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Explain One Play: How Marreese Speights got his buckets

Video of how Mo Buckets got mo' buckets from the Suns-Warriors game on Mar 12 2016.

"I'm the MO Valuable Player!"
"I'm the MO Valuable Player!"
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Curry did his usual magic in the fourth quarter, but for the sake of variety, let's look at Marreese Speights, the NBA's tallest shooting guard.  He had probably his best game as a Warrior to ignite the fourth quarter comeback.

So, how did Mo Buckets get mo' buckets?  In brief, he was left open by the defense and he made them pay.

Let's break them down Mo's buckets in the fourth quarter one by one.

[GSW 88-95] Speights Driving Layup Shot: Made (16 PTS) Assist: Livingston (5 AST)

This is a simple pick and roll, with Shaun Livingston handling the ball. I don't understand what the Suns were trying to do on this coverage. It looks like the Mo's defender Alex Len intentionally sank back into the lane to cut off Livingston's drive, while waiting for Shaun's defender to catch up.

Both Suns go with Livingston, so this lets Speights roll to the hoop alone. Livingston made the nice little pass and Mo finishes.

[GSW 90-95] Speights Pullup Jump shot: Made (18 PTS) Assist: Barnes (3 AST)

PHX gets completely mixed up on their defensive assignments as the Warriors push in early offense.  Look at everyone pointing to have someone pick up Harrison Barnes on the left wing.  By the time they figure it out, Shaun Livingston does a dribble pitch followed by a flying butt whump screen taking out a PHX defender. This leaves Barnes an angle for a drive to the hoop, Alex Len (again!) leaves Mo to help on the drive. When he does...

Barnes makes the nice little pass to give Mo an open baseline jumper. He loves that shot. Score.  Len probably did not need to give help. He gives the appearance of someone who is tired and was never given a scouting report on Mo Buckets.

[GSW 95-95] Speights Jump Shot: Made (20 PTS) Assist: Barnes (4 AST)

Well, here the Warriors push the ball in early offense and Alex Len (again!!) leaves Speights alone near the free throw line, for no particular reason. Doesn't he realize that midrange jumpers are Mo's main contribution to the offense? This is, well, basically a free throw for Mo.

This is the worst play so far by Len. He had a good offensive game, but this was a terrible defensive quarter for him.

Interlude: Stephen Curry to Shaun Livingston for a HUGE Alley-Oop Dunk

This is a terrible camera angle, but watch and see if you follow how Shaun Livingston got open for this big alley-oop dunk.

That's right, his man is back screened by Mo of the House of Buckets.  When Curry is on the left side of the floor, it's hard to pay attention to the right side of the floor.  A good play, as you would expect Len's coach to chew him out and say, STICK CLOSE TO MO, so you don't expect Len to be ready to switch when Mo screen's Shaun's man. In this case, I don't really understand why Len starts running towards Curry away from the alley oop, as if he were being controlled by an NBA2K controller by someone who wasn't sure which player was selected.

If the play looks familiar, it's because the Warriors run it for all their personnel who can dunk. Here's an example of Andre Iguodala handing it off and getting a Speights back screen for the alley-oop.  (By coincidence, we have the same artistic floor level camera angle.)

More detail in past write-ups at: Explain One Play: Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green throw down huge dunks and Explain One Odd Play: Draymond Green Pass to Stephen Curry Layup.

[GSW 99-98] Speights Jump Shot: Made (22 PTS) Assist: Livingston (6 AST)

Here, for some reason, Alex Len feels some electromagnetic repulsion keeping him from staying close to Speights. Here Livingston sees that Len is (again!!!) sinking deep into the lane, so he just tosses the ball to Mo for a quick elbow jumper.

Len makes it worse by fouling. If you count the exclamation points in the last "again", that is FOUR times in just three minutes that Len left Speights open to score. Mercifully, that's his 5th foul, so he is pulled. If he had stayed on Mo, Mo might have gone for 30 or 40.

[GSW 110-108] Speights Driving Dunk Shot: Made (25 PTS) Assist: K Thompson (3 AST)

Here again, the Warriors push the ball in early offense. Draymond Green hits Klay Thompson at the arc. Of course the Suns defender has to close out, and Klay makes a nice move to get past him. Now the defense completely panics and four Suns collapse on Klay....

... so Klay just makes a nice dump off to Speights, who dunks!  Good to see Speights regaining confidence in his dunk, after the unfortunately muff in the Finals. Also good to see Klay taking more responsibility making plays.

Notice Draymond's importance is two-fold. First, he sees Klay will have an angle on the defense and hits him with the nice pass at the right time. Second, Draymond has an erratic three point shot, but his defender Tyson Chandler has to respect it. He plays up above the free throw circle to cover Draymond. Tyson is the only real Suns shot blocker, so Klay knows he can attack freely.

Final Thoughts

One of the Warriors discoveries at the end of last year was that Shaun Livingston and Mo Speights work well together in pick and rolls. Mo was out of sorts for most of this year, but Steve Kerr is the Mo Buckets Whisperer and Kerr's return seems to have revived his confidence.

Now, all of Mo's buckets analyzed here were the result of bad defense. And yet, it is so important to have someone who can punish bad defense, and that is Mo at his best. If he could punish good defense, he'd be a starter. Still, if Mo's hitting those midrange jumpers, and teams start game planning for him, that will open space for Livingston to operate in the paint.

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.

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