With less than 30 seconds to go in the fourth quarter of an important regular-season game, the Golden State Warriors — up by only a single point against the Dallas Mavericks — went to good ol’ Steph Curry ball-screen action to hopefully get him an efficient look.
But before we get to that, let’s rewind a bit to see how the play above was a culmination of how the Mavericks were burned by Curry in ball-screen action — particularly with Jonathan Kuminga as Curry’s screening partner.
Kuminga had himself another brilliant performance. He scored 22 points on 11 shots (7-of-8 on twos, 2-of-3 on threes) and a 92.6 TS%, all while acting as Luka Dončić’s primary defender. The Warriors outscored the Mavericks by two points during Kuminga’s 30 minutes on the floor.
Six of those points from Kuminga were as a result of his partnership with Curry on a couple of on-ball and off-ball screening actions that took advantage of Curry’s gravity to set Kuminga loose toward the rim.
Whether it was on a typical low-post split action for Curry — with two defenders jumping out on the threat of a pull-up by the greatest shooter of all time:
Or on a typical ball-screen action with an empty corner:
With Kuminga setting the screen above, the Mavericks jump out toward Curry to force the ball out of his hands. Kuminga rolls middle — typically not the direction you’d want him to roll with an empty corner — and challenges Christian Wood’s help rotation with a nifty left-hand finish.
Kuminga’s development as a wing defender and cutter has taken most of the spotlight this season, but he’s turned into a sneaky-good screener and roll man, while also showing flashes of competency as a decision maker on the short roll. The Warriors score a decent 1.14 points per possession with Kuminga as the screener and diver in pick-and-roll possessions, per Synergy.
But it’s not just his ability to be a decision maker as a roll man that he has flashed — he’s also making the reads while moonlighting for Draymond Green as a passer in the low post, particularly during split action.
Take this possession, for instance:
With Maxi Kleber picking up Jordan Poole on the switch after the split screen, Kuminga opts to take Jaden Hardy down low in the post. Christian Wood sees this and shows early help from the weak side — which leaves Anthony Lamb wide open in the corner.
Kuminga makes sure that Wood is committed to his help before rifling a pass to the corner, which Lamb promptly finishes.
Making quick and calculated decisions like this goes a long way toward becoming a key cog within this complicated and often-chaotic offense — which is why Kuminga is quickly becoming a key rotation piece for Steve Kerr, who is known for loving these kinds of plays and rewards players who have shown him that they can be counted on to execute.
Kuminga’s certainly currying favor with Kerr — he played 30 minutes and closed the game against the Mavericks, a sign of trust from a head coach who typically favors veteran experience over youth.
But to return to the lede, the play that sealed the deal for the Warriors involved ball-screen action for Curry. Remember: The Mavericks were jumpy whenever the Warriors had someone come over to set a screen for Curry. They were burned by a Kuminga layup after an empty-corner pick-and-roll, as shown above.
Knowing this, the Warriors turned to one of their staple ball-screen sets for Curry. The set is called “Dive Roll.”
Peep at Green telling Kuminga the play by calling out the hand signal:
“Dive Roll” involves a succession of ball screens set for the ball handler, each coming from opposite directions. After the first screen is set, the screener dives toward the rim and parks himself at the dunker spot. The second screener then comes over to set the pick.
When Green comes over to set the first screen, the Mavericks opt to switch Kleber onto Curry:
Kuminga setting the screen allows the Warriors to involve Dončić in ball-screen action — something the Mavericks don’t want to happen, given what Poole was able to do to Dončić on a switch during an earlier possession (which also happened to be “Dive Roll”):
(Also take note of Green making himself available at the dunker spot after setting the first screen.)
With Kuminga trying to involve Dončić in the action, the Mavericks attempt to prevent that outcome by having Kleber force Curry away from the screen and toward the sideline — called “ICE” coverage:
Curry preempts the coverage by making a quick move. He drives toward the rim, with Reggie Bullock ready to help on the drive. However, Green — located at the dunker spot after setting the first screen — makes sure Curry has an open lane to the rim:
Green makes sure to seal Bullock — called a “Gortat” screen — in order for Curry to have an open layup, which turned out to be the game winning bucket.
Here’s the possession in its entirety:
Even while Kuminga wasn’t directly involved in the finish, the threat of him bringing Dončić over into the action — and potentially making the Mavericks have to pick their poison between a Curry isolation against Dončić or a double that sets Kuminga free on the roll — gave Curry enough time to pick apart the Mavericks’ choice of coverage.
It also wasn’t the first time Kuminga was involved in a successful “Dive Roll” possession against the Mavericks this season:
These two possessions of the Warriors running their staple "HORNS Twist" set (their playcall for it is "Dive Roll") perfectly captures Jonathan Kuminga's live-ball processing and adjustment on a per-possession basis.— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) December 1, 2022
One thing to admire about Kuminga is that he's a fast learner. pic.twitter.com/ieyo6iurii
Kuminga’s development has been a joy to watch. With Andrew Wiggins’ absence and Gary Payton II still not cleared for play, Kuminga’s increasing reputation as a two-way wing has gone a long way toward replenishing a wing room that is in dire need of reinforcements.