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Crunch time on the road: How the Warriors fought 'the blitz' against the Celtics, Nets

We'll take a quick look at two crunch time plays from the Warriors' games against the Celitcs and Nets. We focus on how the Warriors deal with aggressive blitzing double teams.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of an occasional feature where we'll pick a play from a recent game to break down. They won't often be the prettiest plays or my favorite plays or the most important plays of the game. But I plan to pick plays that connect to deeper issues around the team's development. Today we look at a play from the Celtics game and Nets game.

I believe a CRUCIAL factor in the Warriors’ future playoff success is how they handle the blitzing (aggressive double-teaming) of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This is worthy of a fuller long-form piece, but for now, let's look at how the Warriors try to deal with the blitz in two key crunch time plays

1. Boston, 3/1/15

1:31 in the 4th. GSW down 99-98.

This play happens in three parts.

  • The set HORNS playThe Celtics have been blitzing the Curry and Klay pick and rolls. This is a designed action to counter the double team blitz. The play starts as a HORNS formation (see #3 here for a refresher on HORNS... really, check it out, the Ws used HORNS several plays in a row at the end of the Celtics game and it's worth recognizing it). The goal of this play is to get a two man (Klay-Draymond Green) pick and roll on the right side of the floor with lots of space.  They do this by having the right-side low man (Andre Iguodala) clear out to the left corner, while Curry sets a cross screen for Klay (left horn).
  • Klay is Blitzed. Now Klay has a pick and roll with Dray. The Cs blitz Klay on the sideline. If you stop at (8:04) you can see Klay has to make a hard read here. The first option on a double team is to hit your (unguarded) screener. But here the spacing is a little off and Green is covered. The second outlet is to the wing to Curry at the arc. But here he's late getting to an angle where Klay can pass to him. The third option is a long diagonal skip pass to Barnes at the arc.  Here Klay makes the patient read and makes a risky but effective pass across to Barnes.
  • Barnes Decision. Now Barnes has a interesting read to make (which you can make too if you freeze at 8:05). This is the kind of read that has paralyzed him in the past, because he has to decide whether to rotate to an open Andre at the arc or drive (he chooses drive with a fake rotation to Andre which fakes Crowder into running hard out to Andre and giving Barnes room for the drive); then he has to decide whether to kick to Klay in the corner (covered) or Curry at the wing (open) or go to the hoop. I’d say that on freeze frame, any of these would be legitimate choices. The point is that Barnes in real time crunch time made his decision decisively and went strong to the hoop. I think this js a great sign and shows a half season of maturing and confidence..

2. Brooklyn, 3/2/15

Here are the two plays before Jack's game winner.  I don't have time to deep dive on this (maybe later), so I'll let you all comment.

The first part is an awesome defensive stop where they annihilate a Nets high pick and roll.  Curry fights hard through a tough Lopez screen to stay with Jack and also do his excellent "stealing in position" thing that Ron Adams loves. he deflects Jack's pass to Lopez. Lopez recovers, but then Bogut strips Lopez FROM THE GROUND, and Green collects the ball.  So even though the second play is a bummer and Jack's winner was deflating, let's not overlook the incredible defense the Warriors played in the last four minutes.

The second part is what announcers have called Bogut throwing the ball away. I don't think it's that simple. If you see the play, note that the Ws don't take a time out. In retrospect, perhaps they should have. Curry runs into the offense with the usual high pick and roll in early offense.  Then the Nets double team Curry. Here Curry bails out of the pick and roll passing back to Bogut.

At this point I believe he calls a set play here. I'm only guessing here... you might have a different opinion of what the set play is. I believe the play is on the strong side for Andre to curl around Bogut to get a drop off pass if he's open. On the weak side, I believe Curry thinks he's running a curl around a Klay screen. But Klay doesn't believe that. If he did, he would have set a screen for Curry, and then Bogut's pass would have reached Curry at the arc. But Klay isn't on that page, and instead he sort of goes to catch the pass. In the meantime, Curry realizes the play is blown up and decides to go backdoor on Jack (cutting towards the basket). But Bogut thinks Curry is still curling, and throws the pass to nobody.

So if I'm right, the play isn't just a bad pass from Bogut, it's a miscommunication by three exhausted players trying to run a second option after the first option (Curry high pick and roll) is taken away with a blitz.

What do you think?

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