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Explain One Play: Reverse Draymond Green-Stephen Curry Pick and Pop

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This is a deep dive video analysis of the secret new Warriors crunch time play, from the Rockets-Warriors game on Feb 9 2016.

Draymond wishes a Lunar New Year's worth of interesting times for the Rockets.
Draymond wishes a Lunar New Year's worth of interesting times for the Rockets.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This is a close look at two plays from the end of the annoyingly close Rockets-Warriors game. The bench (hooray!) really came through, and gave the Warriors a cushion at the start of the fourth quarter that lasted the rest of the game. But down the stretch, the Dubs still had to come up with buckets against a highly motivated and active Rockets defense. With about two minutes and a half minutes to go, the Warriors are looking good, up 114-103. They just need a couple of scores to seal the game.

So what play did they turn to?  Of course, the Stephen Curry - Draymond Green pick and roll.  Except, the exact reverse of what you expect. Most of the time, you see Draymond setting a screen for Curry handling the ball.  Well, here Draymond Green is the ball handler, and Steph Curry sets the screen!  it's a fun little play that we've actually covered earlier this series (Explain One Play: Draymond Green rides busted elevator again). There we wrote:

Indeed, this play is a real secret weapon. I'm expecting the Warriors to break this out in future crunch time.  This simple play belongs to that great genre of plays where Curry and Klay set screens for scores. Basically, if a shooter is willing to give up his body to screen well, it's an awesome thing, because (1) the shooter's defender will not want to leave and (2) the shooter's defender is usually a small who is not used to defending as the screen defender.

You don't want to run this play too much, to keep it fresh and to keep Curry from getting too banged up.

Reverse Pick and Pop #1

Just enjoy the play, and admire Draymond's difficult reverse layup finish.

This play begins subtly, with Curry setting a screen for Klay Thompson on the right side. The Rockets freely switch Trevor Ariza onto Curry, and Klay clears out to the left side, bringing Patrick Beverley with him. Now Curry sets a back screen on Dwight Howard, who is guarding Draymond. Trevor Ariza is sticking with Curry, of course, and Dwight doesn't quite see what's happening until he's a step behind, so this leaves Draymond a path to the basket. Instead of exploding to contest the shot, Howard looks tired and ready for free agency. Maybe he's thinking about whether he has to cover Curry?  Aria seems frustrated at the lack of defensive rotation.

When someone sets a pick (screen) and then cuts to the basket, that's called a roll.  When someone cuts away from the basket to open space for a catch-and-shoot, that's called a pop. In this case, after Curry's screen, he cut to the arc to spot up, but it was unnecessary.

I don't really know what's supposed to be going on weak side as the other three Warriors seem to be converging for a group hug.  The play works so well, it doesn't matter.

Reverse Pick and Pop #2

This is the very next play. It worked so well last time, why not give it another shot?  You can see the play starts with even less fanfare than before. Curry waves Andre Iguodala to clear out of the near right corner.  This time, Beverley will switch onto Draymond and stop his drive. Howard will kind of amble along with Draymond, as Curry pops out for a spot-up three. Then the unexpected happens...

Curry pops out uncovered to the three point arc. But the spacing is cramped, so Harden jumps out and switches from Klay on to Curry. (Harden looked engaged and active on defense tonight!)

At this point, it might feel like the Rockets defense recovered well, as Curry is holding the ball tightly guarded at the arc. But the defense is subtly compromised because of the screen. Recall, Beverley switched onto Draymond.  Harden switched onto Curry. Marcus Thornton has been on Andre the whole play.

The problem is that Dwight Howard has never figured out whom he is guarding, once Curry's screen forces the switch. He is standing at the free throw circle, possibly still thinking about free agency, guarding no one.  If you do the math, this leaves Ariza guarding Harrison Barnes but also needing to cover the now loose Klay.  Barnes does something really aware here. When one defender has to guard two people, make him choose, so Barnes cuts to the basket. In the mean time, Ariza smoothly switches to guarding Klay on the perimeter, letting Barnes go. He must be expecting Dwight to pick up Barnes. He is wrong. The camera mercifully cuts away before we see Ariza and Howard reflect on that misunderstanding.

Again, i don't know what is supposed to be happening on the weak side. Unlike last time, the three other Warriors don't bother with the hug, and they stand around until Barnes's cut. The play works so well, it doesn't matter. But I think if the Warriors can agree on what weak side action should be happening (the tradition of this offense suggests a curl to the arc around a pindown screen), this could be a really deadly play.

If you want to read more video breakdowns, 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.