The Warriors offense has heritage from basically four sources, which we've dissected over the course of this year:
- Spurs motion offense - via Steve Kerr (three intros: One Play: 2 Spurs Recipes + Curry = Klay 3, One Warriors Play: Spurs Play + Curry = Bogut Dunk, Explain One Play: Klay Sweet 3 Restarts Blowout)
- Seven Seconds or Less Suns - via Kerr and Alvin Gentry (intro: Explain 1 Play: Barnes Tries To Be Not "Terrible")
- Triangle Offense via Kerr and Luke Walton (intro: One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3, Explain 1 Play: Bogut Between The Legs To Curry)
- Hot Dog Improvisation - Curry and Vine set the tone
Ingredient 1. Post-Cross Low and High
This is a simple action that has roots in the Triangle Offense and D'Antoni's offense, and I'll always have a soft spot for, since it was the first new play installed in the Kerr era. The basic play in the Triangle Offense is to have a guard feed a passing big in the low post, then go to screen for another shooter, who then receives a pass. There are lots of variations the Warriors run now.
Here's Steve Kerr running it with the Bulls. Note the pass to the low post, then screen for another player. The play continues after that with Kerr cutting to the arc for a shot when the original shooter is double teamed.
If you want more clips of this, there are lots and lots. Just search The Explain One Play series index for "post-cross".
Now I'm not sure if D'Antoni pulled this idea directly from the Triangle or from other offenses that have this action, but he's the first coach I know about who moved the "post" from the low post to way up high above the arc.
Here's an example from the D'Antoni Knicks. Same basic idea, but with the post up high: guard feeds the "post", goes to screen for another shooter, pass to the shooter (Carmelo Anthony in this case).
This D'Antoni format is called the Delay set, a name which makes no sense. So I call it the High Post-Cross. Here's an example of the Warriors running the exact same play, except of course Klay would never dribble into a long contested 2.
So, remember this play.
Ingredient 2: Spurs Motion Weak
We've discussed this set a little bit before (see Explain One Play: Klay Thompson sweet three restarts Warriors blowout). This set always begins with a small on one side feeding someone at the wing, and then making a shallow cut and coming out on the other side (the non-ball side, or the "weak" side) and getting the ball back.
One vanilla Motion Weak play goes like this. The shallow cut described above, but then in the paint, Klay Thompson sets a screen for a big and then cuts straight up the lane (a "zipper cut"), getting a screen from a high middle big.
So, here's a simple example. Watch for the shallow cut by Stephen Curry, the ball returning to him, and Klay screening and zipper cutting up the lane.
And here's another version, just so you catch the pattern. Curry shallow cut, gets back back, Klay screen in paint, zipper cut to the top.
Tonight's Play: Reese's Cup of Two Ingredients
Let's just run this clip. If you've got the hang of the two plays, you can see how they're related to this lovely sequence.
Did you catch it? The play starts with Motion Weak. Curry shallow cut, ball return, Klay screen in paint, zipper cut. HOWEVER, instead of feeding Klay at the top like the vanilla Motion Weak, Curry feeds Bogut for an instant Post-Cross play. That means, Curry goes to screen for Klay, and the Bogut feeds Klay for the open shot. Bogut throws in his bit of flair (that between the legs pass).
Why This Play? Answer: Three Man Game
Now, if you look at this play carefully, you will see Klay was actually open at the top of the arc for a three after the zipper cut. That's because the Sixers defended this play by playing straight man-to-man defense, and Klay's defender gets caught up on Draymond's screen, while Draymond's defender kind of waves sort of in the passing lane, kind of a mime's version of the Show defense on pick and roll.
So why the complexity? Because this play was planned. It's the first play after a time out (an "ATO"; in fact, it's the first play in the second half), and these plays are practically always set plays called by the coaches.
Why play this play? Remember, that everyone and their D-League team is now guarding the Warriors by switching all screens and living with Curry guarded by a big on the perimeter. The team is now gearing up to defeat this new defensive scheme. (Compare: Explain One Play: Curry & Green punish switches, Explain One Play: Stephen Curry to Open Bogut Dunk).
One principle of fighting switching defenses is the complicate the switching. By putting three men in motion (as opposed to two), you have dramatically increased the coordination required to keep the switches straight. With two men, the decision tree is this: is there a screen coming? Then call for a switch. With three men, which of the two others do you switch to? Or do you stay and let the other two switch? Who calls the switch?
So, returning to tonight's play. Imagine the vanilla Motion Weak with Zipper Cut. You can kill the first option by having Draymond's defender switch out to follow Klay to the top of the key. Then the Warriors have to reset into something new. But with this new Motion Weak Post-Cross, Klay's defender would get immediately nailed by Curry's screen (who will be on his blind side!). Even in the simpler case that actually played out tonight, Curry's defender kept running to stay with Curry and was way out of position to switch to guard Klay. If Draymond's defender had switched, he would have to negotiate that same switch with his teammate on his blind side, while getting nailed with a surprise screen and having just switched himself. Tough.
So, I see this beautiful play tonight as not only being just a great Next Level hybrid of old plays, but a great example of the Warriors fighting switches by emphasizing and developing the parts of their playbook that lead to switching against Three Man Games.