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The Golden Breakdown: How the Warriors “SLOBed” their way to a victory

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The Warriors used several sideline-out-of-bounds plays to help them win against the Jazz, with the most prominent play being one that went in an unexpected direction.

Golden State Warriors v Utah Jazz Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

That was the Dubs’ first visit to Utah this regular season, and as always, they were made to work hard to gain a victory.

For certain, they are breathing a sigh of relief that they managed to come out with a victory against a Utah Jazz team that defeated them three times in the regular season last year, a feat no other team has achieved in the Steve Kerr era. A potential playoff series against this Jazz team is looking to be a bloodbath.

But it might as well have been a playoff game — the intensity, the drama, the excitement that the game delivered had all the makings of a Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. And yet, it was only the second game of the regular season.

During the game, the Dubs had several noteworthy sequences executed out of a dead-ball situation. These sideline-out-of-bounds plays, or SLOBs, ranged from the routine and simple actions, to the more complex and intricate.

How Curry and Durant benefit from SLOBs

Out of a dead-ball situation, the Warriors often employ Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant as the inbounder, which frees up the other to get open off of screens, or to get into an otherwise advantageous position, such as a favorable mismatch.

Immediate movement from the inbounder after the ball is put into play is also an important aspect, as it tests the defense’s ability to pay attention; one moment of ignorance is all it takes for the inbounder to zip toward the basket for a cut. In the sequence above, Durant immediately moves to the weak side to clear space for Curry, who gets a side screen from Damian Jones, enabling him to turn the corner and get up for an easy mid-range jumper.

During the times where Curry is the inbounder, it is often so that he can move off the ball to get into an open shot. He throws it to a big man on the elbow, who immediately hands it off to a moving Curry, reminiscent of and similar to the pinch post action in the Triangle Offense — the big man often serves as a screener, which enables Curry to get open for a shot or to turn the corner and take it to the basket.

With Curry being the inbounder in the sequence above, it allows him to quickly receive the ball back and turn the corner on his defender, with a little help from Kevon Looney’s role as the pivot man. This allows Curry to get to the paint, but he gets shut down by a questionable charge call from the referee.

Inbounding from dead-ball situations also allows for instances where a deadly scorer is allowed significant space and breathing room to survey the situation — he can decide to take his man one-on-one or choose to use his pull to pass to an open teammate. When Durant is the inbounder, he has the playmaking chops to pull off a feat such as this:

After Durant inbounds the ball, he immediately gets it back. With Curry and Klay Thompson on the bench, he is the only immediate scoring option on the floor. Seemingly going into an isolation post-up with the rest of the players spread out around the perimeter, the Jazz prepare to pack the paint in case Durant gets closer. Notice Jonas Jerebko relocating to the weak side corner. His defender, Jae Crowder, opts not to follow him closely — he prepares to double Durant — and he pays the price when Durant passes to an open Jerebko for the three.

Durant can also get a clear drive toward the basket off of an inbound, where several screening and curling actions often throw the defense in for a loop. With Durant’s long strides and guard-like mobility, defenses often cannot keep up and are forced to send him to the line, where he has often made a living.

A quick drive off of an inbounds also provides a lot of playmaking opportunities for Durant. In the following sequence, he gets the step on his defender, which draws several players onto him. This leaves Looney all alone under the basket:

These inbounding sequences may seem simple and routine, but they go a long way into getting the Warriors’ two best players into positions where they do what they do best: score or make plays for their teammates.

A familiar SLOB play makes its return

In certain situations, such as those out of a timeout, SLOBs often become more complex and multi-layered. The downtime that timeouts produce offer a lot more brainpower for the production of intricate play designs. The Warriors have been known to employ a few of these designs, one of which is a classic Warriors after-timeout (ATO) play — the “Cyclone”:

It is a common practice for teams to copycat each other’s plays and schemes. For instance, several teams started to employ split action sets after seeing the success the Warriors had when they run it for Curry and Thompson. In fact, the split action sets that the Warriors run are themselves an offshoot of Triangle Offense concepts. It is no different with ATO plays.

With the Cyclone, the Warriors took current Chicago Bulls’ head coach Fred Hoiberg’s staple and made it into a deadly weapon:

What makes this play extra deadly for the Warriors is the gravity of Curry and how he uses that gravity to punish defenders who do not communicate and fail to switch. After Curry and Thompson cross screen under the basket, Curry immediately sets a backscreen for the cutting Draymond Green. Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert have no communication whatsoever, and they fail to recognize Curry’s sneaky pick. As a result, no one switches onto Green, and he gets the ball for the easy layup.

Two identical plays, two different players, same result

The Warriors call timeout after a Joe Ingles three pushes the Jazz lead to five. With about 3 minutes left, the Warriors draw up a play that places Durant on the post, while Damian Jones screens for Curry to get open for a three or a backdoor cut. Jones fails to screen Curry, yet Durant has a mismatch down low against Rubio.

Jae Crowder leaves his man, Draymond Green, to help Rubio. At the time, it seemed like the right idea — Green has been abysmal from three-point range the past two seasons, with a 30.8% clip in 2016-17 and a 30.1% clip in 2017-18.

Despite that, Durant passes to a wide open Green:

Like Green has done so many times, he hits a three in moments where it matters the most.

After a huge defensive stop against the Jazz — courtesy of a 24-second violation — the Warriors take the ball out of bounds and run this play:

Does it look familiar? It’s the exact same play they tried to run in the previous possession — a double high screen for Curry gets Durant switched onto the smaller Rubio for the mismatch. Durant gets the ball, seemingly getting ready to take Rubio down low. Meanwhile, Curry manages to shake his defender free courtesy of a Jones screen. Gobert cannot switch to Curry, since he has dropped low to help Rubio. Curry gets the ball and snipes the Jazz for the one point lead.

An ATO play that almost works

On the other end, the Jazz re-take the lead through a Crowder putback. A fortunate Green offensive rebound after a mess of a possession allows Kerr to call timeout to draw a play. He pulls off a play that almost works:

Following the theme of “stealing” plays from other teams, the SLOB play from above is something the Warriors picked up from a Spurs SLOB play:

Curry manages to shake his man for the backdoor cut, but does not get the layup in, despite being arguably fouled by Gobert on the attempt. It would’ve also helped if Curry was a lefty — the play was often ran for Manu Ginobili, one of the more prominent left-handed players in the history of the NBA.

With Donovan Mitchell missing a long three-pointer, the Warriors call a timeout with 6.1 seconds left on the clock — plenty of time for Kerr to work his ATO magic.

An expected ATO play with an unexpected dagger

Before we go to the final sequence, let us first refresh our memories of the results of the recent NBA GM survey, where one of the questions asked was this:

2018 NBA GM survey

Durant and Curry topped the list as the two players who NBA GMs would trust to have the ball in their hands in clutch situations. Knowing this, it would be prudent to draw up a play that will get either Durant or Curry to have the final shot.

Kerr did just that, and drew up a play for Durant to get a jumper — with Jerebko being the inbounder:

The most dangerous guy on this play wasn’t Curry or Durant — it was Jerebko. Upon inbounding the ball, Jerebko races toward the basket like a madman, and boxes out Gobert — whose little push-off manages to direct Jerebko towards the ball.

And the rest is history.

Two down, 80 more to go.

Stay Golden, Dub Nation.