Looking at the Late-Game playcalls

Last night's game against OKC was a barn-burner. Nobody could miss shots. Unfortunately, down the stretch of the game, the Warriors couldn't score enough, and came up empty on their last two possessions. Let's look at those last possessions.

Play #1: Ellis/Lee P&R


Conceptually, this is not a bad play. The Warriors had killed the Thunder throughout the game using this pick and roll - three shooters on one side and a pick and roll on the other. However, notice where Harden is - in the paint, playing way off Curry.


The Thunder hedge hard on the screen by Lee, so Monta makes the right decision by passing. Lee drives to the bucket.


Some people were complaining that Lee should have drove here, but look at Harden. He is in position to take the charge. Lee cannot shoot off the dribble, so he has to pass it. The important thing here is the three shooters circled in yellow - there is absolutely no movement. There is also terrible spacing. Harden can play off Curry because Durant can cover two players. If Lee wants to pass to one of the shooters, he has to attempt a dangerous cross-court pass which will definitely be picked off.


(click picture to open gif)

So Lee ends up passing to Monta, who jacks up a contested three. He was sort of open, but his balance was off, Lee hurried his pass and Westbrook recovered well after ball-watching.

This was not a bad play theoretically. However, the Thunder have seen this play before because the Warriors ran it several times during the game. The team was ready for it. This is where Mark Jackson has to learn - coaches always need to add a wrinkle to the late-game playcalling. Instead of having three guys standing around, Curry could probably have curled around some screens. So when Lee kicks out to Monta, Curry will be curling around a screen, Harden (Curry's defender) will be under the basket and Curry will shoot an open jumper. Notice how everyone is watching the ball and not Curry - he could definitely have gotten open.

Play #2: Rush 3


The play starts with Curry curling around a screen. However, he is curling away from the ball (taking him out of the play). It is obvious that he is not receiving the ball. This makes the switch easy - Harden passes Curry off to Westbrook.


Dorell then sets a screen for Rush. Once again, we have a great catch-and-shoot player running away from the ball. Curry is not a threat.


(click to open gif)

Dorell sets the screen, but the Thunder predictably switch, Durant contests the shot and it does not even hit the rim.

This was not a bad concept (getting your best three point shooter the ball). However, with Curry running away from the ball, it was obvious either Wright or Rush would shoot the ball. If you look closely, Harden put his body between Rush and Wright, knowing that they will most likely try to screen (and he delays it long enough so that the switch with Durant is easy). Also, Rush and Wright are both set shooters, meaning that they are not as good coming off a screen and then catching and shooting the ball (which is what Rush tries to do). It would probably have been better to have Klay in as a shooter as well so that more pressure would be put on the defense.

In addition, teams switch in late game situations, so the goal of any play should be to create confusion because that is usually the only way to get open in a catch-and-shoot situation. There was not enough misdirection here to create confusion. For example, even though Keith Smart was criticized last year, he did have a nice playcall against the Sacramento Kings. A bunch of players were in the middle of the key, someone was curling around the mess, Vlad Rad got lost by the Kings due to all the movement and hit the game tying three.

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!

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