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Explain One Play: Curry and Green to JaVale McGee Thunderous Dunks

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We look at how Steph Curry and Draymond Green punished double team defenses and got JaVale McGee giant dunks in the Nov 19 2016 Warriors-Bucks game.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks
This is MY ORB! Mine! No, mine
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

A brief history of the blitz

The Warriors repeatedly punished the Bucks attempts to double-team Stephen Curry through a variety of counters. I have long expressed the view that double teaming Curry is now an incorrect defense (most recently in Explain One Play: Return of the Stephen Curry - Draymond Green Pick and Roll). In 2013-2014, the Clippers used a blitzing double-teaming defense to torture the Mark Jackson era pick and rolls between Curry and David Lee. During the 7-game playoff series, the Warriors grew up fast and came up with a basic counter to the blitz. When Steve Kerr took over in 2014-2015, the Warriors discovered that Draymond Green was an awesome roll man and could handle the escape pass from a doubled Curry and run an efficient 4-on-3. So by 2015-2016, teams were no longer blitzing Curry regularly because (1) the team had gotten good at countering it and (2) switching defenses were more effective against the W’s.

However, every now and then someone has to re-try the blitz to see if the Warriors can handle it, and the Bucks really brought the blitzes tonight. We’ll look at a few ways the Warriors punished the blitz.

Dream counter to the blitz

Here is a the dream counter to the blitz. The play starts with a Green-Curry pick and roll. Curry gets blitzed, Green gets the escape pass and quickly attacks 4-on-3. Someone is open and it’s...

Kevin Durant. His man mistakenly sags into the lane to help on Green’s drive. Durant punishes them by sinking the open 3. This is the completely classic counter to the blitz.

Zaza and his limitations

Now if Curry is blitzed and if the arc defenders don’t help on Green’s drive, then Green gets to play 2-on-1 in the paint. Here’s an example where the other player is Zaza Pachulia.

Not a bad play, but Pachulia just cannot finish with force against contests, and the W’s come away empty-handed.

And here’s an earlier example where Pachulia sets the screen for a blitzed Curry and then gets to run the 4-on-3.

Well, you kind of had peak Pachulia in this play. First, he made a decent find to pass out to an open 3 for Patrick McCaw, almost committing a charge. Then he hustled to tap out the rebound. Even though Pachulia has inside position, Curry opts to try the difficult layup instead. Pachulia keeps hustling and eventually taps in the basket.

So good things happened, he hustled, made a read. But still, you wish he’d just finished at the rim when he first got the ball. Or that when Curry drove, instead of the hard layup he could toss up an alley-oop lob to Pachulia. But that’s just not who Pachulia is.

So let’s return to the third quarter. It’s a one possession game. The Bucks keep blitzing Curry and Pachulia can’t finish inside with enough force to punish the blitz. Who are you gonna call?

JaVale McGee and his limitations

Now here’s the problem. If you play JaVale McGee instead of Pachulia, you certainly get a player who can catch lobs for dunks and finish over and through people. But if you put him in the paint to wait for a Green 2-on-1, you’ll probably get McGee’s defender gumming up the lane. But you can’t put him on the perimeter to space because he has no jump shot, so McGee has to be setting the screen. But then you can’t trust McGee to run a 4-on-3! So what do you do?

You do this:

With a little planning, you can have McGee setting the screen and cutting to the basket, but still have Curry passing out of the double team blitz to Green! Let Green make the reads and the pass, and leave the giant dunks to McGee. This looks like a set play, with Curry getting it to Green who immediately hits the rolling McGee with an alley-oop pass.

And a couple of plays later, the Warriors come back to a play with a similar concept. McGee sets the screen and rolls to the basket. Curry is double-teamed and he releases the ball to Green who hits McGee with a very nice bounce pass.

I don’t think you can run McGee in the post in a Bogut-hub passing role, but you absolutely can have him come out to catch lobs for dunks.

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.