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Explain One Play: McCaw (finally) shoots three big 3s

The rookie Patrick McCaw shot the open 3s that fans have been begging him to shoot, to help the Warriors comeback against the Hawks on March 6th, 2017.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Atlanta Hawks
So... THIS is what the ball feels like
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The rookie Patrick McCaw shot the open 3s that fans have been begging him to shoot, to help the Warriors comeback against the Hawks on March 6th, 2017. Let’s have a look at all three.

Early in the game, McCaw had a painful possession where he was blocked on two layups, then had Dennis Schroder hit a three in his face. But the rookie soldiered on and had a few key three pointers.

McCaw Three #1

This play is like a condensed version of the new offense the W’s have put in this year. It starts with Draymond Green running a half-hearted pick and roll with Zaza Pachulia in the corner. He pulls out and feeds it to Pachulia in the post. (Advanced readers: identify the action that comes next.)

Yes, it’s the good new fashioned dive-pop which I discussed last time at Explain One Play: Dubs deal death by a thousand (back) cuts. This is the advanced version of the dive-pop. In the simple version, either Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry would have started the play by feeding a post passer, approaching each other and then having one pop out and one dive to the basket.

In the advanced version here, someone else like Green can start the play. Green feeds Pachulia, then he lets Curry and Thompson do the dive-pop. If you watch it slowly, you can see the Hawks look ready for the simple dive-pop: as Klay starts a cut to the basket, Dennis Schroder jumps out to anticipate a Curry pop out. Curry immediately burns Schroder with a back cut, but Paul Millsap jumps back off Green to stop the pass. That’s the best I’ve seen a team defend the dive-pop.

The Dubs now move to another option, the pop, with Thompson curling around a Green screen (that’s part of the advanced dive-pop). The Hawks defend this option well too, as they are completely willing to let Green have a semi-open three.

So now the Dubs reset into yet ANOTHER option (there have been three already: the Green pick and roll, the Curry cut, the Klay curl). Green probably means to handoff to Curry (option #4), but Schroder aggressively denies Curry. So of course, Curry cuts backdoor (#5). This forces Kent Bazemore (I still am fond of this guy) to leave McCaw alone in the corner, and Curry hits him with a precise pass. The clock is running down, so the rookie HAS to take the Harrison Barnes memorial corner three (#6), and he cans it.

McCaw Three #2

This starts with quite a defensive possession. Try to count how many switches the Warriors make on this possession.

Schroder makes an Iverson cut (run left to right across the foul circle), so Thompson hands him off to Green (switch #1). Millsap immediately Iverson cuts the other way, so Thompson hands him off to Pachulia (#2). Thompson leaves Dwight Howard to spring a double-team on Millsap (#3), which I assume was ordered from the bench. This means Green has to pick up Howard (#4). McCaw plays the back side of Howard (#5), possibly to discourage a lob entry or alley-oop. Millsap makes a nice skip pass to Schroder at the wing.

At this point, both Green and McCaw run to him (#6), which is a mistake. Better communication needed there. Green adjusts in mid-closeout, picking up the corner shooter (#7) and doing a fly-by contest. McCaw alertly switches over to cover (#8). Curry sees he has to cover Schroder, so he switches and contests (#9). Schroder misses the contested shot.

McCaw pushes the ball up in early offense. Curry has panicked the Hawks defense as three men argue and scramble to cover him. McCaw calmly hits the open three.

McCaw Three #3

It’s interesting to watch this play to see how McCaw got open. Here it is.

It’s pretty subtle. There’s messing around on the ball side with Thompson and David West eventually settling into a curling pick and roll. At this point Ersan Ilyasova makes the mistake of dropping down to help Howard on Thompson’s drive. Seemed unnecessary, and my guess is that he had orders to freely leave Iguodala to help on drives. At this point Tim Hardaway Jr (#10) is guarding both Iguodala and McCaw, and Livingston makes the quick simple pass.

Two subtle things I like. First, the rookie McCaw has his hands up early on, ready and willing to fire it up with no hesitation. Second, Andre Iguodala very early on sees the play unfolding. As Thompson makes the turn, he signals to McCaw thumbs-over-the-shoulder, the W’s sign for “use my screen” as he plans to screen McCaw’s defender for him to flare out for a three. But Hardaway ends up obliviously losing McCaw without a screen, so Iguodala instead doesn’t screen, almost afraid to alert Hardaway, and tiptoes out to the arc as a release for McCaw in case Hardaway closed out in time. Iguodala knows basketball.

Final thoughts

Very glad to see McCaw is getting the hang of pro basketball. He’s looked competent, sometimes overmatched, but pretty steady. And if he takes and makes those Harrison Barnes memorial threes, that will be a huge boost for the offense.

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.

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