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Explain One Play: Ian Clark and Stephen Curry blitz Blazers

Ian Clark’s stirring shooting and Stephen Curry’s 23-point 3rd quarter cracked open the Warriors’ win over the Trail Blazers on November 1, 2016.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers
Gimme five, Way up high, way down low — TOO SLOW
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look at the stirring shooting displays of Ian Clark and Stephen Curry, which highlighted the Warriors’ win.

Ian Clark keeps the Warriors afloat in the 1st half

Ian Clark kept the Warriors in the game for the first half with unexpected points. These were not take-out-the-trash points where he was left open due to superstar gravity, either. Here’s a reel, followed by brief comments:

  1. Clark makes a nice curl around a Curry screen and finishes with a nice floater in the lane. (We just waxed poetic about Curry’s screens in Explain One Play: Kevin Durant Alley-oops, Stephen Curry Screens.) The curl is a very basic action in the Warriors’ offense, and it’s usually run for Klay Thompson. However, Thompson was not available, as he was on the bench with steam blasting out of his ears, enraged at foul calls and his poor shooting. Compare: Explain One Play: Klay curls a go-ahead three.
  2. On this weird play, both Clark and Curry popped out to the arc behind David West’s screen. Sweet, no-hesitation open 3 from Clark.
  3. Very nice steal by Clark who finishes a nearly textbook 2-on-1 fast break with Andre Iguodala, who missed about three open fast-break layups. The spacing and timing was a little funny and Iguodala had to work hard to thread that second pass back.
  4. At this point, Clark has earned the Curry-distance heat check. Heat confirmed.
  5. This was a rare inverse elevator-doors play where Clark cut between the doors towards the basket (usually one cuts away to a spot-up three). Compare variations at Explain One Play: Curry rides faraway elevator to 3.
  6. Another curl for Clark — coming out of a new variation of the split-cuts from last year. Another floater, and Clark gets the shooter’s roll.

One wonders how much Clark’s confident performance is related to having Patrick McCaw out for a while, giving Clark a chance to prove himself without looking over his shoulder?

If Clark can make open three-point shots, move the ball in the offense and make speedy guards work, he will be a big contributor this year — for all the times Thompson just doesn’t have it.

Stephen Curry blasts the Blazers out of the building in the 3rd quarter

Then, Curry finally got in one of his grooves and poured in 23 points in the third quarter. Here are all of his points, with comments afterward:

  1. Curry almost loses the dribble and then fires up an irresponsible 1-on-4 early offense contested 3.
  2. This is an nice screen-the-screener action. Curry screens for Thompson and immediately gets a screen from Zaza Pachulia. He doesn’t really have much space to shoot, but he does anyway.
  3. Beautiful split-cut play (also called “post-cross,” by me). Throw the ball to a post player, Curry and Thompson run at each other and make their defenders switch or bump. Here, Damian Lillard can’t hang with Curry through Thompson’s screen. Solid pass from Pachulia, playing the Andrew Bogut hub role without the alt-right-Tweets. Usually Curry or Thompson pops out for a three, so the cut to the basket is unexpected. Notice that Thompson signals “use my screen” to Curry by waving Curry to run behind him. Here’s a good primer: Explain One Play: Bogut between the legs to Klay 3. (Also, search the Index for “Post-Cross”.)
  4. Oh, come on — get out of here. Good play by Clark to avoid the trailing Mason Plumlee steal attempt (which got Curry earlier).
  5. Completely lucky bounce as Clark gets the loose ball and wisely feeds Curry at the arc. A funny shot, with his feet not quite set right.
  6. Another post-cross play. This is the most common variation so far this year. David West plays the Bogut post hub role this time. Clark and Curry are the crossers. Clark gets a screen to cut to the basket, Curry is the second option popping to the arc, then continues around Iguodala to get the ball in motion going down the sideline, getting another screen from West. Not a bad switch by defender Ed Davis, but he was defeated by Curry’s circus shot.
  7. Same post-cross action as before. Curry feeds the post (West again), and two players cross (Curry and Draymond Green). One player dives to the basket, the other pops to the arc for 3. West threads a very fine pass to Curry who spins in another beauty of a layup.
  8. Curry throws a horrible pass to West who earns another assist (third of this reel) by saving it back to Curry, who pump-fakes, then decides this is probably his last shot of the game, so YOLO!

Final thoughts

I really wanted to write about the Warriors’ tweaks to their defensive scheme, which was not clicking for the first three games. But Clark and Curry went nutso, so it will have to wait for another day.

But, in short, the W’s relied heavily on ICE defense of pick-and-rolls before. (See ICE primer here: Notes on the Warriors' defense.) This often resulted in Curry and Pachulia getting exploited as Pachulia is not quick enough to stay with drivers and also has supernaturally negative blocking ability.

Tonight, the W’s threw in variations including having Pachulia double-team the ballhandler, and also having a goalie (usually Green) shadow the driver — so if and when Lillard or C.J. McCollum got by their defender, Green was already in position to back them up.

I’m expecting to see similar treatment for Russell Westbrook on Thursday, so if fortune favors the Warriors, then we’ll be back at Explain One Play later this week to look at the new Warriors’ goalie + blitzing defensive scheme.

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.