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
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.
I know Kyrie is the premiere tough layup maker, but if he had made this one... it shoulda counted 4 points. https://t.co/pdbmxl8NY3— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) January 28, 2018
GSW-BOS was a blast. Kyrie won't always be perfect shooting, but BOS is legit. Amazing they're doing this without Hayward. I still don't get lack of BOS solution to trapping Kyrie. Some replied that Kyrie has limited vision, but... really?— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) January 28, 2018
Also, that was a throwback to MVP 2.0 Curry game. Not just the shot making and floor command, but he bailed out the team in a way that he hasn't had to since KD arrived. Thought his D was focused and energetic too.— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) January 28, 2018