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Explain One Play: Dubs deal death by a thousand (back) cuts

The Warriors pull away from the Knicks with repeated back cuts down the stretch of the game on March 5th, 2017.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New York Knicks
Oooh, let’s play catch, let’s go to the park, can we?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors aren’t playing well now. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are not shooting well and with Kevin Durant out, the offense has to earn its points through execution, not insane Splash Brothers shooting.

Let’s look at three plays down the stretch of the Knicks game. The Knicks had pulled to within 3 with less than four minutes remaining. Notably, the Warriors did NOT run any pick-and-roll or isolations, which every other team in the league runs in crunch time. It’s almost like Steve Kerr wanted to force the team to win by executing and not by hitting the cheat button and running the Curry and Draymond Green pick-and-roll, or having Curry create off the dribble.

Q4.3:53. GS 102, NY 99.

This play begins with an inbound pass to Green, who tries to isolate on Derrick Rose. But the Knicks triple-team Green, and the Warriors have to reset. It gets interesting at 3:45 when Green passes it to Patrick McCaw. Do you recognize the play?

The play is what I’ve called dive-pop. McCaw passes it to Andre Iguodala, the passer in the post. Then he runs over to screen for Thompson and then cuts backdoor, diving to the basket. A lovely little pass, and cool finish. All around level-headed play by the rookie McCaw to initiate the dive-pop action with 6 on the shot clock.

In Explain One Play: Durant Reverse Dunk and Curry 3 from Next Level Split Cuts I analyzed how the W’s formulated dive-pop as a new version of their old bread and butter play, the post-cross split cuts. The problem with the old simple split cuts is that it can be defused by switching assignments to avoid being screened. The new split cuts have the two players going fast in opposite directions, so it is hard to switch.

For example, in this play, at 3:45, you see McCaw coming over to screen Thompson’s defender Rose, who takes an appalling defensive route, bouncing off his own man Kristaps Porzingis. At this inopportune moment, Carmelo Anthony leaves McCaw to double-team Iguodala. I’m not sure if he figured McCaw wasn’t a threat, or that there were 4 seconds on the shot clock, or if his coach on the bench (who claps twice and yells right before Anthony’s double team) ordered it. But this left McCaw completely uncovered. Folk Hero Ron Baker can’t rotate to stop McCaw because Curry would have an open 3. So... layup.

Q4.3:16. GS 104, NY 99.

The Warriors get a free turnover as Folk Hero Baker throws the ball right the Thompson. Nothing is there on the fast break, so they reset. It gets interesting at 3:05 when Curry passes it to Green.

This is another dive-pop. You see Curry and Thompson run towards each other. Look at how Thompson’s defender, Courtney Lee, watches Curry the whole time as Curry runs towards him and Thompson. This gives Thompson the half step and angle he needs to surprise Lee and cut hard to the basket. A good pass from Green, and excellent recovery defense from Lee. But Thompson hits the shot anyway.

Here are some different angles of the last two plays:

Q4.2:25. GS 106, NY 99.

We might as well look at the next play too.

This is a little twist on the dive-pop. Usually, whoever feeds the post goes to screen/dive/pop. In this case, Iguodala feeds the post, and Curry and Thompson do the dive/pop action on the weak side away from the ball.

It’s a good twist. Curry pops out and ends up getting a second screen from Iguodala. Anthony leaves Iguodala to jump out on Curry. Rose stays with Curry, leaving Iguodala open. I can’t say Rose’s defense was impressive tonight.

Curry hits the cutting Iguodala with the nice pass and he sucks in TWO defenders, Thompson’s and McCaw’s (what the heck is McCaw doing so far away from the basket? Get in to the 3-point line!). So when Iguodala bobbles the ball, he has time to save it to Thompson, who is STILL open. Bad pass, but Klay recovers it and throws in an awkward jump shot. Okay maybe there was a little bit of insane Splash Brothers shooting after all.

Final Thoughts

Curry’s obviously going through a bad patch of outside shooting, but he’s still a dominant player. He was +22 tonight and made some outstanding drives and finishes. He also collected 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He, and the whole team, looks tired, which is not a great sign as there’s still 4 games left on this death match of a road trip, culminating in a very probable beatdown in San Antonio on a back-to-back, and also game #5 of five games in five cities in seven days.

Porzingis had a nice game today, looking competent for the first time against Green. The Warriors ended up double-teaming him in the fourth, which he couldn’t quite handle.

McCaw also looked competent out there, +13 on the game. He looked a little overmatched on defense against Rose but when Rose is on as he occasionally is now, everyone looks a little overmatched.

The Knicks aren’t good, but their second unit looked good. Through all the mess, there is a core of hard working players that execute and play hard defense. Unfortunately, that core doesn’t include the highest paid players. Knicks President Phil Jackson has obviously had a rough ride, but he’s showed an eye for the small talent acquisitions. Unfortunately, he might have blown it early on when he gave Anthony the no-trade clause.

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