Finally, an easy win after a lot of scuffling for the last couple of weeks.
In the pre-Kerr days, Andrew Bogut would be wandering under the rim trying to rebound, since he has scoring no game outside of dunks, and he is too slow to roll to the rim on pick and rolls. This would have been doom, since the Utah Jazz have Rudy Gobert, one of the finest young big defenders in the game: The French Rejection, The Stifle Tower, Gob-zilla, and Gobert could have sat in the lane destroying any drives that dared challenge him.
Well, we are in the Kerr days, so Andrew Bogut plays a much more active role in the offense. He plays the post passer in the post-cross-splits (details: One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3), he also serves as a massive screen for Klay's curls (details: Explain One Play: Klay Thompson curls a go-ahead three).
Notably, the last giant young shot blocker the Warriors faced was Hassan Whiteside, whom the Warriors tortured with multiple curls and pick and rolls. Whiteside refused to leave the paint to contest the jump shots and the Warriors torched the Heat.
Tonight's shot blocker, Mr. Gobert, was not afraid to play up on shooters on the perimeter, trusting his length to get back to contest at the basket and to fight for rebounds. However, this left him vulnerable to Bogut's back cuts to the rim, and the Warriors got three alley-oop dunks on him, all assisted by Stephen Curry.
Alley-oop Dunk #1
This gorgeous play comes on a sideline out of bounds play (SLOB). Out of bounds plays are great because you can actually set up a play for your team that starts before the ball is inbounded, and the Warriors are right at the top of the list of teams that have effective after-timeout plays (ATOs).
Here Bogut sets up as if to down screen for Klay curling (we've mentioned above this is Klay's favorite play with Bogut). He needs to give off a world-weary air... "yes, I have seen many empires rise and fall and I'd give my right arm for a jar of Vegemite" -- and then BAM cut for the basket.
Nice pass from Steph, and an effective if low finish from Bogut.
This play is an old chestnut which we break down in detail elsewhere (Explain One Play: Andrew Bogut's Alley-Oop Dunk from Andre Iguodala). For a quick comparison, here is the exact same play sprung on Dwight Howard and the disorganized Houston Rockets on New Year's Eve:
And some bonus angles of the play. You can really feel the acceleration and the creak of his old engines firing.
Let's just be upfront and say I don't really know what happened on this play and neither does anyone else. The cameras were busy replaying Alley-oop #1, and the play started with Curry dribbling at half-court. Nobody expected him to throw an alley-oop from there. It looks like Bogut just snuck behind Gobert and cut hard on the baseline and Steph Steph'ed.
This camera was taken by surprise too:
This play is a Bogut dribble-pitch to a curling Curry at the top of the arc. There are two expected outcomes. The first option is for Steph Curry to run his man into Bogut and possibly get Gobert on a switch. The second option is that both men might blitz Curry, leaving Bogut open for a roll to the basket. See which option unfolds.
Well, the unexpected happened and Curry's defender tried to go wide left around the incoming Bogut and Gobert. Instead, he runs smack into the middle of the Stifle Tower and BOTH options are open.
Now, here Curry has to decide whether to take a wide open three (say 80% chance of hitting x 3 points = 2.4 expected points) or alley-oop to Bogut (say 90% chance of hitting x 2 points, 1.8 expected points). So arguably, this is the wrong mathematical play for Curry to make.
But this is the right HUMAN play for Curry to make. Bogut has been playing good defense and rebounding and generally raising his level of play in the last couple of weeks as the team has gotten out of sync. Reward the big fella!
This was the closest the game got to being a game again. Nine point game, around 3 minutes left in the 3rd. If Utah can survive this stretch, then Curry will be out and the Jazz can attack the bench to start the fourth. Instead, the Warriors run this play, which opened the floodgates. Advanced readers, can you name it?
This is a picture-perfect version of the Warriors Rip play. This was dissected carefully at Explain One Play: Stephen Curry Screen = Harrison Barnes Dunk DEJA VU! and more recently at Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's next level backdoor layup. For your convenience, here is a version from the Nov 12 Grizzlies game you can compare:
The whole team obviously delights in having the role players score. The team kept feeding Marreese Speights tonight as he unleashed increasingly ridiculous heat checks. The team even fed Anderson Varejao down the stretch.
Think back to Curry's Alley-oop #3. Curry is on track for his first scoring title (he's never even come close), and the scoring race is narrowing. Curry was having a very low scoring game (and finished with only 12 points, which drags his scoring average from 30.7 down to 30.4). The math, the stats, the crowd are all pointing towards him shooting the open 3. But instead, he made the right basketball team play, and his stats suffered. This has been the story of Curry since last year, with his making the right pass out of double teams leading to baskets and assists for others.
In contrast... I know I pick on Harden/Kyrie/Westbrook a lot. But Russell Westbrook is an athletic marvel, plays with such an incredible engine, and is about the best rebounding point guard I know. Yet, these stats he puts up. Tonight, he had 25 points, 11 rebounds and TWENTY (20) assists. Incredible game, right? Yet, he was a +0 in 37 minutes of play. PLUS ZERO in a 12 point win!! That is hard to do.
(Added: 3/10 7am) Oh, Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote very nicely about buzzer heaves. But basically, those long prayer shots before the buzzer? Every team should take it, right? It's a free shot and even if it only goes in 1 in 20 times, it can only be positive. Yet most players don't. Quoting Strauss:
To answer Kerr’s question, Curry has hit 5-of-13 shots from beyond 39 feet, good for 38.4 percent. It’s not just notable that he’s making these buzzer heaves at this clip, but that he’s taking them at all. Curry has spoken of wanting a 50-40-90 season, and these shots represent a threat to those percentages. Field goal percentage protection is why most stars avoid these shots completely. For example, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have yet to attempt a shot beyond 39 feet...
Kerr admitted to having been one of those buzzer-heave avoiders in his playing days. “Yeah. I used to do that. Waited a little split second, ‘Oh, it was after the buzzer?’ Ya, a lot of guys do that, and that’s what makes Steph and his percentage so incredible.”
Don't let your stats stop you from making the right play. Curry's buzzer heaves have been huge mood changes in each game, and now they're starting to set up other last second plays (QB Speights to Barbosa!).