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Explain One Play: Patrick McCaw’s two buzzer beaters

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Video analysis of two plays from the preseason Warriors-Nuggets game. Patrick McCaw, the second rounder making a name for himself this preseason, sent the game into overtime, and then hit ANOTHER buzzer beater to win the game.

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
McClutch? MacCawver? p-Nice? Quickdraw McCaw? The Real McCaw?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s look at Patrick McCaw’s fun un-televised buzzer beaters. As you’ll see, the plays were kind of helter-skelter plays which don’t particularly show off McCaw’s talents, except for his not giving up on plays. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of young McCaw, so maybe in future Explain One Plays he’ll show more of his stuff.

1. McCaw ties the game

The game tying shot happens on an inbounds play, which is a specific Warriors end-of-game play that they actually ran to great effect last year. Let’s run the start of the play, and see if you can recall when the Warriors ran it last year.

The play is simple. Throw it to a big in the high post (in this case James Michael McAdoo). One shooter (#6 Cameron Jones) screens for another (our man McCaw), who flares out to the top of the key. If McCaw is open, pass to him. If not, pass to the screener. I thought McCaw was open, but McAdoo didn’t (or it was a scripted read) and he pitches to Jones instead. Miss.

Brief quiz. Okay, remember when the W’s ran it last year?

(Hint: it was a pretty famous play, and another unlikely game-tying three pointer.)

Time’s up; it was this play:

Yes, the W’s almost lost to the Nets except for Andre hitting this awkward 3 (and Brook Lopez subsequently missing the point-blank layup). I dissected the play with its two options in gory detail in Explain One Play: Andre Iguodala's last-gasp three saves the game for the Warriors.

Now back to our game. In this play, Jones misses a pretty tough 3 and the ball takes a lucky long bounce. Jones doesn’t give up on the play, and gets the rebound. And then...

Chaos. Jones gets trapped out on the arc and throws it to McCaw, who kisses his medallion of Saint Stephen Curry and launches from the logo. And it clunks in.

2. McCaw wins the game in OT

This comes out of another set inbounds play. It’s built on some basic Warriors offense concepts, resembling the old Warriors Weave (analyzed in Explain One Play: Warriors Weave a Shaun Livingston 3). The basic idea is that for end-of-game situations, it is orthodox NBA defense to switch all screens. So whenever you’re getting screened, the screener’s defender takes your man. So the W’s try to cause as much confusion as possible by having a series of screens in quick succession, causing chaos as defenders try to track who is switched to whom.

Here’s a blunt example from last year, where Harrison Barnes, bless his heart, sets a screen on Draymond Green’s defender, and then Green screens for Curry. Green’s defender gets confused from having to switch to him and having to quickly negotiate another switch decision with Curry’s defender, and that allows a dunk.

In today’s play, you will see McCaw sets a screen for David West, who sets a screen for Kevon Looney, who sets a screen for McCaw. Here’s the play, complete with McCaw winner.

There is temporary chaos from the double prescreen-the-screener actions; as you can see Looney’s man ends up confused and guarding nobody. But the spacing is wrong, so Looney can only flare out for an open 3, which he doesn’t. If David West had dragged his man out of the lane, Looney could have had an open dunk.

Anyway, after all the screens, McCaw is stuck with the ball at the top of the key with 3 seconds left. West is open for an elbow jumper, but there’s probably not enough time to get him the ball. McCaw makes the best of it and makes an extremely creative runner over the shot blocker. He actually switches hands in midair to loft it around the block. Lucky, but also inventive.

Note: dockao points out that ‘David West’ is really McAdoo.

Final thoughts

I like this kid Patrick McCaw. He’s exactly my type: smart, hustles, works hard on defense, undervalued second-rounder, has a knack for going to the ball and making plays happen out of nothing. Really good interior passing too. Kind of a skinny rookie Draymond Green. But remember it took even Green a year-plus to really get established.

Anyway, tonight McCaw had an eye-catching game. You can say “it’s only preseason,” and you would be right. He made the plays against the third-string Nuggets with the third-string Warriors. But he DID make the plays, sending the game into overtime, and then hitting ANOTHER buzzer beater to win the game.

And preseason is the time to dream, isn’t it?

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.

ADDED: experimental poll

(now with JS to avoid the extra space and to look right on mobile I hope)