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Explain One Play: Steph and Kyrie get blitzed

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Watch the thrilling end of the 1/27 Warriors win over the Celtics, where Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving deal differently with crunch-time blitzes. Co-starring great defense from Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Let’s look at the thrilling end of the 1/27 Warriors win over the Celtics, and how Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving deal differently with crunch-time blitzes.

Both guards had excellent games and both defenses ended up often sending double-team blitzes at them. The Warriors have had many years to game plan for Irving, but without the other threat of LeBron James (or Gordon Hayward for that matter), the Warriors could tune the defense somewhat differently.

In reality, the Warriors defense wasn’t that different from the past. Irving is clearly most comfortable attacking in isolation, and he’s one of the absolute top such scorers. Even when he uses pick and rolls, he tends to get a switch and then reset into an isolation. The Warriors have a scheme for outstanding isolation scorers: put one defender on the ball (preferably Klay Thompson), force the attacker to drive to the basket towards help waiting at the low post, and prepare to help the helper. Sometimes Draymond Green went all in double-teaming Irving, trusting that Irving wouldn’t burn him with a pass. Kyrie has become a willing passer, but the Celtics offensive scheme doesn’t (yet) allow Kyrie’s outlet to attack quickly into space.

In contrast, the Warriors have been scheming against aggressive blitzes since the 2014 Clippers playoffs series, and Curry has become deft at drawing the double team away to create space and deform the defense.

Here are some video highlights, co-starring great defense from Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.

Steph and Kyrie Get Blitzed

Watch the thrilling end of the 1/27 Warriors win over the Celtics, where Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving deal differently with crunch-time blitzes. Co-starring great defense from Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. By @EricApricot. (See other play breakdowns at http://tinyurl.com/ericapricot)

Posted by Golden State of Mind on Sunday, January 28, 2018

(alternate YouTube link)

Final Thoughts

Some people think that Kyrie Irving gets tunnel vision and can’t effectively counter the double team. I think that’s an exaggeration, otherwise he would be double teamed every play. However, there is clearly another level he can reach of decision making in the blitz, and another level reachable by the Celtics offensive scheme to get faster counter-attacks when blitzed.