The Golden State Warriors’ defense is doing amazingly in the Western Conference Finals.
In Games 1, 3, and 4, they’ve employed the same switch-heavy defensive scheme to great success. As long as they cover the Rockets well in transition, Houston cannot get much more than a Paul or Harden isolation, which the Warriors can live with. It will take major defensive miscommunications or outlier games from two of Paul, Harden, or Gordon for the Rockets to score a lot of points on the Warriors from here.
But offensively, the Warriors have had two off games out of four. The Rockets also switch everything, and that leads to a lot of Warriors isolation possessions. The off-ball movements and cutting often lead to open baskets, but the Rockets have taken that away at times with tough, physical defense.
This means the Warriors aren’t going to get much unless their stars take over. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have to figure this out, and it’s going to need some isolation. But the wrong types of isolation plays will slow the offense to a halt. Here’s what they need to do:
- The Warriors have to push in transition. They were tired by the end of Game 4, but they can find a lot of open threes and layups if they push the pace. It’s their best chance at easy buckets.
- In related news, the Warriors should not start the isolations as late in the shot clock. It’s usually a last resort when the off-ball movement doesn’t lead to anything. In crunch time, scrap the off-ball stuff, and start the offense early so you don’t have to settle for a bad shot as the shot clock winds down.
- Second, Kevin Durant isolations at the top of the key are not his best space, with the sole exception of when Clint Capela is defending him. When you need him to get you a quick bucket, have him switch onto a smaller defender and enter the ball cleanly into the post. From there, he only needs a few dribbles to get to the rim or shoot straight up. The Rockets tried to double-team in Game 4 to mixed results. It should keep working, and is especially useful when the Warriors have a lead.
- Stephen Curry needs to get to the bucket more, preferably against James Harden. That’s a matchup he can dominate in isolation. If help comes, the Warriors should be able to pass well enough to find an open layup or three.
- The Warriors should try pick and rolls in the beginning of the shot clock, and add some off-ball movement simultaneously. Steph-KD and Steph-Draymond are likely the best options for this. The Rockets will try to switch, but if it’s done quickly enough, the Warriors will have some opportunities to cause confusion. It’ll work better long term than the ballhandler holding the ball and waiting for a cutter to spring free.
- Beat the physical defense by driving into the lane. The Rockets often defend far beyond the three point line, so the Warriors have to put the ball on the floor and take it into the lane. The defense will collapse, and the Warriors simply have to make the right passes. Somebody will be open, and they’ll have to hit their shots.
- The Warriors need to clean up the turnovers. Obviously, some of their risky passes might fail, and that’s okay, but too many turnovers happened before the offense even began. That’s inexcusable.
Please get healthy, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors need you guys offensively.