Tonight, the Warriors showed off their improving defense. In theory, the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert is the kind of big man that outclasses Zaza Pachulia and the rest of the Committee of Warriors Centers. Instead, the Warriors contested Jazz shooters everywhere and dared the Jazz to punish them by passing to Gobert (only 6 shots, 2 offensive rebounds) near the rim.
The Dubs used a switching, scrambling, stealing defense to hold the Jazz to a 35.5% shooting night and stole the ball 13 times (out of an awful 23 Jazz turnovers). Let’s look briefly at two defensive plays that showed off improving Warriors concentration and cooperation, and the principles that organize the defense.
Everyone guards Rudy
I like this play. First watch the play and enjoy how the Warriors scramble to contain several successive Jazz threats:
- a weakside double screen for Gordon Hayward on the left (bottom),
- a Gobert roll to the basket,
- kickouts to spot-up three point shooters, and
- a drive and attempted inside pass to Gobert that goes out of bounds
Now re-watch it and follow Gobert, #27, and count how many Warriors guard him during this sequence. I’ll wait. What did you get? I saw:
- Draymond Green begin guarding Gobert, then
- Andre Iguodala switch to Gobert so Green could switch to Hayward running off two screens, then
- Klay Thompson tagging Gobert to prevent an open roll to the basket, while Iguodala puts his hand in the passing lane until
- Iguodala can front Gobert, until
- Kevin Durant has to take over because Iguodala has to run off the line a spot-up corner three pointer, then
- Green runs over and shoos Durant out to cover a now-open Hayward while Stephen Curry gets in the passing lane to keep the ball away from Hayward (I don’t know why Green didn’t just cover Hayward)
- Thompson steps up to guard Gobert as Green has to help on the driver.
That’s a lot of switching and coordination. The defensive communication is improving.
You could do the exact same tracing of coverage of Hayward (I see Iguodala, then Green, then Durant when Green slips and falls(!), then Curry.
I like how Curry in the middle has to decide which of two open three point shooters to guard, and he takes the close one, trusting the rest of the team to cover the other one.
Crouching goalie, hidden middle
In this play, the Jazz
- fake a pick and roll to get Dante Exum driving in isolation on Stephen Curry, then get
- a corner pick and roll, into a
- baseline drive with
- an attempted pass to a diving Gobert.
Watch the play first, and observe how the Warriors try very hard to force all drives to go up and down parallel to the sidelines and not into the middle of the court. Watch Curry overplay the middle (and later Green will do the same) to force the driver “north and south”.
By denying middle penetration, you are forcing drivers to eventually drive along the baseline, which makes it difficult to pass to big men as we saw in this clip.
The second thing to do is to rewatch and follow Green. Notice how he shadows behind Curry in case the driver gets by. Then he has to scramble out to the weakside corner, since that’s the designed weak spot of the Warriors defense.
This shows off three Warriors defensive principles:
- No drives into the middle of the paint
- Use goalies to stop drivers
- Have goalies help off the open weakside corner and dare teams to punish them
I’m not 100% sure what Zaza Pachulia is doing on this play, as he serves as a second goalie alongside Green. It’s not a bad spot for him as he stops the drive and then eventually snares the steal, but it feels wasteful to sink both him and Green as goalies in the paint.
If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for almost 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.