Note: I’ve decided to rename this series The Golden Breakdown, so as to avoid any confusion with Apricot’s Explain One Play series.
Welcome to the second edition of The Golden Breakdown, where we focus on a play or series of plays that stood out during a particular game.
The Warriors had plenty of highlight plays during their 122-94 preseason demolition of the Sacramento Kings. As was the case during their first preseason game, the Warriors continued their propensity for moving around and sharing the ball, recording 21 assists in the first half and finishing the game with a grand total of 29 assists on 47 made field goals.
Strength in ball (and player) movement
It can be a tempting proposition for a coach to heavily rely on their all-stars for point production. Most teams fall victim to solely feeding their main guys the ball and getting out of the way. But with the way that offenses — and defenses, for that matter — are evolving in the modern NBA game, there is a greater need for the supporting cast to contribute; putting the scoring load on only one or two players isn’t as sustainable as it was in the old days.
But when you have multiple guys capable of elite point production — combining it with a system that gives everybody equal opportunities to score — you get gems like this one from two seasons ago:
Keeping that in mind, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the designated offensive go-to-guys for the game against the Kings, took advantage of their playmaking and gravity to get Damian Jones some easy points:
Thompson’s gravity allows him to draw both his defender and Jones’ defender to him. Left all alone, Jones receives the bullet pass from Durant for the wide-open dunk.
The next sequence is a testament to the Warriors’ philosophy of moving the ball around and looking for openings in the opposing defense through constant movement:
The Warriors move the ball around until it makes its way to Jordan Bell on the post. Kevon Looney screens for Quinn Cook, and finds himself unmarked and left alone. He goes for a straight cut towards the basket, getting the pass from Bell for an easy bucket.
Even if none of their all-stars are on the floor, the Warriors stay true to their principle of constant player movement. Here they run one of their motion sets, which eventually gets them a bucket off of the set’s natural flow:
An initial dribble hand-off between Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala flows into a pass to Looney on the left elbow, which in turn flows into cross-screening between Iguodala and Cook. A hand-off to Cook seamlessly flows into a pick. Eventually, another cross-screen for Cook leads him to get penetration, which allows Livingston to get open under the basket and score. This is a classic staple of the flow offense that the Warriors employ — multiple options and reads depending on what the defense gives them.
In this sequence, there are once again several hand-offs and screens, but the one crucial part of this possession to look out for is when Thompson slips the screen for Durant:
The decision of Thompson’s man to hedge the screen leaves Thompson open on the wing. This is what breaks the defense’s back — Iguodala’s defender scrambles towards Thompson, and the now-open Iguodala receives the pass for a 2-on-1 with Livingston under the basket. Easy bucket.
Deadly in the fastbreak
The Warriors are also a deadly fastbreak team — perhaps the worst thing a team can do against the Warriors is turning the ball over or failing to score, which can lead to a blitzkrieg-esque counterattack:
The advantage of having multiple veteran playmakers is that you can trust them to make the correct split-second decisions. Livingston’s exquisite no-look touch pass in this sequence is a golden example of good decision-making:
Durant himself makes several noteworthy passes on the fastbreak, like this gem of a bounce pass to Thompson that he does with his left hand:
And another pinpoint bounce pass by Durant on the fastbreak to Marcus Derrickson:
In their first two preseason games, the Warriors have been running on all cylinders. Running sets to almost flawless perfection, all indications point to an even more dominating run in the regular season, as opposed to last season where they seemed off and unmotivated at certain points.
There are certain caveats to this though — they were playing a Kings team full of youth and inexperience. But if they can manage this against the top teams during the regular season and playoffs, the other 29 teams can kiss goodbye to their chances of landing a date with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
On a night where Durant — Seattle’s prodigal son — returned to the place where it all began, it wouldn’t be complete without a highlight poster dunk:
Poor Willie Cauley-Stein.