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One Warriors Play: Two Spurs Recipes + Stephen Curry = Klay Thompson three

This is a deep dive analysis on one play from last night's Rockets-Warriors game, as we explore the Warriors' playbook.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This is a deep dive analysis on one play from last night, as we explore the Warriors' playbook.

Previously we looked at the Warriors using a Spurs set in  #1. Motion Strong.  In the Rockets game, the Warriors pulled out this nice play which combines two central actions in the Spurs playbook: Loop and Hammer.

First, in the following play, on a first glance it might look like Stephen Curry runs around, gets the pass, then magically finds Klay Thompson for a three.

Let's look more carefully. The first thing to notice Curry inbounds to Andre Iguodala. This is an out-of-bounds play and on these, you have the chance to run a set play and put everyone right where they ought to be, and also have enough time to run a second option if the first one is stopped.  There are two parts of this play: a Triple Loop (which the Rockets defend very well) and a Hammer.

Part 1. Triple Loop

As the ball is inbounded, look at three Warriors readying to screens for Curry, who proceeds to "loop" around the screens and come out on the opposite wing. Poor Beverley has to follow Curry dodging screens by Festus Ezeli, Klay, and Draymond Green.  There are lots of variations on how Curry can run around the screens in case Beverley tries to short cut the screens and I hope later this year we will highlight more variations. This time, Curry runs the basic loop.

Rematch the video and watch what the Rockets defenders do to keep Curry covered.

Beverley smashes into the brick wall named Ezeli and gets hung up on that screen. Klay is next to block Beverley's path, so Klay's man Trevor Ariza very alertly switches on to the looping Curry.  He is a step behind Curry, and Draymond is setting the third screen, so Ariza calls for Draymond's defender Terrence Jones to jump out to make Andre have to pass a split second later to Curry and a couple of feet farther out than ideal. Now Ariza can catch up to Curry.   Excellent defense. (Actually if you want to split hairs, Andre could have passed directly to Draymond who was unabated to the hoop, but that's with the benefit of slow motion.)

Now that the initial action is stopped, I like how the Warriors didn't bail out into a Curry-Green pick and roll. That's a mighty fine option, but at this point in the game, Klay was scuffling a bit, and I suspect they intentionally went to a second action for Klay on purpose, as we will see.

Part 2. Hammer

Gregg Popovich was one of the earliest coaches to put extra emphasis on the corner 3. He found he could turn players like Bruce Bowen from a one-dimensional lockdown defender (two dimensions if you count dirty play) into a 3 and D guy by his mastering the corner three.

The Hammer action, at its most basic is this. The ball handler drives to the hoop from one side. On the other side, a three point shooter cuts to the corner. Here is the hammer part: a big sets a screen on the shooter's defender. Driver passes to the corner. That's it. Simple idea, but you need communication and awareness to defend this.

Rematch the video and watch what happens to Beverley as he guards Klay while Curry drives.

Curry drives toward the basket on one side. On the other side, Klay goes to the corner. Ezeli sets a screen on the blind side of Klay's defender, Beverley (these are called "back screens"). Poor Beverley is getting worked on this play, as he's nailed by Ezeli a second time on this play. Now Klay is open in the corner. Curry drives, Dwight Howard helps (possibly unnecessary, Ariza seemed to be keeping up). Dwight gets hands up to prevent a Curry pass to a cutter down the middle. Unfortunately for Dwight, it's the pass to the corner 3.  The pass is a little bit off and Klay bobbles it, so he misses a completely open 3, but Beverley is frazzled and gets there late and a nice pump fake gets Klay space for a shot.

What's Good About These Plays?

The Triple Loop is great because it is fun to watch and, well, there are three screeners! That is tough to defend. The Spurs run it a lot for Tony Parker. Now if it's Curry looping, he can run it even better than Parker, since Curry can loop out farther and get off a three with just a step of separation. There are a lot of counters Curry can run if he is overplayed on the loop (think all the backdoor cuts against Russell Westbrook) or if the defenders switch, the last screener can cut to the hoop (Shaun Livingston was good at these finds). Many options.

The Hammer is great because...

  • it isn't that complicated to run and there are a lot of ways to distract on one side and back screen on the other;
  • corner 3s are very efficient and Klay and Barnes can hit them at a high efficiency;
  • when a defense pays attention to a drive on the other side of the court (especially when Curry is the driver, and the defense has to be ready to help), they are vulnerable to being back-screened; and
  • once the corner 3 is open, there are a lot of ways to get the ball there. In this play, Curry guns it over the top, but he could have passed it along the baseline, or even jumped out of bounds and passed it from out of bounds (think Manu Ginobelli sailing out of bounds and passing to the other corner).

Final Notes

  • This year, the Warriors are trying to get deeper into their playbook.  Every play should have multiple options and counters to different defenses. So in this case, the Rockets stopped the first option, the Triple Loop, and the Warriors went straight into a second option. If that didn't work, there is still more than 10 seconds on the shot clock for a bail out Curry pick and roll.
  • The combination of plays is also nice because the first Loop caused the Rockets to jumble up their D with switches. So now Beverley is guarding Klay and he is (1) small and (2) probably hasn't prepped to stop Klay in the same way he game plans to stop Curry.
  • I assume this was a planned Loop with Hammer option, but it would be even more impressive if Ezeli and Klay read the play and did the Hammer spontaneously. If you watch, Draymond does come out after the the Loop to apparently set a screen for Curry, so I don't know if that was just great misdirection or his giving Curry a third option.
  • Hat tip to @halfcourthoops who pointed out the play.
  • I probably can't write one of these for every game, but wouldn't it be fun if we could?  The main constraint, beyond time, is that I can't always track down video of full plays. I don't have cable and a DVR, so I can't usually acquire digital video until a day or two after the game.
  • So if you see some cool play that we ought to break down, if you can provide video, that would make it extra possible. Consider making a FanShot. Or tweet me and we can work it out.

Bonus Quick Notes

  • I loved that the garbage time crew actually ran offense. They looked competent and no one became a heartless gunner.
  • Felt like Green tried multiple times to set up Andre for alley-oops?  Felt excessive.
  • Really disrespectful double teams of Dwight. W's just flat out did not believe DH could find the open man fast enough before the Ws would recover.
  • That was a very casual 25 points from Curry. His points came so much in the flow of offense.
  • Curry only used superpowers on that crazy dribbling play through three defenders and the unreal bullet over-the-shoulder no-look to Ezeli, which sadly he didn't finish. Our Nate P caught the video:
  • It's been reported that Curry is pushing back against being rested in the fourth quarter.  What is up with that?  Take the rest! Take the rest! Curry injury/burnout is the only thing the W's can't overcome this year.

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