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Explain One Play: Klay Thompson loops for an Andre Iguodala dunk

Klay Thompson runs the “Loop” to create an Andre Iguodala dunk in the Blazers-Warriors blowout on Dec 17, 2016.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Nobody photographed Andre, sorry
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The “Loop” is one of the first plays that the Golden State Warriors stole from the San Antonio Spurs’ playbook when Steve Kerr installed a new offense upon his arrival in 2014. Over time, the play has mutated in the Warriors’ environment.

What I’m calling a Loop is an action where a shooter runs along the baseline, gets two screens around the short corners and often a third one at the wing.

The ideal Loop

Here’s an example of the ideal outcome. Stephen Curry starts from the right corner, runs his poor defender into screens multiple times and eventually emerges to catch and shoot a three-pointer.

How to cover the Loop

The orthodox way to handle the Loop is for the defenders to switch — particularly the last defender in the Loop. So here’s an example from last season where the Houston Rockets covered the Loop very well.

Each screened defender gets the screener’s defender to switch to the looping Curry. There’s a happy ending when Curry finds Klay Thompson on the “Hammer” corner three. (Read about the Loop and Hammer here!)

However, notice one thing about the coverage. Both Draymond Green’s man and Curry’s defender jump out on Curry’s Loop. Green actually had a free lane to the basket. Hmmmmm...

How to counter sloppy D of the Loop

So here’s an example from this season where the Los Angeles Lakers almost defend the Loop well. Here Thompson runs the Loop and Kevin Durant sets the second screen near the basket. Durant’s man does switch to the looping Thompson, but watch what happens.

The problem is that Durant’s man switched to Thompson, but nobody picked up Durant. The natural choices to make that switch are the defenders of Thompson or Curry — who set the first screen — but unfortunately, the defenders smashed into each other at the start of the play and never caught up. Also notice the nice read and pass from Zaza Pachulia; this is a dimension you don’t get with JaVale McGee!

This year, the Warriors have been running the Loop with the second screener near the basket, just in case there is a switching mistake. They’ve also incorporated the “Dive/Pop” between Curry and Thompson at the start of the Loop.

And speaking of sloppy D

The Portland Trail Blazers’ defense is not good. Looking at last night’s highlight reel, the Warriors run almost the exact same Loop as seen in the Laker’s clip, with Curry veering left to screen for Thompson.

The defense’s idea was right: Andre Iguodala is the last screener and his defender jumps out to switch onto the looping Thompson. But Thompson’s defender also stays on him, leaving Iguodala wide open for a dunk. The easiest assist of the night for Green!

Also note how the play begins with a very distracting misdirection of a fake Durant-Green high pick and roll.

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for well-nigh 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.

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