What is that sweet fresh smell in the air? It smells like... closure. So Kevin Durant got the Loser monkey off his back. And Stephen Curry dazzled and made fools of everyone who said he wasn’t injured last Finals and that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson could cover him. And the Curry - Durant pick-and-roll and the Hamptons 5 lineup got used liberally in Game 5, almost like Kerr was trying everything to actually win. I’ll write a separate piece later about the Curry - Durant pick and roll.
For today, let’s just appreciate Old Man Iguodala. Andre Iguodala’s competent three-point shooting, steady playmaking and defense, and thrilling dunks nicely offset J.R. Smith’s absurd shotmaking.
Here Kevin Durant slyly anticipates Kyrie Irving’s spin move. He helps off Kevin Love because he does not believe Irving will punish him by passing. (This kind of playmaking is the next step for Irving’s evolution. He gets tunnel vision when he triggers his isolation special attack.) That gets a 3 on 2, and LeBron James tries to guard both Klay Thompson and Iguodala. Iguodala wins.
This is the classic Curry - Draymond Green pick and roll (as last discussed in Explain One Play: Curry & Green two-for-one closes out the series from Jazz Game 4). Two Cavs double team Curry, Iguodala cuts to the basket (instead of spotting up for three in the corner, good choice), J.R. Smith now covers Green and Iguodala, and they get the alley-oop.
This would be the pattern all game. The Cavs game plan was to double team Curry on every pick and roll, and he made them pay repeatedly.
This is the exact same play as before, except Iguodala sets the screen. But since he knows the Cavs will be blitzing Curry, he just slips the screen immediately, and Curry pass to him on the short roll. Now it's 4 on 3, and none of the other Cavs give help, a bad defensive mistake, so Iguodala gets the open dunk.
Here the Cavs combine double teaming Curry on the pick and roll with nobody picking up Iguodala as he runs by on the right side. This leaves Curry QUADRUPLE-teamed. That's gravity for you. Pretty pass, open dunk.
And now for something completely the same.
The mirror image of Dunk #2. Curry gets double teamed, hits Green on the short roll, Love rotates to cut off the layup, simple pretty alley-oop.
The Warriors are good at team basketball. Iguodala can still jump and dunk. The Cavaliers were committed to blitzing Curry and his gravity opened up the floor for not just these four dunks, but also numerous advantages for Kevin Durant and even Patrick McCaw. Notice on these four plays, Curry only gets credit for 2 assists. Traditional stats don’t tell the whole story.
Bonus Request Play
From David Dolgonosov:
Sorry I'm having extended cardiac arrest.— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) June 13, 2017
This is a simple little play which leads to a clutch standstill 3 from Durant, but is based on this play which I call Motion Zipper. Here’s a previous version:
The W’s pass the ball across, then Kevin Durant cuts straight up the lane, getting a down screen. This allows him the option of shooting the 3 or curling to drive. This play is discussed in gory detail at Explain One Play: Durant and Thompson (finally) execute to close out Blazers.
Here’s Game 5’s version:
Richard Jefferson did a good job dodging the down screen, and contesting the shot, but he lands carelessly and stops contesting. Durant happily takes the open 3.
This is the last Explain One Play of the season! And we finally got 16 of them! (Actually I didn’t do Spurs Game 4, so we still only got 15.)
It’s been a pleasure and privilege to write for you all and to read and chat in the comments.
I’m still planning to write a bigger appreciation piece looking back at the last three years and key E1P articles.
But as I said at the start, it smells like closure. We couldn’t enjoy 14-15 for long because of all the talk that it was luck and Curry wasn’t a real MVP. Then when 15-16 refuted these bad takes, Curry got injured, and we had to endure MORE bad, ignorant, willfully offensive takes, along with a trans-sport mob mockery with the 3-1 jokes.
But I was really struck by this quote from Shaun Livingston right after Game 7:
Shaun Livingston, always classy & mature... said to me in lockerroom- "you have to lose with character, too". #perspective— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) June 20, 2016
And so the Warriors grew up. No complaints that the Cavs were lucky. No talk of Curry’s obvious injury, and Curry deflected when directly asked about the knee (but his skipping the Olympics spoke volumes to anyone caring to pay attention). They carried themselves with an icy professionalism. Then the shock consolation prize of a Durant came, in the middle of the worst blizzard of 3-1 jokes.
There was nothing to do but win it all and win convincingly, and so it happened. Every whine that the year was boring was satisfying: these were exactly the people who crapped on a great two-year run. Their mockery of the ringless directly fed Durant’s interest in joining the Dubs.
What a strange, amazing, efficient playoff run this has been. The run neatly finished off practically every ignorant or wicked bad take along the way. I’ll describe this in more detail in a separate piece, but for now I’ll say I feel closure. I feel like for the first time I can really enjoy all three years of this amazing run with a peaceful heart.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I doubt it will be boring. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so I’m glad I got to share the last three years with you. Closure.