All people mention about the 72-win Bulls is, well, the seventy-two wins. They don't talk about how many of them were blowouts that became close games when they turned the ball over through feverish carelessness, and then had to save the game with a lucky three.
Speaking of tonight's game, let's have a look at the wild play that won the game for the Warriors. Let's set the stage. The Magic (and the Lakers!) had this defensive game plan: blitz Stephen Curry with double teams and force an ailing Draymond Green to make plays. Throughout the year, Draymond has been a real plus running the resulting 4-on-3 attacks. But his outside shot has been broken for a month and tonight he had strep throat (man, it hurts so much, get better DG), so he just had the timing of a feverish doped up guy. Dray had seven turnovers and they all looked bad. So by the end, the Warriors brought Andrew Bogut back into the game and ran some splits off of his passing, but even that was looking erratic.
That Play, Part 1
So here you are. The Magic have come all the way back to cut the lead to 2, 111-109, with one minute left in the game. Announcer Jim Barnett says this possession is a must-score given the Magic's huge momentum. But how do you generate offense when the Magic are doubling Curry, Green is VERY off, Bogut is a little off, Klay Thompson can't quite make plays (zero assists tonight) and Andre Iguodala is in street clothes.
The Warriors run a set play for Curry where he is off ball (so he can't be blitzed). Here is the first part of this play. Advanced readers should try to identify the play.
Yes, this is a kind of Floppy. Curry and Klay shuffle around each other under the basket, and they threaten to come out and use one of the screens at the elbows (Bogut on the left, Draymond on the right). Victor Oladipo #5 begins the play covering Klay, but quickly switches to Curry and gets around Bogut's screen. Very alert and energetic play.
You can see this exact same play (with the exact same lack of effect) from this season's Timberwolves game:
More details here: Explain One Play: Awesome Stephen Curry Bank Shot And-1.
That Play, Part 2
So, the Magic have now busted the Floppy play. So, should the Warriors give the ball to Curry and hope for the ISO magic? No, because this is not 2013, this is 2016, and the Warriors have a Next Level playbook and system. You see Curry run towards Shaun Livingston and make arm motions indicating "use my screen". Then Curry sets a pick -- yes CURRY sets the pick -- for Livingston, and they run a pick and roll! All year, Curry has been setting hard screens and hitting the boards (13 rebounds tonight, one off from his career high), and doing a lot of dirty work that you don't expect a little guy to do.
Here's the pick and roll.
It's not a bad play and it's a pretty cool second option to flow into.
Because Shaun and Curry are smalls, their defenders are smalls, and they aren't used to guarding the screener. Here you see both Oladipo and C.J. Watson #32 both follow Livingston while Curry rolls free to the basket.
(We further discuss the merits of having a small be the screener in a "reverse" pick and roll here: Explain One Play: Reverse Draymond Green-Stephen Curry Pick and Pop. Often, Curry will screen and then pop out to the arc for a spot-up three. Here, Curry does a good old fashioned roll to the basket.)
Nice Shaun pass into a Curry drive, and Draymond's defender comes over to stop Curry. Steph lays off the ball to Draymond, who should have a dunk, except C.J. Watson, did not give up on the play and he knocks the ball away. Draymond never quite gets control and the ball squirts out, away TO FREEDOM...
Except... well here is the whole play now, from start to finish.
Klay Thompson hustles over to beat his defender to the ball, and then fires up a highly contested corner three. Which of course, he hits, and that's the ball game right there.
It takes some lucky bounces to win as many games as the Warriors have. Given that four years ago the Warriors seemed permanently destined to be the worst team in the league, we can hardly complain about the Warriors pulling out a game that they had every right to blow, with key people injured and on the second night of a back-to-back.
And even by the absolutely highest standards, the 72-win Bulls had some stinkers too (they lost to a freaking expansion team!), and even the robotically excellent Spurs lost tonight. And the Cleveland Batman LeBrons lost at home to seven Grizzlies and whomever they could grab before the game, on a back to back no less.
So, yes we know the Warriors can play much much better. But these are the dog days of the season, and a win is a win is a win.