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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry Screen = Harrison Barnes Dunk DEJA VU!

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A video breakdown of how the Warriors put the game away against the Grizzlies with the same set that killed the Grizzlies in the playoffs.

Happy Curry, happy pals.
Happy Curry, happy pals.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I know the really fun plays of the night were Stephen Curry's wild long threes.  His long buzzer beater three to end the third quarter effectively ended the game, and this must have given flashbacks to Grizzlies fans of the nightmare buzzer beater three to ice Game 6 of the 2015 playoffs, which was the last time the Warriors played in this building.

However, we're going to focus on a lovely play that also should give Grizzlies fans unhappy flashbacks to Game 6.  Let's just get to the play.  I suggest you watch the play four times.

1. Watch the play and enjoy it.

On a first watch, you probably noticed Shaun Livingston dribbling the ball, passing to Leandro Barbosa who passes it to Harrison Barnes under the basket who spins for a dunk.

2. Watch Barbosa (The Passer)

Leandro Barbosa starts the play in the right corner and then runs to the left corner, getting a light screen from Curry on the baseline. He then catches the ball and makes a nice quick pass to an open Barnes under the basket.  But how did Barnes get so open?

3. Watch Barnes (The Cutter)

He starts the play standing at the right elbow trying to be as boring as possible to lull his defender Zach Randolph to sleep. He even bends over a little as if he's going to stretch and do yoga. Suddenly, he explodes past Zach (who is magically being screened by Curry) and past Russ Smith who tries to high five Barnes as he goes by. Spin and dunk.

4. Watch Curry (The Screener)

This is where the real magic happens. Curry starts in the left corner and sets a light screen for Barbosa as he passes him on the baseline. This prevents Barbosa's defender from shooting the gap to deny him the pass from Livingston. Then Curry runs towards Barnes and screens Zach Randolph. Barnes gets clear for the dunk.

What's Good About The Play

Now in hindsight, you know that Curry is going to set a screen on Zach Randolph. But, 9 times out of 10, Curry is going to use a screen from Barnes to get open for three, right?  So every Grizzly is keyed on stopping Curry. So whenever a shooter like Curry or Klay Thompson sets a screen, it is going to be a little unexpected.

Playoff Game 6 Deja Vu

This play might have looked familiar. In fact, the Warriors used it a couple of times in the final Game 6 in the 2015 Playoffs as we'll show.

I won't give detailed commentary, except to say the play is exactly the same with different personnel.  In this set play, Passer and Screener cross on the baseline. Passer gets a pass. Screener goes to screen for Big Cutter. Passer then passes to the open Cutter.

In the video above, Passer = Barbosa, Screener = Curry, Cutter = Barnes.

In the video below, both times, Passer = Curry, Screener = Klay, Cutter = Draymond Green. The first time, Zach Randolph is screened, the second time Marc Gasol is the victim.

See if you can see how these two plays are exactly the same (and the same as today's play).


Final Notes

  • There are a few more examples of this play at the YouTube channel of @HalfCourtHoops. He calls the play a simple Rip, since Harrison Barnes cuts down the edge of the lane and this is sometimes called a "rip cut". I don't have a better name for the play, so I'll call it Warriors Rip in the future.
  • There are a lot of other plays that work because Curry or Klay is the screener. If you see an out of bounds play where Barnes or some other big is wide open for a dunk, it is probably because of a similar down screen from Curry or Klay at the same spot on the floor.

The Explain One Play Series So Far