The Warriors continued their off again on again experiment to win while putting forth the absolute minimum level of good play. In Saturday's Memphis game, they whittled it down to about a half quarter of decent play in the 1st quarter, and five minutes at the end of the game, and that was almost not enough against a hustling, disciplined Grizzlies team which has successfully assembled a playoff NBA team out of scraps.
Pre-screen The Screener vs. Switches
The game-winning play was a Draymond Green putback of a Stephen Curry layup. The play itself was an interesting one, because it was a recent one that was introduced to battle the wave of Switching defenses that is the current standard defense against the Warriors motion offense. For instance, here is the play from the Spurs game. The basic idea is to twist the usual Curry-Draymond pick and roll by having someone set a screen for Draymond before he sets the screen for Curry. This confounds switching defenses because, well, whom do you switch to? Three people have to work it out on the fly at game speed.
So here you see Klay starts on the wing and screens Andrew Bogut's defender, and Bogut comes over to screen for Curry. Tim Duncan is the odd man out and he gets left way too deep to come out to contest Curry's 3.
Pre-screen The Screener vs. The Blitz
What was interesting about this play is that Memphis was on the whole NOT switching on the pick and roll. For instance, remember these back to back Curry to Festus Ezeli alley-oops? Each time, they came on a pick and roll where Ezeli's defender did NOT switch to Curry, but rather joined Curry's defender in a double-team blitz. Ah, memories of the good old days of 2015 when this was the standard defense on Curry...
By the way, those are exquisite passes. Curry is just a shooter, huh?
Anyway, let's go to the end of the game. What happens when you run a play designed to foil the Switch against a defense that intends to blitz? Let's see.
The play begins with Klay screening Draymond's defender. Then Draymond steps up to screen Curry's man. So what happens to the defenders? They more or less improvise and stick to their blitz principles. Curry's man (#14 Xavier Munford, who had a pretty good game!) manages to to stay with Curry. Draymond's defender (#0 JaMychal Green) stays with Green instead of blitzing, so Klay's man (#1 Lance Stephenson) has to figure out what to do. Does he blitz Curry? Or does he stay with Klay?
Well, Klay didn't run the play that well, since he ended up in Curry's face instead of flaring past Barnes out to the left side wing for a spot up 3. This made it easier for Lance to blitz Curry and not follow Klay. But because of the pre-screen, Lance and Xavier hare a step away from Curry, so Curry smoothly accelerates and splits their double team. He would have a layup, except Matt Barnes (who also had a good game... a lot of Grizzlies played pretty well!) alertly helps in the lane and sandwiches Curry with JaMychal.
Curry seemed determined to get to the hoop and force them to call a foul (Barnes does get him with the hip), but they don't call it. The problem for Memphis is that JaMychal and Barnes are now smushing Curry right under the basket. Curry's original man Xavier trailed the play, but as an inexperienced and small player, he's not used to boxing out someone like Draymond. Draymond darts right by him for the sweet tip-in.
Right after this play, Draymond plays tremendous defense on Zach Randolph, and the Warriors play tough D on Lance Stephenson's attempted game winners. On the final shot, Lance does get a bump from Klay, but on the other hand, he also initiates contact by kicking Klay. A no call is probably the typical NBA ref call in that situation.
On Pre-Screen the Screener
- Explain One Play: Stephen Curry is pre-screened for three pointers
- Explain One Play: Curry & Green punish switches
On Fighting the Blitz
- Explain One Play: Stephen Curry turns two blitzes into dunks
- How the Warriors fought the blitz in Boston, Brooklyn