The Warriors were missing Andrew Bogut, their starting center, and Festus Ezeli, their backup center, and James McAdoo, their backup backup big man. So the Warriors were going to have to play Small Ball Squads all game. The main Clippers big man they had to defend against was DeAndre Jordan because of Blake Griffin's ridiculous fist smashing injury.
What makes the Warriors defense great (when it's engaged) is its intelligence, communication and flexibility. They have a game plan tailored to force each opposing player away from their strengths. Here's a couple of interesting plays which exemplifies these virtues.
Lambada With DeAndre Jordan #1
Let's first watch the play, which will start with J.J. Redick curling off a screen and forcing the Warriors to switch up defensive assignments. Then the Clippers will try to get the ball to DeAndre, who has a mismatch. Then they get the ball to Luc Mbah a Moute, who finally bails out to Paul Pierce who gets an open three.
Let's comment on each of the four phases of the play.
1. Redick Curl. This is a Spurs Motion Strong play, with Chris Paul swinging the ball across court to the left and setting a casual stumbling screen on Redick's man, Klay Thompson. Notice how Klay knows he's beat and calls out a switch from Draymond Green. Redick is a deadeye catch-and-shooter with space, but Draymond smoothly steps up to guard Redick. This means Klay has to switch to guarding Draymond's man, DeAndre.
2. Feeding DeAndre. DeAndre has no jumper, but if he catches the ball near the basket, he can finish over a smaller guy like Klay. Therefore, Klay fronts DeAndre, to make the direct entry pass to the post impossible. Klay goes and sits on DeAndre's knee. But most dangerous of all DeAndre options is the lob to a dunk, so how can the Warriors protect against that? Their game plan is to at all times have a defender on the weak side of DeAndre zoning the lob between him at the basket. In this case, it's Brandon Rush who has the assignment of guarding Luc Mbah a Moute (LMAM) in the far weak corner, but also has to shade over to prevent the lob. Rush in fact ends up standing behind DeAndre under the basket. Chris Paul gives up on feeding DeAndre, sees Rush leaving LMAM open in the corner and throws a long skip pass to him.
3. Mbah a Moute Drives. Now Rush has to play his man, but LMAM is not a big threat to drive and finish, nor to create. The bigger threat is still DeAndre getting a lob and dunking. Klay gets caught overhelping, as he steps way up to stop LMAM's drive. Rush didn't need the help, so now LMAM can lob to DeAndre, right? No, Harrison Barnes knows the game plan, and he switches over to mark DeAndre and defending lobs to him. This leaves Stephen Curry defending both Chris Paul and Paul Pierce on the arc.
4. Pass to Pierce and Shot. Curry now has to make the best of a bad situation. There's Chris Paul who is near-automatic on open jumpers, and old man Pierce who used to be pretty good from 3, but this season is decaying before our eyes (he's shooting 31.6% from 3 this year). The ball comes out to Pierce, and you see Curry and Draymond both step towards him, and then they both remember they are guarding much better shooters that they can't leave (Paul and Redick), and let Pierce shoot. He misses the open 3 (and in fact he was 0-3 tonight from 3).
Lambada With DeAndre Jordan #2
So in the first play, we see how all the Warriors are aware of Clippers personnel and game plan, and defend against DeAndre by fronting to prevent the straight pass, and zoning behind him to prevent the lob.
What if DeAndre is on the perimeter, swinging the ball around the court? He's not as good as Andrew Bogut passing, but he does help move the ball around. In this next clip, we see Draymond very rudely ignore DeAndre's ability to dribble or move, and he just gets right up on him to do the forbidden dance.
DeAndre feels the groove and moves his feet, which is not allowed in basketball without a dribble. Turnover.
I think we can expect other teams to start doing this to our own Andrew Bogut when he stands out on the arc running the post-cross splits (see the Delay set at Explain One Klay: Thompson's ten threes).
Two Bonus Plays
Ripped straight from the nba.com highlights package. Quiz for advanced readers: identify the plays.
This is a simple pick and pop play, with the twist that Curry sets the screen for Draymond Green. When a shooter sets the screen, that mixes everything up, as small defenders aren't as ready to defend the screener. Here both defenders go with Draymond, so Curry gets a three that's open by his standards. We discuss this play more at Explain One Play: Reverse Green-Curry Pick and Pop.
Here's another play. Again, quiz for advanced readers, identify the play.
This is the classic Warriors Rip play. On the weak (non-ball) side, a shooter (here Klay) sets a back screen for a big (here Draymond) who cuts down the lane and gets fed for a layup. We first discussed this play at Explain One Play: Stephen Curry Screen = Harrison Barnes Dunk DEJA VU! and if you can't get enough, go to the index and search "Rip". We have many examples.
What both these bonus plays have in common is that they counter attack against a defense set against preventing shooters from getting threes. The first puts Curry off-ball and screening, and mixes up the assignments. The second puts the main action offball from Curry and has Klay screening.
Many teams are defending the Warriors by aggressively overplaying the three point shooters. The main counters the Warriors have worked on have been (1) get the shooters off-ball and screening as above. and (2) back door cuts, which we discussed most recently at Explain One Play: Curry Closes Out the Thunder and Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Giddyup Exorcism 3.