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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green close out the Rockets

The Warriors’ superstars made big plays down the stretch to secure an impressive win against the Rockets in Houston on March 28, 2017.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
everybody’s hands go up / and they stay there
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This was a fun, but somewhat infuriating game. But we’ll skip past the appalling foul calls and go straight to the plays at the end of the game. Here’s a look at the Warriors’ defense against James Harden and how Stephen Curry and Draymond Green executed big plays to put the game away.

Q4. 2:26. GSW 105, HOU 99

This is still anyone’s game. The Dubs run this play which starts off with a Green-Curry high pick-and-roll, but then flows into Green posted up on the left side with dive-pop split cuts on the right side. See what unfolds.

Matt Barnes passes into Green, who is guarded by James Harden (on purpose ... he’s a pretty strong post defender).

Andre Iguodala and Curry come together and Iguodala dives to the basket. Iguodala gets held as he cuts; Curry is too far away to receive a pass. Tired, sloppy-looking execution. Klay Thompson looks like he wants to cut, but Trevor Ariza holds him tight. No, really, he has a tight grip on each arm. With not much developing off-ball, Green turns and tries to draw a cheap foul by flailing into Harden. I’m normally against this kind of thing, but Harden has built a good chunk of his career on this kind of cheap foul — so it couldn’t happen to a cheaper guy. Anyway, Green gets lucky and the ball goes in.

Q4. 2:09. GSW 107, HOU 99

Harden brings the ball up and attacks in early offense. Thompson gets nailed with a moving screen and Green switches cleanly onto Harden. Can Green contain Harden racing downhill at him?


Barnes sags in, which makes Harden pick up his dribble. Then Harden does his cheap “lead with outstretched arms” drive, which Green skillfully dodges, and then Green does a spectacular job of bothering Harden on the finish without fouling. Quick lateral movement, arms up, overall great defense.

Q4. 1:58. GSW 107, HOU 99

Everyone looks tired. The W’s need a score to close this thing out. Curry will get a big in isolation and sizes him up. Should he drive past him all the way to the rim? Or pull up for a jumper? Or try a crossover to a step-back three? Here’s the play.

Oops, wrong clip.

Here’s the real play, which is basically the same thing.

This feels like a good time to link back to my case for Curry for MVP: Explain One Play: We take Steph Curry for granted.

Q4. 0:58. GSW 110, HOU 104

Harden just hit an impressive off-the-dribble three, but the game is still close to over now. One more score or stop should do it. Here the Dubs don’t mess around. High pick-and-roll, Green screen for Curry, getting Clint Capela on a switch. Capela has just been burned by Curry with the preceding 29-foot three-point bomb, so he steps up to play Curry above the arc.

It’s nice to see this part of Curry’s game is coming back with some confidence. He drives right, and the second Capela turns right, Curry goes left with a little inside-out dribble. Then, as Capela flies backwards to recover, Curry stops on a dime and goes up with a shot that’s a sideways Dirk Nowitzki-like one-legged jumper. Very difficult shot that Curry makes look easy.

Final thoughts

It will be a very good win if the W’s can beat San Antonio on the road. The Spurs have always matched up well against the W’s, in personnel (skilled bigs, Kawhi Leonard as a devastating defender), in attack scheme (motion offense to punish any defensive communication mistake), in defensive scheme (aggressively switch screens, overplay perimeter passes and dare the W’s to beat them with backdoor cuts).

If the Warriors can ...

  • clamp down on the Spurs’ offense (which is only part The Beautiful Game now with a healthy dollop of The Isolation Game),
  • get some transition scores,
  • shoot decently, and
  • not give up too many turnovers

... then the W’s will have a chance to grind out a win. I suspect if any of those goes wrong, then the Spurs will win.

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.


What will happen in the Dubs’ back-to-back road game in San Antonio?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    W’s win by double-digits
    (179 votes)
  • 54%
    W’s win by single-digits
    (466 votes)
  • 16%
    Spurs win by single-digits
    (139 votes)
  • 7%
    Spurs win by double-digits
    (66 votes)
850 votes total Vote Now

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