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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Giddyup Exorcism 3

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This is a deep dive video analysis of plays from the Spurs-Warriors game on Jan 25 2016.

"Oh give me your poor tired masses yearning for Vines"
"Oh give me your poor tired masses yearning for Vines"
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

That was the most satisfying regular season Warriors win I've ever experienced.  I don't think you can draw conclusions about the future Spurs-Warriors games, regular season or playoffs. We all know there will be adjustments and injuries and strategy, etc. I know Tim Duncan was out, and he would have stopped a few of those backdoor cut layups. We didn't see Kawhi full-time on Curry to force Klay to beat them. I know the Spurs won't be discouraged or depressed. They will respond with scientific ruthless perfectionism.

I don't care.

If the Warriors ever start dominating the matchup with the Spurs, we can start complaining about how easy the victory was. This game was of extreme importance to the Warriors. The Spurs are the big daddy that the Warriors could never overcome. The W's lost last year's series and were dominated in the losses defensively. The Spurs pressured the initial passes and forced the Warriors to devolve the offense into simple Curry ISOs and pick and rolls, which got eaten alive. The Spurs have been whipping the Warriors ever since Tim Duncan showed up. And the 2013 Playoffs were even worse, because the Warriors had the element of surprise, but (let's skip the painful details, please) if you strike at a king, you must kill the king. Once the Spurs turned on all engines, the series was over.

This game showed that when the Warriors play their game, the Spurs can be an ordinary team. This isn't any kind of guarantee of future results. But it was an exorcism of past ghosts. I don't think the W's will ever be intimidated again by past failures.

Ambush High Pick and Roll

1. The Vanilla High Pick and Roll

This is a new play the W's have been working on this year. We all know how deadly the straight high pick and roll is with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Here's a simple one from today's game. You'll see Curry dribbling up high and Draymond comes over to set a pick. Curry gets a step ahead of Tony Parker, so Lamarcus Aldridge has to pick up Curry. Now it's a mismatch.

It's an incredibly fluent move. Hesitation at the perimeter, and Aldridge has to assume Curry is stepping back for a three. Then an explosive between the legs dribble and he just steps past LA and hits a high degree of difficulty floater from the elbow. Treasure these moments, this is a historically good player we are watching.

So anyway, the Curry-Green pick and roll is the Warriors' bread and butter play when all is dark and stability is needed, thanks to Curry's supreme skills and Draymond's excellent playmaking if Curry is blitzed. (See Explain One Play: Curry & Green's Favorite Play for many details.)

2. The AMBUSH High Pick and Roll

Everyone in the league knows Curry likes the high pick and roll, and they game plan to stop it.  So, here is one Warriors counter which, lacking the official name, I call the AMBUSH High Pick and Roll.  At the start of this clip, you see Curry up high and Andrew Bogut setting a high pick for Curry.  Piece of cake, right? Even the Cavs listened to David Blatt for this coverage, and Mozgov sinks towards the right side of the pick where Curry is going, right?  When-- SURPRISE!

Bogut peels off and screens Draymond Green's man, and Green comes up to screen Curry going the OTHER way.  Curry takes some of the subtlety out of the play by launching a 29 foot three pointer in Matthew Dellavedova's face. But you can see the advantage in this play. There's all kind of space, Delly is running far to get to Curry, Mozgov runs across court to catch up with Bogut.

3. Another AMBUSH Pick and Roll

Here is today's edition of AMBUSH.  It begins (bad camera, sorry) with Curry up high appearing to use a Green screen on the right. Kawhi Leonard is guarding Draymond, so when Curry uses the screen, Kawhi the "Curry Stopper" switches to Curry while Tony Parker catches up. Well, while Curry is heading right and being picked up by Kawhi, someone is lurking...

Andrew Bogut sneaks up from the left and bumps Kawhi with a second surprise screen. This gets Curry into his sweet spot at the top of the key with Kawhi on his back. Curry pumps in a lightning shot which even "Jumbo Paws" Leonard cannot block.

Curry giddyups on his imaginary horse to celebrate shaking off the imaginary Spurs shaped monkey on his back.

Bonus Backdoor Cuts

The whole theme of this year's Explain One Play series has been to track the evolution of the Warriors' offense to the Next Level.  Last year's playoffs and even some of this year proved that the Warriors were vulnerable to physical play, grabbing and holding Curry at all times, and pressuring the initial passes. If you look through the plays, many of them exist to punish overplaying. So you saw the Spurs burned, like an ordinary team, repeatedly by back cuts in response to over-pressure on the perimeter. (Most recently: Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Backdoor Layup.)

In the game recap, you can see Derek Knight has video of a few nice backdoor cuts.

Here's a play that Basketball Jonez points out in the comments (thanks CurryUpOffense for the GIF):

Before the clip, it's reportedly a Triple Loop play (see One Play: 2 Spurs Recipes + Curry = Klay 3 for an introduction) which the Spurs defend well since, well, it's their play. But the Warriors reset to the other side. You can see that Draymond Green and Klay Thompson do a simple split to turn this play into a high post version of the Post-Cross play (see One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3 and Explain One Klay: Thompson's Ten Threes on Delay).

You can see Draymond signal to Klay, come use my screen. Everyone expects Klay to pop out for a catch-and-shoot 3, and for Dray to screen Klay's man, right?  There are two ways to defend this. Kawhi Leonard can switch and overplay the passing lane between Andre Iguodala and Klay (so Simmons should switch to Draymond). Or Jonathon Simmons can blast through and follow Klay past Draymond's screen (so Kawhi should stay with Draymond). Unfortunately they both implemented their own theory of the defense, leaving Draymond a clear lane to the basket for a sweet backdoor cut.

And here is Vine's favorite play:

You can see the whole play is set up with Curry's faking a backdoor cut.  So the viable threat of a backdoor cut also creates space on the perimeter.  And that is one seriously long side step from Curry. It's just an absurdly talented play.

Final Thoughts

I've been watching the league a long time... back to the 80s with those annoying tape delayed games, Bird, Magic, Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, Lebron.  And tonight's Curry performance was as big a takeover of a huge game as I've ever seen. He's made a truly magical leap as a player this year. In the 2015 playoffs, he made his impact by exploding the defenses but not necessarily scoring against all opposition.  This year, he's starting to find that gear where he just imposes his will on you. I mean, if you watch the highlights, and you should, you can see that a lot of these scores are not system scores. They often come from Curry just going into overdrive and making something from nothing.

It's just been remarkable to see Curry's progression in the public mind:

  • 2013: Fine shooter, debatably an All-star
  • 2014: All-star, debatably an All-star starter
  • 2015: All-star starter, debatably an MVP
  • 2016: MVP, debatably one of the best players in history

If you want to read more video breakdowns, check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.