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Explain One Play: Durant and Thompson (finally) execute to close out Blazers

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Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and the others go back to the basics and execute plays to close out the Warriors-Blazers on Jan 29, 2017.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers
oh everything is all right in the spring when we’re poisoning pigeons in the park
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

This game was marked by stretches of stagnant isolation offense, with Kevin Durant reverting to some bad habits.

But the Warriors hung on to win it at the end, and they did it by executing a particular set twice in a row. Yes, this is the rare article where I actually explain one play.

Motion Zipper #1 & #2

The set looks like a streamlined version of an old play the Warriors re-purposed from the Spurs Motion Weak format. The play starts with the ball passed across three men high (as does every Spurs Motion play), with the center man setting a screen for a zipper cut up the free throw lane. Here are a couple of old examples with Klay Thompson zipper cutting up around a screen. He can then either shoot if he’s open, or drive if he’s overplayed to the top.

Shoot version:

Drive version:

I think you get the idea.

Motion Zipper #3

So tonight, with the game hanging in the balance, the Warriors have the ball up 101-99 with 1:36 left in the game. The Warriors run the Motion Zipper play above.

Zaza Pachulia, who had quite a hustle game, is the center man and he sets the screen for Kevin Durant who zipper cuts up. Pachulia does not nail Durant’s defender Al-Farouq Aminu but creates just enough space to force Aminu to close out too hard, and Durant drives right by him for the makes-it-look-easy floater from the free throw line.

Motion Zipper #4

After an excellent defensive stand, the W’s have the ball with 0:53 left, up 103-99. One score and the game will be over (plus or minus freak foul calls). They run the same play with Pachulia setting the center screen for Durant’s zipper cut. Remember last play Durant curled around Pachulia and left Aminu behind. Watch how the Blazers stop this option, and then see the Warriors execute the second option of this play.

This time, Pachulia’s defender Mason Plumlee jumps out to double team Durant. There is temporarily a 3-on-2 under the basket, but the W’s don’t take advantage. Instead, Plumlee recovers to Pachulia. But the W’s have already gone into their second option, which has Klay Thompson flaring out to the arc behind a solid screen from Andre Iguodala.

Damian Lillard is oblivious to what is happening as he guards Iguodala. Iguodala uses the subtle version of the “use my screen” sign by flicking his wrist back (as opposed to the big fat arm waves the Dubs often use), perhaps not wanting to alert Lillard. C.J. McCollum is Thompson’s defender and he doesn’t think to get Lillard to switch. Instead he takes a very long route around Iguodala’s screen, and Klay has lots of time to relax and shoot the (mostly) game-clinching three.

Final thoughts

Any road victory is a good one, especially a back-to-back without the straw that stirs the drink, Stephen Curry. Compare the Spurs who unexplainably lost to New Orleans on Friday and to Dallas at home today to suddenly fall 4 games behind the W’s.

Let’s hope the W’s get some rest before their three games in four nights run coming later this week.

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for well-nigh every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the Explain One Play Mega-Index, searchable and sortable by player, play, team and date.