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Milwaukee Bucks Dictionary: “Rearview Pursuit”

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The “rearview pursuit” is a critical component of the Milwaukee Bucks’ pick-and-roll defense.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bucks’ Dictionary is a means to help you understand the Milwaukee Bucks on a deeper level. We’ll explore different terms, schemes and sets the Bucks run and define them in the simplest terms possible.

In the first course, we defined the big man’s role in Milwaukee’s “drop” pick-and-roll coverage. Today, we’ll explain the duties of the player defending the ball-handler. The “rearview pursuit” and “over” are two crucial aspects of the Bucks’ pick-and-roll defense. They are the heart and soul of the scheme and it would all fall apart without them.

“Rearview Pursuit” and “Over”

Definition: An on-ball pick-and-roll technique where the ball-handler’s defender fights to stay close to his man by going above the screen is called an “over.” A “rearview pursuit” is when the defender then chases his man to get back in front as quickly as possible.

To begin the play, LaMarcus Aldridge moves to the top of the key to set a pick on Pat Connaughton. As he does so, Brook Lopez is undoubtedly calling out the screen so Connaughton moves up and into his man. This allows him to fight over the top of the screen more effectively.

As discussed in the previous “drop” pick-and-roll definition, Lopez is then tasked with keeping both the ball-handler and the screener in front of him. As he’s doing so, Connaughton fights like crazy to get back into an adequate defending position. On the step-back, he’s able to get in front of his man and deflect the shot.

Here’s another example:

Purpose:

The “over” and “rearview pursuit” serve a couple of primary purposes for the Bucks’ defense:

  1. To pressure the ball-handler into making a quick decision.
  2. To force the offense inside the three-point line.
  3. To recover in front of the ball-handler and/or to contest the shot from behind.

The big man defending the screen is left on a temporary island while the guard is fighting “over” the pick. Temporary is the key word. This situation is not meant to last longer than a moment or two, as it’s an advantageous two-on-one for the offense. This means the dribbler must find a quick resolution, as his edge won’t last long. By closing the decision-making window as fast as possible, the Bucks hope to force opposing teams into poor decisions whether it be a bad or contested shot, a turnover or an offensive reset.

The defense also wants to funnel the action inside the three-point line and right into the waiting arms of their shot-blocking professionals such as Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the defender maintaining his position at or above the arc, it creates a lesser opportunity for a three-pointer — a booming trend in today’s NBA.

The final purpose is to recover to their original assignments and continue to play defense as advertised. It’s a huge win anytime Milwaukee is able to force the offense to reset, as it drains the shot clock and shortens the time to make a decision. As for contesting the shot from behind, well, that wasn’t thought of as ideal in the past. However, the Bucks showed that with athletes like Connaughton, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, their pursuit can make life miserable for anyone attempting a pull-up jumper.

As Kemba Walker is bringing the ball up the right side of the court, Cody Zeller comes to set a drag screen. Lopez is already waiting in the lane for Walker and is calling out the screen for the on-ball defender Eric Bledsoe. Right before making contact with the screener, Bledsoe comes up and into Walker. Although this goes against traditional defense, especially against a quick player, it allows Bledsoe to navigate the screen more easily and fight over the top.

Naturally, Bledsoe will get somewhat caught on the screen, delaying his ability to recover. However, it’s his job to fight through it as quickly as possible and begin the recovery process. Walker decides to pull up at the elbow which doesn’t allow Bledsoe enough time to get back in front of his man. Regardless, he pressures the shooter from behind, as he tries to contest the shot. Even though the ball goes in, it’s still fairly good defense by the Bucks.

Connaughton is defending Wayne Ellington in semi-transition on this play. As Ellington is bringing the ball up the right side of the floor, he receives a pick from Andre Drummond on the right slot. Connaughton squeezes around Drummond by getting skinny and turning his body parallel with the sideline. After using the screen, Ellington knows his man is hot on his heels and even peeks back to see where he is. He still decides to take the jumper from the baseline, but the defender is able to get there in time and block the shot.

The on-ball defender must ensure he gets over the screen as quick as possible. If he gets caught up for even a second it puts his teammate at a huge disadvantage. Even if he gets over it right away, a great shooter can still make them pay.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Charlotte Hornets needed a bucket in the worst way, and they dialed up the most common play in basketball. With Walker dribbling near half court, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sets a screen a couple of feet beyond the three-point line. Ersan Ilyasova drops like he’s taught and Bledsoe tries to fight over the top of the pick. However, with the defender closing in fast, Walker hits a cold-blooded three to tie the game.

These opportunities will be there for the elite pull-up shooters, as it’s impossible to take away everything. Nevertheless, the role of the “over” and “rearview pursuit” is to put as much pressure as possible on the offense and force them into a quick, contested decision. Without this technique, the “drop” pick-and-roll would be a complete failure.