Afseth Analysis: Breaking Down Malcolm Brogdon's Game-Winner vs. Magic

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers managed to pull out a hard-fought victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday. It required overtime and a game-winning three-pointer from Malcolm Brogdon, but in the end, the Pacers won 120-118. 

The execution from Brogdon on the big shot is naturally what will catch the most attention. However, it was the in-the-moment decision-making of Domantas Sabonis and Doug McDermott that helped create the buildup that led to it happening. 

The initial option the Pacers appeared to want was to get Nikola Vucevic to have to defender out in space to exploit his lack of foot speed by running a pick-and-roll. Vucevic initially held a favorable position to deter Brogdon from driving to the rim without having to hard-hedge or blitz against the ball screen. 

On the initial ball screen, Sabonis appeared to have made the choice to slip. This enabled Evan Fournier to go over the screen without facing much resistance and that played a key role in him being able to track Brogdon on the drive well-enough to cut off his path. 

With the low-man fully pre-rotated to the paint to help against Brogdon's drive and Vucevic angling to help, Brogdon knew to pass. Now, Brogdon either simply threw an inaccurate live dribble pass back to Sabonis or appeared to have anticipated Sabonis staying further out in space (deep mid-range/closer to the 3-point line) on a short roll. 

Sabonis managed to gain control of the inaccurate pass made by Brogdon. Sabonis then engaged Vucevic enough to force Terrence Ross from the left wing to feel obligated to help prevent him from driving left for a finish with his strong hand. 

This is when Sabonis made a masterful read to set up the game-winning catch-and-shoot three from Brogdon. With Ross now worsening his ability to recover to Doug McDermott due to helping on the drive, Sabonis quickly engaged in a dribble handoff action.

By going with a quick dribble handoff, Sabonis knew that Ross would trail McDermott when going over the screen contact. McDermott's decision to back up before the catch maximized this by creating more separation. Ross was already going to be in recovery mode but the swipe at the pass he did only worsened his ability to gain a favorable position.

McDermott made a tremendous read in his own right after receiving the ball and dribbling towards the top of the key. He noticed that Fournier was sagging off Brogdon in order to be in a position to clean up for Ross after he came up empty on his gamble in the passing lane. That slight delay gave McDermott enough daylight to quickly fire the ball to Brogdon for the catch-and-shoot jumper. 

The decision from Brogdon to extend his spot-up position a few steps behind the three-point line further helped him to get a clean look against Fournier's run out. Overall, Sabonis making the decision to engage in a dribbling handoff and McDermott's quick read helped the play to work. 

With the game on the line, the Pacers know they can trust Brogdon and Sabonis to get the job done. It's crucial that's the case when considering Victor Oladipo has largely been the team's closer since the Paul George trade. Now, Indiana has new trusted closers in place to take charge.

“I like to take big shots,” Brogdon said. “My teammates, this coaching staff trusts me to take big shots at the end of the game. And I trust myself.”

With ideal execution to take a 120-118 lead with 2.8 seconds left to play, the Pacers needed to just get a stop on defense to ensure a victory. Ultimately, that's what transpired despite Evan Fournier getting a clean look from deep as the buzzer sounded. 

The Pacers begin a back-to-back home series with the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. 

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