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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry to Open Andrew Bogut Dunk

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The Warriors go to a three man play to confuse Spurs-like switching defenses. Video from the Warriors-Mavericks game on Mar 25 2016.

"Thanks for the ring, now taste my Jujitsu!"
"Thanks for the ring, now taste my Jujitsu!"
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The big story in the Warriors offensive scheming is how to counter the switching defenses the league is throwing at the Warriors. This kind of defense has defenders switching assignments when they are about to be screened.

The Warriors themselves have pioneered this kind of defensive approach, and it works very well against most of the league. Most of the league plays a pick and roll offense with shooters spacing, and a pick and roll is a two-man game. With just two moving parts, it is easy for defenders to switch assignments.

Three Man Games

The Warriors play a more complicated offense, and to counter Switching, the Warriors are trying to emphasize their offense schemes to have more three-man games to confuse switching defenses.  So for instance, in Explain One Play: Stephen Curry & Draymond Green punish Spurs-style switches, we pointed out how the Warriors took their typical Draymond Green - Stephen Curry pick and rolls and mixed it up with Barnes setting a pre-screen for Draymond.

With three players, the three defenders have to coordinate how they are to switch assignments, as each person has two possible new assignments in addition to staying with their player.

Three Man Post-Cross Roll

Okay, so we are going to look at a three-man version of the oldest play in the Warriors playbook: the Post-Cross Split.  We examined the vanilla package and its variants at One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3 and Explain One Play: Klay Thompson Turns Bobbles Into Points.

For instance, here is a generic version, where Andre Iguodala throws the ball to Bogut at the top of the key, and goes to set a down screen for Klay Thompson, and Bogut passes to Klay for the score.

This vanilla version doesn't work well against a switching defense, as Klay and Curry's defenders could just agree to switch assignments. The problem is that it looks like a three-man play, but Bogut is not an offensive threat way out there. This makes the decisions for the two switching defenders pretty easy.

Now let's look at tonight's version. You'll see Klay feed Bogut on the high wing and immediately go to set a down screen for Curry. Then Bogut (backwards no-look) passes to Curry.  But watch how Bogut makes himself an offensive threat:


As Bogut passes to Curry, Bogut now rolls to the basket.  The two weakside Mavs defenders don't want to help as they are guarding dangerous shooters that they don't want to leave.

This leaves three Mavericks having to coordinate a switch of three assignments, live and at high speed. On the first screen, Raymond Felton fights through Klay's screen, but now he finds the play has suddenly developed into a Bogut-Curry pick and roll. Now Felton has to suddenly decide with Salah Mejri (Bogut's defender) whether Mejri switches to Curry or if Felton stays on Curry.

At the high speeds of life, the decision making breaks down. Both Felton and Mejri go to cover Curry. This leaves Bogut an open road to an alley-oop dunk.

And in reality, a non-switching defense (Mejri staying attached to Bogut) might have led to an easy Curry 3. And in slow motion, one sees that the only likely effective switch would probably have been for Wesley Matthews to leave Klay and pick up Bogut (you see him tag Bogut as he runs by). Then Felton would have switched to Klay, and Mejri would have to cover Curry.  But that would be an amazing switch to work out in real time. Maybe the Warriors or Spurs could have done it, but I'd not expect most teams to be able to pull it off.

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.