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Explain One Play: Steph and KD get open 3s from fake pick and roll

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We look at a simple play the W’s ran to get Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant open 3s in the Warriors-Pacers blowout on Nov 11, 2016.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Indiana Pacers
Trying to grow a supervillian beard, but it takes time man, patience
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

This is a simple play that the Warriors ran at the end of the first and second quarters and it got Kevin Durant and then Stephen Curry open 3s.

The most common plays at the end of quarters in the NBA involve a high dribbler and the other four players lined up low. Then either the ballhandler attacks in isolation or they get a screen from one other player. Why is it so common? It’s such a simple play that it’s easy to dictate the timing so you run down the whole clock.

So at the end of the first quarter, the Warriors (appear to) run a Stephen Curry - JaVale McGee high pick and roll. All is normal, right? Wrong.

Durant sets a little brush screen on McGee’s man but then he turns around and curls around a flare screen from Andre Iguodala, and gets a catch-and-shoot open 3 from Curry. Good shot but a miss. Then you get the usual McGee package: he hustles to deflect the offensive rebound (good), he flies out of bounds and throws the ball off the opponent (ugly) and it comes right back and hits him standing out of bounds (bad). I like the hustle, though.

Anyway, that play worked so well, getting the open Durant 3, that the Warriors run a similar play again at the end of the second quarter. Same setup, but Andre Iguodala (apparently) gets a high screen from Durant. Ian Clark sets brush screen on Durant’s defender. This is so far exactly like the previous play. But then...

Ian Clark does not curl back for the three. (Monta Ellis doesn’t look remotely aware that this could have been a possibility.) He swerves left and sets a screen for a crossing Curry. Now Curry is the one who curls around the Draymond Green screen for the spot-up three, and he hits it. Curry’s man is also completely unprepared — Curry is at the paint before Jeff Teague notices that he’s cutting. I believe the play looked so much like a typical end of quarter ISO/pick and roll that Ellis and Teague got surprised.

Notice the hallmark of the Kerr offense: interesting on-ball activity to distract the defense from weakside action.

Final thoughts

The Pacers were very shorthanded and on a back-to-back. They just did not have the offensive power to threaten the in-progress Warriors defense.

The Bucks game was much more interesting from a strategic perspective. The Bucks were really well-coached for the game. They actually expertly broke up the plays from the two previous Explains (UCLA Buttonhook and Warriors Rip). They must be regular readers of Explain One Play, ho ho.

The Bucks also tortured the Warriors defense’s two primary weaknesses. The Bucks repeatedly ran out into early offense and the Warriors transition coverage repeatedly lost players, or did not hustle back. The Bucks also ran little handoffs on the sideline to force the Warriors to be precise in their switches. The Warriors were sloppy and Jason Terry and Tony Snell tossed in multiple open 3s.

The bad switches and coverage are the result of poor communication and one figures that this will improve slowly through the year as the players get used to playing together. But not all the bad communication involved the new players. Curry and Klay Thompson had lapses of coordination that caused bad switches and breakdowns. It will be interesting to see if their effort on defense increases for the games against more threatening opponents.

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.