays, but it is mainly ran off of defensive recognition. To run this offense, you have to have a group of players that are fundamentally sound, all-around smart basketball players. You hear the term “high basketball IQ” used, and in this offense, you have to have smart players.
The Lakers have so much success running this offense due to the intelligence of their players, and the ability to play one-on-one with Kobe Bryant. Bryant is successful because the defense is occupied by the constant player movement, and he can take advantage with one-on-one penetration. Another important thing to have in this offense is talented low post players with good passing skills. Pau Gasol of the Lakers is a perfect fit for this offense.
The basic structure of the triangle offense is a sideline triangle on one side, and the other two players on the opposite side of the court.
Take a look at this picture; This is basically what you see the Lakers run most of the time. Except, the 4 spot should be lower in the post. Kobe plays about every spot from time to time. Usually, you see Fisher in the 1 ready to knock down an open corner three. At the two, you see Ariza at times. Then Kobe at the 3, handling the ball, and getting everything set up. To finish off the triangle in the right corner, you have either Bynum or Gasol. For this example, let’s say Bynum is in the 5. Then you have Gasol in the 4 spot.
If the Lakers feel that they have the size advantage over the opponent, then you would likely see Kobe bring the ball up the court, and pass it over to Ariza at the 2. Then Ariza would pass the ball down low to Bynum, who would proceed to back his man to the basket, and try to get easy points. If that is blocked off, you’ll see him pass it out to either Fish, Ariza, or Kobe who are squared and ready to shoot the open three. You could also see the ball kicked out to Kobe in the 3 position, and then that initiates the two man game with Kobe and Pau. At any time though, you could see Kobe take position at any spot of the triangle.
Court spacing is one of the most important factors for the triangle. With the proper court spacing, it is able to make it tougher for the defense to double team. Also, since you can form the triangle on either side of the court, the defense has to play defense sideline to sideline. The good court spacing also allows one on one post play, and if doubled, a wide open shot.
The triangle offense relies on trusting the players you have to recognize the defense, and to make the right decision based off of what the defensive reaction is like.
One way to initiate the offense, you see is that Fisher brings the ball up the court, and runs to the right corner. He then proceeds to make the pass to one of the big men in the post. Then the big attacks the basket, or makes the correct pass to an open player. If the defense decides to overplay a certain player — and since this offense is based solely on defensive recognition — it can lead to an easy basket for another player.
As you have seen, the triangle offense is tough to defend, even though it’s not the complex offense you once thought. It is a tough offense to stop, and an offense that most teams do not see unless they are facing the Lakers. Tex Winter is the architect of this offense, and over the years it has seen much success for Phil Jackson’s teams.
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