The Warriors’ defense has three key features.
First, almost everyone on the roster can reliably switch assignments when screened (except for Stephen Curry, JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia). Second, for players who can drive to the rim one-on-one, the Dubs often play a goalie, sometimes called a strong-side overload, or a shadow. Third, for only the most dominant players in a groove, the Warriors double-team them and scramble to recover.
On Wednesday, DeMarcus Cousins started getting whatever he wanted against McGee, and without Pachulia or David West, there was no post defense savior coming. So the W’s turned to double-teaming consistently in the third quarter and got some stops that they turned into points. Then, when Cousins sat to rest, the Warriors completely demolished the Kings’ bench.
1. When keeping it double goes wrong
Double-teaming isn’t easy. Communication needs to be clear, and everyone needs to be disciplined to stay in position.
Here’s an example early in the third.
You’ll see the ball go to Cousins in the post. Watch how Curry and Patrick McCaw communicate to double-team Cousins, and also recover to two Kings at the arc. But McGee does one little thing that messes the coverage up ...
Did you see Curry talk and point to McCaw to cover Darren Collison on the arc, allowing Curry to sprint out and switch to Matt Barnes? But then Barnes quickly re-enters the ball to Cousins and McGee reaches for the steal. Kevin Durant has to rotate, and that leaves Curry responsible for two players at the arc — covering neither! Kings miss the open three, so the Dubs got lucky.
2. Moving Cousins to the perimeter
This began as a cat-and-mouse game where the Kings moved Cousins around trying to make it hard for the Dubs to double-team. In this play, they involve him in high pick-and-rolls, where McGee doesn’t like to defend. Notice the smooth switching the W’s do.
One amusing thing about this play is watching Cousins as Curry brings the ball up. As Curry hits mid-court, Cousins motions to teammate Collison to cover Curry, as in, come on up, he’s in range — he’s at the logo. Then Cousins backs up and screens Collison with his rear end. Curry appreciates the friendly fire screen and hits the open three.
3. Feeding Cousins in motion
Here, the Kings get Cousins catching the ball as he moves into the post, after Collison screens McGee. McGee fights through the screen to prevent the layup, and McCaw doubles Cousins in the post. McCaw gets enough ball and hand to knock it free to Ben McLemore. Watch what happens from there.
Cousins gets the ball back on the perimeter. Curry harasses Cousins while McGee plays goalie. McLemore wisely cuts along the baseline to force someone to cover him. In the instant, Curry and Durant both go to cover the cutter. That leaves Anthony Tolliver (welcome back!) open for three ... or is he? That’s a long block for Durant. There is a scramble, McCaw steals it and Durant gets the flying dunk.
4. Cousins spot-up on perimeter
Now, the Kings put Cousins on the perimeter and Barnes drives and kicks it back to him in space, with only “McAwesome” McCaw left to challenge him. McCaw makes a great close-out, also preventing the drive. Watch the help the Warriors give behind McCaw.
Cousins is a decent three-point shooter, but the W’s don’t need to double team him on the perimeter. They just put two goalies in the paint. Durant waits skittishly in the paint for Cousins to get past McCaw. Behind Durant, McGee also waits to help. This leaves arguably three Kings open on the arc. But Cousins, seeming to tire of the defense loading up on him, bullies to the basket, perhaps hoping to get the foul, and throws up a bad shot. In early offense, there’s confusion and two Kings go to Klay Thompson. He can hit Durant in the paint or McCaw in the corner. Layup, and the rout is on.
Thesis: When exhausted, Curry and KD get flat jumper, Andre loses all shooting, Dray loses emotional control, Klay loses shot conscience.— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) February 16, 2017
and from the Nuggets game:
I tell you, these young garbage pups are going to bring us back. Bri-fense, Loon-three, D-mian, Yan power, and McAwesome. Form Voltron!— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) February 14, 2017
Okay, they brought us back, but they're gassed. https://t.co/xrrkYr8Bex— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) February 14, 2017
Garbage pups made this the most interesting and fun Warriors butt-whooping I've seen.— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) February 14, 2017