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Explain One Play: W’s blitz McCollum

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Blazers steal two Dubs’ plays, Dubs counter-attack with blitzing double-teams in the Blazers-Warriors game on Jan. 5, 2017.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors
C.J. V.S. A.I. O.K?
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

C.J. McCollum is a remarkable shot maker, particularly with heavily-guarded, awkward shots. The Warriors threw a different defense at him in the third quarter to turn the tide.

Blitzing the dive-pop

Blazers coach Terry Stotts runs quite a few Warriors’ plays. This first one is the Blazers’ version of the dive-pop action we’ve discussed a lot. For instance, here is a Warriors’ dive-pop. The ball goes to a passing post Zaza Pachulia, then Draymond Green and Stephen Curry come together. Green dives, Curry pops out.

In this case, the pass went to Green, but you can see the ball could have gone to Curry for an open shot as well.

The Blazers run this with Mason Plumlee as the passing post. McCollum pops out while another Blazer dives. But the Warriors will blow up the play as follows:

Klay Thompson stays on McCollum and Pachulia leaves Plumlee to double-team blitz McCollum. The shot clock is low, he’s stuck in the corner and the Blazers haven’t practiced a counter to the blitz.

(We discussed the dive-pop thoroughly at Explain One Play: Durant reverse dunk and Curry 3 from next-level split cuts.)

Blitzing the HORNS dive-pop

A couple of plays later, the Blazers run another Warriors’ play. Here is the Dubs’ version. They go into HORNS (two bigs at elbows, two smalls at corners), give the ball to the left elbow big and run a dive-pop on the other side. Curry dives, Klay pops out.

Now, the Blazers run the same play with McCollum popping out and Meyers Leonard the passing post. See how the W’s defend it:

Pachulia and Thompson again double-team him, stopping his drive. He resets back to Leonard, who gives it back before he expects it. Bobble, steal, fast break.

Final thought

It’s not surprising that Stotts would steal as many W’s plays as possible. Every team steals, and the Damian Lillard-McCollum backcourt is a mini-me version of the Splash Brothers, so the W’s playbook should suit the Blazers. (Sorry if that offends you, Damian.)

But the Blazers haven’t gotten as deep into the counters, so they were vulnerable to simple double-team blitzes and McCollum couldn’t find the open man quickly enough. But with time, that should improve. However, the small poor-defensive backcourt (remind you of Curry-Ellis?) may just not be playable long-term.

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.