Explain One Play: How Malik Monk extended a wild Kings-Clippers game

Explain One Play: How Malik Monk extended a wild Kings-Clippers game

If you missed Friday night's fever dream between the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings, I highly recommend finding a way to catch up. Fire up League Pass, see if NBA TV is showing a re-run soon, go to YouTube. Do something. 

We're not seeing another 176-175 in double overtime anytime soon. At the very least, I find it hard to believe we will.

That game had everything: Kawhi Leonard (44-4-4-3-2) going off, De'Aaron Fox (42-5-12-5) reaffirming his lead in the Clutch Player of the Year race, a career-night from Malik Monk (45 points and 6 assists), Paul George (34-10-5) losing his mind before losing the ball over and over and over again. A Russell Westbrook debut befitting of the future Hall of Famer: 17 points, 14 assists (7 turnovers) and 6 fouls with the Clippers winning his minutes by three points. 

Insane three-point shooting, bully-ball post-ups, transition exploits, and ultimately, history. It's the second-highest scoring NBA game of all-time, and the first time in NBA history that a game went into overtime with both teams having at least 150 points beforehand. 

The Kings probably aren't in position to potentialy force overtime without the Clippers' turnover-fest — and Fox's defensive masterclass — within the last three minutes of the game. And we certainly don't get the overtime without Monk's three from the right corner with 1.1 seconds left. 

It's a tremendous mix of "what a play call" and "what are the Clippers doing" — enough that it warrants a breakdown of the play. Let's talk about what happened, and why it happened.

As Mark Jones expertly calls out during the mayhem, the Kings are trying to set up a "Hammer" on the weakside for Monk. The tell for the "Hammer" would be the late screen being set by Keegan Murray as Monk flows to the corner. The setup beforehand, however, is pretty important. 

Monk tests the Clippers early by setting a brush screen for Fox right after the inbound. On three occasions before this moment, Monk set early-in-the-clock screens for Fox, with the Clippers opting to switch. Even in the second instance — a Fox triple — you can see Terance Mann dropping down in anticipation of a switch. 

As Monk comes across, George subtly grabs Monk. Westbrook turns and hovers around the nail at that moment. A favorable (but ultimately inexcusable) interpretation of Westbrook's actions would be him viewing Paul's grab as a sign he was getting ready to switch, thus making Fox the priority of Westbrook.

But even with Westbrook ultimately making the wrong read, the Clippers had chances to avoid disaster. With Westbrook at the nail, Nicolas Batum had the opportunity to pick up Monk as he made his way around the right wing. 

More pressing is what Norm Powell does. He drops down from the weakside corner, showing help against the empty corner ball screen being "ran" by Fox and Domantas Sabonis. If he does that in the second quarter, you don't really blink. Doing so when the Kings are down three, with no timeouts, is an unfortunate lapse in judgment. 

From here, you have to give credit to Monk. On a basic level, he drills the most important shot of the game to that point. What's going under the radar was the read he made in space.

Instead of mindlessly following the playcall and pumping the brakes in the corner, he reads Fox. He drifts back to his left as Fox continues his drive on the baseline, creating the passing window needed for Fox to find him. His movement also makes it impossible for Powell to recover, and puts him in a spot where Westbrook can't really bother him with a contest. 

It was a brilliant play call from the Kings that, intentionally or not, targeted the most questionable off-ball defenders the Clippers had on the court at that time. Westbrook had to defend the inbound pass and the first action of the play; Powell had to navigate things on the back end, with him ultimately going gameplan over time and score. 

For more on Monk's impact on the Kings, check out this excellent feature from our Spencer Davies where he sat down with Monk and his teammates.

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