Coach Nick offered his analysis of the Golden State Warriors 110-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game Three of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, with a primary focus on each team's defensive strategy. The following is a summary of some of the key takeaways.
Coach Nick opens by saying what some people been saying since Game One: Mark Jackson is out-coaching George Karl. And to a point that was made after Game Two, that begins with Karl's struggle to find and stick with effective lineups.
Everybody said that the Nuggets made a number of correctable mental mistakes defensively in Game Two: there weren't a whole lot of fatal flaws that they had to "figure out", so to speak. They simply had to communicate better and get on the same page defensively. Not so in Game Three: as Coach Nick highlighted, switching defensive assignments so often seemed to cause confusion at times and poor matchups at others.
Among the defensive decisions made in Game Three, Jeffrey Morton of SB Nation's Denver Stiffs has already noted that the decision to go away from trapping the ball handler on the pick and roll was a mistake that was as if, "...the Nuggets cut off their nose to spite their face yet again."
I have said since the moment the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson that his defensive potential was very underrated: you don't play big minutes at Washington State for Ken Bone without some defensive intelligence. Coach Nick called him "the LeBron James of the Warriors' defense". Lofty praise, but he has come up big on a number of occasions to help the Warriors defensively.
The combination of a "free flowing" Denver offense and the Warriors' zone has forced Nuggets players into a number of mid-range jumpers, which we know is not their strength. After watching the video and looking at their lineups, it's really clear that they're missing Danilo Gallinari in this series.
I was sitting next to a 3rd grader and his father, who coaches his CYO team. When Golden State lined up for the inbounds play up one point with 9.4 seconds left, the father leaned over to his son and said, "See - this is what we run. Watch this play." I also recognized it as a variation of a standard line play run in high school boys and girls basketball quite a bit. Coach Nick describes why the play did not work against a NBA defense and resulted in a five second call.
Coach Nick closes by wondering whether Karl will ever settle on a rotation that he can rely on for 15-20 minutes per game. And that's probably the thing to watch for in Game Four, which is now an improbably make or break game for Denver: have they tinkered long enough to figure anything out? Or is this really an impossible matchup for them to solve? The very fact that we're now wondering that while the Warriors are playing without David Lee is something of a shock.
For more on the series, visit our 2013 NBA Playoffs section.