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Explain One Play: Draymond is the defensive closer

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Draymond Green makes the big and little defensive plays to reject the Sixers' upset bid on March 14, 2017.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors
“nana nana nana na na THEY SAY IT’S YA BIRTHDAY—” “Dray, don’t. Just don’t.”
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Draymond Green made the big and little defensive plays to reject the Sixers' upset bid. He went to another gear defensively in the third quarter and stayed there for the rest of the game. The W’s have been missing this high gear of Draymond’s defense during the losing streak: as he overstated in the TV post-game interview, “I’ve sucked.”

Let’s look at a couple of plays in the final minute to look at subtle and not-subtle aspects of Green’s outstanding play.

Q4.1.00. GSW 104, PHI 103.

Let’s start on offense. Here the Warriors will try to make something out of the dive-pop split cuts as a first option, with the ball fed to Green as a post passer while Stephen Curry cuts and pops. The play then flows into Klay Thompson trying to cut around Green as a screen. Think about what options Klay’s defender has here.

T.J. McConnell does a good job to stay with Curry on the cuts. Curry then brush screens Thompson’s defender which gives him an extra half step lead. As the defender #20 follows Thompson to the screen, what are his options? He can go under the screen, which lets Green handoff to Klay for an open corner 3. He can follow Thompson over the screen, which lets Thompson cut directly to the hoop with a simple Green overhead assist. Or he can try to blast between Thompson and Green to not let him use the screen. This is what he tries, but unfortunately, he manages to blast a good chunk of Green’s torso as well. Draymond makes the two big free throws.

Q4.0.53. GSW 106, PHI 103

In this play, McConnell gets a switch onto Green. Perhaps he hadn’t gotten the memo that Green can handle guards in crunch-time isolation. He perhaps did not remember these plays:

Green has an amazing ability to handle drives and hang in the air with arm out, timing the shot block. And so it unfolded as it was foretold by the ancients:

Q4.0.45 GSW 106, PHI 103.

The next play is a designed play by the Sixers. Obviously the incorrect play was to isolate on Green. In fact ever W’s defender on the court can defend every Sixer in isolation defense, except Curry. So this play is designed to get Dario Saric — and what an impressive game this fellow had — posting up Curry. This happens with Daric starting at the elbow and setting a downscreen on Curry as his man makes a hard zipper cut up to get the ball. The play works, as Curry calls for Andre iguodala to switch (watch his hand motion) and Curry now guards Saric alone in the paint. Watch what happens next.

#20 Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot tries to get the ball to Saric. He drives around looking for the right angle to feed Saric. But Green (that guy again) alertly leaves his man Richaun Holmes to come double team Saric to help Curry out. In fact, the optimal play at this point would be for Curry to switch out to covering Holmes in the corner. #20 finally gets the ball out to Holmes, but Iguodala harasses him into a poor pass and Green recovers out, causing Holmes to step out of bounds. And Green knocks the ball free from behind in a risky but effective move.

We’ll skip the next plays which are:

  • a nice fake handoff where Green misses the open dunk,
  • a Sixers possession well-swarmed by the W’s, leading to a timeout,
  • and then a botched inbounds where Matt Barnes gets the ball and instead of holding it to be fouled to seal the game with free throws, he instead goes temporarily insane and tries to dunk the ball.

Q4.0.02. GSW 106, PHL 103

Draymond made the smart foul after the Sixers recover the ball.

There is some debate over the right move when you’re defending up 3. However, the facts are clear on this. Teams win much more often when they foul up 3 to give up two free throws as opposed to defending. It’s cheap, but it works and is the correct basketball play. The only thing that can go wrong is if the player gets off a shot, so they get three free throws, or if the player makes the first and gets the rebound on the second. So here’s the second free throw. Watch how Green makes sure the Sixers won’t get the rebound.

Saric makes a perfect miss which bounces into the center of the lane. Green skillfully boxes out his man Holmes who actively tries to burst around him. Green keeps his body in contact with Holmes’s and between him and the basket. Then he interferes with the tip-in and then bats the ball out as it ricochets back.

Final Thoughts

The Warriors losing streak was the unfortunate collision of several factors:

  • Curry’s terrible shooting
  • Thompson’s not good shooting.
  • Green’s not having the extra defensive gear in play and leadership
  • The Mac squad, McCaw, McAdoo and McGee have been bad and gummed up the offense.
  • General physical and mental exhaustion plus depression from the loss of Durant.

The Warriors could have pulled out any of the lost games (besides the Spurs surrender/middle-finger-to-the-league-schedule/performance-art) with any one of these factors gone. But they couldn’t quite survive all of it happening.

The first game back from a road trip is a famous letdown/hangover game, and we’ve now seen it twice this week, against the Celtics and again against the Sixers. I am optimistic the next couple of games will be better showings as the Warriors slowly recover from the trip.

Finaller Thoughts

fanofsmartball kindly asked if I would write Explain One Play for losses as well. Sometimes I’m tempted to. And I’ve thought about changing the format to just doing one a week, win or lose, reflecting on the week. But it doesn’t feel as timely.

And the main reason I don’t is that after a win, I’m up for reflecting on it and the preceding losses. After a loss I feel like staring into the sky and thinking about the cosmos.

But I appreciate the encouragement, and the questions and comments. I often am not sure what people are interested in reading about, so keep the feedback coming. I always read the comments in EOP, and can sometimes spot the FanPosts. I am quite responsive on Twitter.