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Explain One Play: Klay Thompson Turns Bobbles Into Points

Video breakdown of plays from the Warriors-Blazers game on Jan 9 2016. 

Easter Island Rises!
Easter Island Rises!
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

We're going to analyze some plays from the Blazers game. One thing that they have in common is that Klay Thompson cuts to the basket, receives a pass that is bobbled, then saves the play and turns it into a score.  The second thing they have in common, is that they are both Next Level versions of the grand daddy of all Steve Kerr plays. These variations are designed to counter defenses overplaying against the three-point shot.

The Grand Daddy of Kerr Plays

Here is an example from the Blazers game. They probably ran this play and its variations ten times or more last night, as it challenges the Blazers guards to fight through screens and make on-the-fly reads. Do you recognize it?

We have discussed this play many times in the past, and it was literally the first new play the Warriors tried in the Kerr era in preseason. This is what I called post-cross when I didn't know any better. I still don't know what the Warriors call it. Others have called it post-split; Tex Winter called it Guard Squeeze in the Triangle Offense. I like my name better. (Past discussions here: Explain One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Harrison Barnes threeNotes on the New Warriors Offense, Part 1: The Post.)

In the basic version, one small throws it to a big in the post (or sometimes at the top of the court). The small then runs at another small and one of them screens for the other. The other small pops out to the three point line and catches a pass and shoots.

Next Level Post-Cross Backdoor 1

Nowadays, teams recognize this play and sometimes try to stop it by anticipating the screen and either try to jam the man popping out for a three or deny the pass to the popper.  How can the Warriors go Next Level with this play?  Well, this game was a clinic in variations to counter overplays of the three. Let's look at two variations.

In this play, you will see Klay Thompson enter the ball to Draymond Green in the post. Ian Clark gestures to Klay that he will screen for him. You will see Klay's defender subtly angle to follow Klay around the screen. But instead of Klay using Clark's screen to pop out for three, this happens.

Klay instead gives a little step towards the screen and then cuts hard to the basket. Draymond hits Klay with the pass, which I think Klay just straight up bobbled. Klay's defender oddly gives up on the play, Klay gets control and then he hits an awkward short turnaround jumper.

Next Level Post-Cross Backdoor 2

In this play, Ian Clark resets the ball up high to Klay, who immediately feeds the post (the man formerly known as Stone Hands, now known as Swagzeli, Festus Ezeli).  Klay signals to Ian to use his screen, which Ian dutifully does, curling out to the top of the key. Then instead of Klay screening Ian's defender, this happens.

Instead of Klay setting the post-cross screen, he cuts hard to the hoop. Ezeli hits him with a pass which I believe is alertly deflected by Klay's defender. Klay again stays with the ball. This time, the Blazers send two guys to cut off Klay on the baseline. Unfortunately, Allen Crabbe #23 gets caught watching the ball and drifting into the lane, instead of guarding Brandon Rush on the left side. Rush alertly sneaks to the corner giving Klay a clean outlet and he cans the open three as Crabbe scrambles to get back.

Final Thoughts

I love seeing Klay and the bench running plays. I love to see them running counters out of the post-cross format. I love to see all the backdoor cuts. I love to see Ezeli practicing making the passing reads out of the post.

The game was a clinic of post-cross variations, probably because the Warriors feel that the defense of the Blazers guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is suspect.

I can't resist sharing two more variations, with Curry this time. In the first, Curry goes to screen for Andre, but then immediately turns around and pops out for a catch and shoot three. In the second, he kind of mashes up against Harrison Barnes and then suddenly cuts to the basket for a layup and a foul.

Next Level.  And the Warriors are going to need to go Next Level to succeed against the Spurs who more or less gummed up their basic offense in 2014-2015.

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.

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