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Explain One Play: Thunderous Draymond Green to Festus Ezeli alley-oop dunk

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Video breakdown of the Warriors' clutch alley-oop against the Bulls on Nov 20 2015.

Curry impersonates a sine wave.
Curry impersonates a sine wave.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Careful watchers of the Warriors know the cringe when Draymond Green throws an alley-oop lob to Festus Ezeli. Something like the first ten attempts were not successful and even now there is a significant misfire rate.  However, the two of them connected in crunch time during the Bulls game.

The situation is the Warriors are clinging to a 87-86 lead with less than six minutes left in the game. Here is the play for your general viewing pleasure.

On a casual viewing, it may look like a magical tic tac toe of passes leading to a huge dunk. That easy, huh?  I love this Draymond quote:

You've just got to give the defense time to break down.  - Draymond Green to Ethan Strauss

This whole sequence embodies that quote in a nutshell. In fact, this dunk is the patient result of working a set play which stretches the Chicago defense to the breaking point, and it suddenly fails, Swagzeli-style.

The Set Play: Recycled Double Screen

(I don't know what this play is called by the Warriors. @HalfCourtHoops, who compiled these video clips, calls it Slice Double, but I like my name better.)

Version 1. First Double Screen

Here is the first option in the play.  There is a lot of motion, but you can just focus on how Harrison Barnes #40 starts in the left corner and curls around a double screen by Andrew Bogut #12 and Draymond Green #23. He gets the pass and is wide open for a three.

You can watch it again to see how Barnes's defender completely loses Barnes and then can't get around the second screen.

Version 2. Second Double Screen

This begins the same way as Version 1 (mirrored), so Barbosa starts in the right corner and curls up top around a double screen from Marreese Speights #5 and Bogut #12. He will be covered. But a second player is waiting to use the same two screens. Watch.

You can see that Stephen Curry begins the whole play, runs under the basket and then re-uses the double screen from Speights and Bogut. Chris Paul does a good job staying with Stephen Curry through the screens (using bumping, holding, speed and helpful arm whacks on Curry by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan along the way). Curry disrespectfully shoots a 3 right in Paul's face.

Version 3. Recycled Double Screen Counter

Okay, how does one defend this play?  Either through excellent screen navigation by the curlers' defenders, or by the defense switching assignments to keep the curlers covered.  That's what happens on this play. You will see Barnes be the first curler using screens by Bogut and Draymond, followed by Curry recycling that double screen.  You will see that Draymond's defender has the clever idea to switch on to Curry. Unfortunately, Curry's defender did not receive the memo that there was a switch and they both go to Curry resulting in...

Green's defender is covering Curry. Curry's defender is covering Curry. So Green is open. He cuts to the hoop, gets a nice pass from Barnes, gets a goaltended layup.

Today's Play, Part 1: Recycled Double Screen

Okay, my point, and I do have one, is that tonight's play begins with a Recycled Double Screen.  Here is just the first part of the play. View it and answer the quiz: who sets the double screen, who is the first curler and who is the second curler?

Answer: The screens are set by Ezeli and Draymond. Curry is the first curler. Klay Thompson is the second curler.

Now rewatch it, but see who covers Curry.  (I'll wait.)

It starts with Kurt HInrich, but on the first double screen, he and Jimmy Butler switch so JB is covering Curry (note lots of good pointing between them).  Klay recycles the double screen, but he is well covered.  So as we leave our heroes, Klay has the ball, but is covered.  The crack in the Bulls defense is that Kurt Hinrich is now covering the bigger Draymond.

Today's Play, Part 2. Exploiting the Post Mismatch

Here is the short second part of the play. Klay feeds Draymond in the post with the smaller Hinrich on him and Ezeli #31 lurking on the other side of the lane, "guarded" by Pau Gasol.  The Warriors have three fine shooters up high, so no help can come. Hinrich doesn't establish a defensive post position, so Draymond actually gets a driving lane. Who on the Bulls can stop this drive?  Roll tape.

Pau Gasol, feeling pangs of conscience, or perhaps reluctantly driven by European social convention, leaves Ezeli and meanders towards Draymond to cut off the drive. But he doesn't get close enough to Draymond to bother a pass, nor stay close enough to Ezeli to stop a lob. No ambiguous European art movie ending here, it's a good old fashioned American action movie ending with a big dunk explosion and applause.

Final Thoughts

As more teams switch screens (in general, but also specifically against the Warriors), the Warriors have worked this year on improving Draymond Green's post game to take advantage of switches.  It's working. It feels to me that Draymond is slowly taking over Bogut's central role as post playmaker, and to Bogut's credit, he doesn't seem to be sabotaging the transition.

Without Draymond's improvement in the post and Ezeli's improvement in catching and finishing lobs, this play would have been just another thwarted play. Now the Warriors have gone to the Next Level on this play.

AWESOME BONUS Animation

Sweet Baby Odin, I just discovered I can get these animations of the play from stats.nba.com.  See how #30 then #11 use the double screen? And how #11 feeds #23 in the post and #16 leaves #31, opening up for the alley oop?

(Note: The position of the Warriors blue dots are correct, but there is a bug where defenders Hinrich #12 and Tony Snell #20 are merged and tracked as one dot. Still, it looks cool.)

The Explain One Play Series So Far

Offense
Defense