Draymond Summarizes All
If you want the best, concise, direct summary of the difference between the Dallas Mavericks game (which I have purged from my memory banks) and tonight's Rockets game, just listen to this short interview with Draymond Green. It's just a great to-the-point dissection of the games and life in general without Stephen Curry.
I want to take a quick look at the wonderful Andre Iguodala to Andrew Bogut alley-oop dunk. This came with the Warriors clinging to a five point lead with three minutes left in the game.
The alley-oop play is simple enough, but makes more sense as a deceptive twist on another standard Warriors play.
The Standard Play: Bogut Pindown Screen for Klay
This is one of the most common actions the Warriors run for Klay Thompson. You'll see Klay start near the corner and Bogut comes to the elbow area (the places where the free throw line and lane sides meet). Then Klay runs near Bogut, hoping to have Bogut bump (or smash or grab) his defender to pin them down as Klay curls to receive a pass for a catch and shoot 3 or a drive. Here's an extremely typical example from last night's Rockets game.
Notice how Bogut's defender, Dwight Howard has dropped all the way back into the lane, so he's completely out of position to help if Klay's defender James Harden should be screened. Dwight actually points out Klay to Harden, and Harden immediately runs himself into Bogut. I don't know what happened. It's possible that Dwight told Harden to get around the screen and James knew he couldn't so he committed ritual screen suicide. In any case Dwight doesn't expect Harden to lose Klay so quickly and he's way too far away to contest.
It's kind of grimly amusing to see a highly resistible force (Harden) flop around against the immovable but often moving and grabby object (Bogut).
So in retrospect, Dwight Howard needs to come out closer to Bogut as he sets the screen. That sets the stage for what follows.
Tricky Variation: Bogut Slips the Pindown Screen for the Dunk
Okay, this play goes by quickly so don't blink. At the start of the play, see that Klay is set up in the right corner with Bogut running towards him. It looks like Bogut wants a pindown screen. In fact, Bogut is in full Method Acting character. He's got the psychological gesture of pointing to Klay twice and waving him closer for the screen. He's probably reminiscing out loud with Klay about their previous pindowns. Dwight Howard now positions himself on Bogut's left, just about where Klay would appear if he curls around a Bogut screen. Bogut heartlessly betrays Dwight and does this:
When you run up to a ball handler as if to set a screen but then cut before the defender is fully screened, that's called slipping the screen. Part of the art of this play is for Bogut to cut right when Dwight is NOT looking at the ball. Here the players are spaced so there's no one who can contest a well thrown lob to the cutting Bogut.
This is actually a set play, though I imagine it could be called spontaneously by players reading a defense that is overplaying Klay's curls off of pindown screens.
Here are a few more examples of the play for your pleasure, pulled from the awesome and somewhat frightening video archives of @HalfCourtHoops.
That was a satisfying win. Good to see the Warriors executing the offense, which has taken on a triangle-offense flavor as the ball has tended to go to Draymond or Shaun Livingston in the post, with shooters screening for each other and non-shooters cutting to the hoop with screens and without. I even saw Mo Speights cut to the free throw line as a triangle-offense release (compare past discussion of Blind Pig).
I've always said that a motion offense is really for the non-superstars. If you can run an offense that keeps you close without Curry magic, then Curry only really needs to go Super Saiyan for short stretches to give the team separation and a win of decent margin.
And as we saw this trip, it put them in position to split a difficult back-to-back road trip with Curry and three other key players missing.