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Explain One Play: Kevin Durant and Draymond Green Get Open Dunks

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We look at video of how Green and Durant got open dunks in the Warriors-Raptors game on Nov 16, 2016

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors
Throw it down, medium man, throw it down
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

This is a quick look at the strategy that allowed Kevin Durant and Draymond Green to get open dunks against a good defense.

1. Second Option to Green - Curry Pick and Roll

Last time we looked at how the Warriors were using more of the old familiar high pick and roll between Draymond Green and Stephen Curry. (See Explain One Play: Return of the Stephen Curry - Draymond Green Pick and Roll.)

The Dubs ran it twice right in the first couple of minutes of the game. We haven’t seen much of this play with Zaza Pachulia in the game. When it’s a Small Ball Death Squad, the other three players can space to the arc leaving the middle empty. What do you do with Pachulia in the middle, since he can’t draw much attention threatening to shoot midrange jumpers?

Here’s the first pick and roll.

Toronto guards this by having Green’s big defender hedge out and contain Curry’s drive. Curry immediately gives the ball to Green who has an angle to go by the compromised defender. Now Jonas Valanciunas has to step over to stop the drive and DeMarre Carroll on the left side has to cover both Durant and Pachulia. He does this creatively by subtly hugging Pachulia and preventing him from cutting. Green finishes the nice floater. If he can regain confidence in that shot, that will be huge.

Here is the second pick and roll. Here again the big man hedges and Green will cut down the lane. Again Valanciunas leaves Pachulia freely to cover the cutter. This now gives Pachulia the space to pop out to the pinch post area and let Curry swing it to the left side. Then...

Durant sets up Carroll by faking to cut to the arc and instead cuts backdoor. He gets a half step lead and that’s all Pachulia needs to feed Durant with a very nice lead pass for an open dunk.

It looks like Curry and Klay Thompson on the weak side started to go through the motions of a post-cross split cut, but they didn’t get far into it. If the backdoor cut had been covered, I suspect the play would have fallen back to a Durant isolation. That’s okay: that’s what the Durant is for. It’s okay for Durant isolations to happen when he’s mismatched on a small defender or as a bailout third option on a play. But the Warriors make life easier for him by having some initial actions to try to get him easier looks. You just don’t want the isolation to be the first option.

2. Mystery Golden Oldie Play

Here Draymond Green gets an open dunk on a great backscreen from ... whom? And which play is this?

Have I mentioned that I love Curry’s screening? (The answer is yes, I mention it all the time. The second Explain of the season was Explain One Play: Kevin Durant Alley-oops, Stephen Curry Screens).

In this case, we have Curry setting a backscreen on Green’s defender. Kyle Lowry is of course glued to Stephen Curry. It’s particularly cruel for Curry to backscreen since his defender is usually at DefCon 1 level of paranoia in tracking Curry. Anyway, Lowry needs to switch to Green, but he isn’t even looking at Green who’s sneaking behind him to cut straight to the basket.

This is a set play that the Warriors ran about fifty straight games last year for an open dunk, until by the end of the year teams had scouted it out. I guess tonight Kerr wanted to see if the league had lost its immunity to the play.

It was first analyzed in gruesome detail early last year: Explain One Play: Curry Screen = Barnes Dunk AGAIN. I’ve been calling it Warriors Rip.

Here are a couple more examples from last year so you can get the pattern and ace future quizzes. The play is: two shooters run by each other along the baseline, then the one from the left turns and back screens for Green (or some other worthy big) at the right elbow. The big then rip cuts straight to the basket for a layup.

Further Reading

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — 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.