On this particular night against the Chicago Bulls, offense wasn’t a problem — in fact, it hasn’t been the problem, despite Steph Curry not having the best stretch of his career.
Over the last ten games prior to tonight’s game, the Golden State Warriors’ offense (121.1 offensive rating) ranked 11th with garbage time eliminated, per Cleaning The Glass. It was 3.3 points above league-average offensive rating over that same period. They hung 62 points at the half against the Bulls, to the tune of a 131.9 offensive rating.
The problem — as it has been as of late — was on the other end of the floor. The Bulls scored 75 points in the first half, to the tune of a 159.6 offensive rating. Which speaks to how defensively compromised the Warriors have been, especially over the last 10 games: a 123.3 defensive rating in non-garbage time, ranked 27th over that period and 5.6 points worse than league average.
It was clear that changes needed to be made defensively coming out of the half. While the Warriors did defend the Bulls better after halftime — limiting them to 56 points, putting up a defensive rating of 114.3, and shaving that ghastly points-per-100-possessions figure in the first half to 136.5 by the end of the game — the main spark out of the half came on an offensive possession that got Klay Thompson going.
Let’s rewind two seasons prior to set this up. Otto Porter Jr. — a key role player during the Warriors’ 2022 championship run — was a perfect all-around fit. He could shoot the ball; at 6-foot-9, he was a capable rebounder at the four position; he was a smart team defender who could mesh well with others in terms of schemes; and perhaps the biggest contribution he made: he was relatively healthy.
You didn’t need to run plays for Porter — he was mostly auxiliary beneficiary of the main offensive guys’ pull and gravity. He could also do the blue-collar work and take advantage of the defense not really paying attention to him. He was fine with that role, and he was rewarded with a championship ring.
But there was one particular play that Steve Kerr liked drawing up for Porter. It ended up being a play that contributed to his huge night against the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day 2021:
Gibson Pyper, a coach and notable NBA Twitter presence who analyzes game film, has termed this set “Indiana.” For the purposes of this article, I’m going to term it as “Indiana.” The set involves “screen-the-screener” action preceded by a ballscreen. Porter sets the backscreen for Curry above, then runs off the “veer” screen (a pindown screen set by someone who set a ballscreen) by Kevon Looney.
More important than the terminology is the *why* of the set. As usual, Curry’s gravity creates the opportunity for Porter. Mikal Bridges is slow to switch onto Porter, who has a head start on his sprint around Looney’s screen. Coupled with drop coverage by Deandre Ayton and late help coming from Jae Crowder, Porter pulls up for an open three-point look.
Fast forward two years later: With the Warriors down 13 and needing a spark from one of their scorers, Kerr dusted off “Indiana” — and had Klay Thompson play the Porter role:
Again, the kicker here is Curry forcing that moment of indecision and hesitation around the backscreen being set for him. Alex Caruso realizes that the right move would be to switch onto Thompson — but that small window of hesitation causes him to be behind and having to chase Thompson. All things considered, Caruso did a good job recovering and making a decent contest. But all Thompson needs is a sliver of space to knock the shot down.
Thompson had himself a game: 30 points on 9-of-19 shooting (2-of-4 on twos, 7-of-15 on threes), 69.3% True Shooting, six assists, and only one turnover. More than just the shot making and general scoring, what stood out about Thompson’s game against the Bulls were the playmaking chops, especially when drawing two to the ball around screens.
It was a measured display of playmaking and decision making from Thompson — fueled by the fear of his shooting around a screen and made possible by the coverages sent against him as a response:
It should also be noted that it wasn’t only Thompson who contributed to the win against the Bulls. The entirety of the Warriors’ three-man wing room — which includes Andrew Wiggins (17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, eight assists against zero turnovers) and Jonathan Kuminga (24 points on 9-of-12 shooting) — made a huge noise amid whispers of an upcoming consolidation of assets.
Wiggins, in particular, wowed with some of the reads he made:
While Kuminga — while drilling some of the open three-point looks he was given — continued with the emphasis on rim pressure, aggressive attacks, and mercilessly hunting post-ups against favorable matchups:
But ultimately, what served as the grand opening to the half — as well as the grand closing to the game — was Thompson hitting the big shot.
And once again, it was off of “Indiana” action: