Back in the Zone / Back to OKC

Was that a zone defense Golden State played?

zone defense, Golden State, Warriors, Steph Curry, Steve Kerr, OKC, Thunder, Westbrook, Durant

not a zone

Watch along the baseline in the clip above. #40 Harrison Barnes chases Durant to the corner. If defenders chase the man they are guarding to a different part of the court, you’re looking at a man-to-man defense. If defenders point to each other and pass off offensive players to each other to guard, then you’re probably looking at a zone. At the end of this play, it sure looks like Golden State is in a match up or 2-3 zone, but they aren’t.

Extra note: In Golden State’s man-to-man defense, usually everyone not guarding the ball has a foot in the lane. They are really packed in, and when you combine that with the fact that sometimes the Thunder players don’t move (happening less in the playoffs) it’s easy to think that Golden State is playing zone.

zone defense

match up zone defense 

In the clip above, watch ponytailed #12 Steven Adams in the blue for the Thunder. When he runs away from Golden State’s Bogut in the paint, Bogut just lets him go. He points to Curry to pick up Adams. Switching every screen has a lot in common with playing a zone defense.

In a zone, you match up with the person in your area. Theoretically, this means Golden State could have someone like their center Bogut match up with Durant when he tries to post up in the lane but have someone faster and more mobile like Draymond Green defend Durant when he is on the perimeter.

I remember Coach Bob Knight saying that the offense’s advantage versus a zone is that they get to pick who they want to attack. Want to play your little point guard on top of the zone? How about we put Dirk Nowitzki up there to shoot threes over your little guy? The defense’s advantage is that they get to pick where their players play.

zone defense, Golden State, Warriors, Stephen Curry, OKC, Thunder, Durant, Westbrook, NBA, Western Conference Finals

looks like a zone

On TNT, Chris Webber sounded like he was in disbelief that Golden State went to a zone. I tend to agree with CW’s assessment that this is indeed a zone. The aspect of this play that gives me pause is when Golden State’s Andre Iguodala seems to beat a screen and chase Durant to the top of the key. I think A.I. probably abandoned his post for a second so that Durant wasn’t left running free or else Kanter came down and tried to pin him inside so Durant could get free for a shot.

It might be interesting to see if Golden State tries to play more zone in Game six.

Yeah, Golden State played some zone, but Curry was back in the zone as a shooter

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Curry back to his old MVP self

In the upper right hand corner, first Curry goes back door off a down screen. Then he runs off a down screen on the other side of the court to the perimeter. Adams can’t decide if he should chase him or not. This is the kind of play where the defense pays so much attention to Curry that the screeners are left open.

Although Curry’s percentage was below average, he was 10-10 from the line, making circus moves around the hoop we are used to, and scored 31 points.

What do I mean the screeners get open?

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#12 Bogut screens for Thompson

 

It’s most impressive when the player with the ball realizes the screener is open and find him. In this case, this is most likely a set play out of a timeout. Pay attention to #12 Bogut. He is heading to screen for Thompson, a fantastic three point shooter. When everyone runs out to the shooter, Bogut gets free for the dunk.

When Ezeli hits two, you know it was Golden State’s night

Festus Ezeli, Golden State, Warriors, Curry, Steve Kerr, OKC, Durant, Westbrook

Swish, swish!

Festus Ezeli shot 53% from the line during the season and 42% in the playoffs. Here, near the end of the third quarter, he makes the both. Game six coming right up on Saturday night in Oklahoma City!

Ode to Steven Adams

With the biggest props from game 4 of the Western Conference Finals going to Russell Westbrook and his triple double, I wanted to write about the play of Steve Adams, some of the stuff that doesn’t make the postgame barrage of highlights. However, I ran into problems coming up with a title that would set up the list of of Adams clips I wanted to share with you. Thus–with props to John Keats for providing a model I could follow–this “Ode to Steven Adams’ Game Four” was born:

Thou ponytailed big man,

practitioner of the baby hook

Steven Adams, Thunder, OKC, Durant, Westbrook

nice little flip shot from Adams

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Long jump shots are sweet,

but long jump shots blocked are sweeter

Steven Adams, OKC, Thunder, Golden State, Warriors, basketball, NBA, defense, switch screen

Adams blocks Curry’s shot

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Let them grab your jersey,

Nothing will deny you from at least a tip

Steven Adams, Thunder, OKC, Westbrook, Durant

Adams keeps possession alive for Thunder

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Curry so dangerous on the screen and roll

but your big mitt got a piece

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Deflection by Adams

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Reggie Miller, voice of TNT, say’st,

You look like Arvydas Sabonis with the long pass.

I think you must have played dodge ball.

Steven Adams, Reggie Miller, TNT, Thunder, OKC, Durant, Wesbrook

Adams throws a strike

 

OKC Can Play Better versus Warriors

All of the sudden, it’s hard to imagine how Golden State can stop Russell Westbrook or keep the Thunder off the boards. I think they can play even better tonight…

1. Westbrook could be more focused on keeping track of where Curry is on the floor.

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With his frenetic energy and all-over-the-court presence, sometimes Westbrook can lose track of Curry. Here he lunges and gives Curry an easy one.

2. Don’t give away the switch so easily.

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In a lot of the games I watch, it’s as if there is a rule in the NBA that teams have to switch ball screens. Many times, going under the screen is an option. With Curry and Thompson, a strong hedge or double team would be the best strategy.

3. When the double team comes, have a plan for where the ball will go.

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I see Durant and Westbrook get in a hurry attacking an advantageous match up. Sometimes they back out when a double team comes or they kick out to a shooter for a corner three. I like Adams on the block as a place to go when the double team comes. Rather than trying to go fast, I like Durant using his height and Westbrook using his power.

4. You have sets OKC. Run them.

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OKC can get in a rut spreading out and working isolation plays. It’s not so much to ask to get into one of their simple sets. This is one of OKC’s worst plays of the game. Of course, I make this pass plenty when I play. How can Kevin Durant?

This post doesn’t mean I think the Thunder are the favorites. Golden State can be much, much better if they get their shots out of their motion offense. When Curry and Thompson are coming off down screens, the screeners tend to get open a lot.

I’m writing for conversation. Love to hear what you think in the comments section!