As the Golden State Warriors slowly melted away a 13-point lead in the final six minutes of its 98-96 win over the Indiana Pacers. Warriors Twitter, as it is dubbed (heh), was completely apoplectic over the usual issues in the rotation: substitutional patterns, play-calling, substitutional patters, and lastly, lest we forget, play-calling. Forget that the Warriors were in the game and holding more than a puncher's chance of beating the number one defense and best (record-wise) team in the NBA, a loss here would invoke a social media riot we haven't seen since...well the last Warriors loss.
Fortunately for the everyone involved, the Warriors pulled off the victory, on a Klay Thompson isolation post-up no less, and most would forget how we got to this red-faced level of screaming through the entire fourth quarter.
Reactions post-game ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other and with the usual people trying to straddle the in-between: "Warriors got the win! What more do you want?!" to "Mark Jackson almost cost them the game and the players won in spite of his tactics!" to "Results over process is so Jarrett Jack and no, that's not a good thing". It was a kaleidoscope of emotions, climaxing in a win over one of, if not the best, team in the entire league.
Since I'm a fan of auto-fandom-asphyxiation, let's delve into the what happened in the latter half of the fourth quarter and whether elite defensive teams shutting down the offense in clutch moments (even the Toronto Raptors on Sunday) is a fluke or something to get used to down the stretch (Hint: not a fluke, but also something we've known for weeks).
To preface the ensuing breakdown, it's only fair to point out that the Indiana Pacers do coast a little bit in the first half and turn on their lockdown defense in the latter stages. In other words, David West starts doubling key ball-handlers, Roy Hibbert turns it up a notch and Frank Vogel's ace-in-the-hole Paul George mans up against the opposing team's best player. They're the best defense in the league for a reason. Also, I won't go into the defensive possessions because the Warriors were excellent all game long on that end.
In conclusion, the Pacers are really good. Mark Jackson has flaws as a basketball coach but it doesn't change the fact he has turned this team into a defensive juggernaut that owns the confidence akin to that of a defending champion. But that's boring. Let's get to the fun stuff:
And it begins. George Hill is 6'2". Klay Thompson is 6'7". He is taller, therefore his body is longer, therefore he can shoot over the shorter player, therefore that is what we, in the "expertz analysiz" department call, a mismatch. This isn't the first time we've seen it, and is damn well not the last. Is this part of a flukey collapse or a schematic problem? I'll let you answer that one.
Draymond Green played an excellent game. To supplement his usual manic defense and traffic rebounding, he even hit two threes, giving the bench a scoring lift. There are several things to point out here. Jackson, seeing his bench stretch the lead, decided to bring Stephen Curry in a little later than scheduled and to leave Green in and keep David Lee out. Then some reason, they thought Green was Lee and decided to give him an isolation post-up, against David West no less. If Lee has trouble scoring on him, well, just watch the clip and see for yourself.
The play takes the ball out of Curry's hands and even though Barnes had a semi-open lane and semi-contested shot at the basket, it's not ideal when it can be easily remedied, or simply not called upon. At this point, many Warriors fans were ready to tear down the team, hiring Stan Van Gundy and subsequently winning the 2017 Finals with LeBron James hoisting the MVP trophy on a cable car in downtown San Francisco.
In between the 1960s offense, the Warriors were busy fouling (some questionable ones) and giving up open jumpers to Roy Hibbert. Even though he hit them, it was still solid defense and a couple late stops kept this from getting away (a far cry from the Raptors game).
I didn't mind this play that much. The Pacers refused to double (the right move), instead trusting Lance Stephenson with the defensive assignment on Barnes. Barnes easily backs him down (bigger, hence mismatch, hence isolation, hence Jackson will call this every time trope) but misses the short fadeaway jumper. Still adjusting to the speed and strength of the NBA game, one would think Barnes would be able to hit this shot next season or sooner than that. It's not as ideal as a spot-up Thompson jumper but I, weirdly enough, have more confidence in this shot than an off-balance Thompson midrange pull off a pindown. Because I am a fool. Still, isolation.
At this point, Warriors Twitter were reverting back to the "WHY ISN'T ANDREW BOGUT IN AND DUNKING ON ROY HIBBERT?" thing. A classic, that one is.
I loved this play call, even if its one of the more simpler ones in anyone's playbook. Barnes sets a screen to free up Jermaine O'Neal to set up a pick-and-roll screen for Curry. Here's where the prefaced points come into play: the Pacers now have George on Curry and the Warriors don't have Bogut in the game to set hard screens. This is Indiana's PNR defense earlier in the game.
George Hill is not Paul George and Jermaine O'Neal is not Andrew Bogut. This, I am sure. At this point, Warriors fans were lamenting the amount of minutes played for Curry and blaming the turnovers and missed shots on fatigue and ALL MARK JACKSON'S FAULT AGAIN.
Later, the Warriors try something new with Iguodala handling the ball (and then dislocating his finger) and that didn't work when Curry was unable to come off screens. But Lee, now back in for Green, scored off a loose ball, and the ensuing offensive possession led to this:
Pacers announcers when O'Neal had the ball with no one within 800 feet of him, "This is a surprise here". No, it isn't. This is, in fact, 2001 again. Then Curry got the ball open on an out-of-bounds play and decided to pump-fake and step out of bounds, another classic play, though borne of French origins and was never, ever successful.
Also, David Lee enthusiastic fast-claps are the best.
Jackson made plenty of substitutions down the stretch (offense for defense and vice versa) so even though we might want to knock him for their stubborn trust, he had no issues playing Green and Steve Blake big minutes.
No matter, at this point, Utah is drafting Andrew Wiggins with the Warriors' number one overall selection.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAA. Warriors basketball is so fun.