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

wdbsyndpuwmeu

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?

khzpvccsiccuq

#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

***

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

***

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

***

Curry so dangerous on the screen and roll

but your big mitt got a piece

f5ioraycqxebu

Deflection by Adams

***

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.

6olq0mjilphck

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.

mkicqtu0jn4dy

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.

fchtq7ayyyqws

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.

aevhyqlmmehds

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!

 

The Curry Brief

Thoughts on the NBA’s Western Conference Finals

Back on February 27th, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors played in what was probably the best game of this year’s NBA season. Five Western Conference All Stars competed. OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 37 and 26 while Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went for 46 and 32. The fifth all star, the Warriors’ Draymond Green, had fourteen rebounds, fourteen assists, six steals, and four blocked shots. Although the Warriors trailed by seven points with less than five minutes to go and by four with fourteen seconds left in regulation, they still managed to win in overtime on a long Curry three-point shot he stroked from beyond thirty feet with less than a second remaining.

I recently took a look back at the game and came up with a few ideas for slowing down the two-time reigning MVP.

1.  Crowd Curry When He Has The Ball

giphy

Just about everyone gives Curry space believing that this will help contain his drive. If Curry has any room at all, he will unleash his pregame warm up on the defender in varying combinations. Against Singler, Curry goes between his legs into a crossover dribble, between the legs again, crosses over, and then crosses over one last time before stepping back for what seems like an impossible shot. While Curry will hurt teams with his drives, at least he won’t make twelve threes. 

2. Make Curry Pick Up The Dag Gum Ball

Every chance Curry gets, he’ll let the ball roll up the court without touching it. This allows for the Warriors to maximize all of the time on the shot clock. During the OKC / Warriors game back in February, there were several times Curry didn’t pick up the ball until it was near mid court.

3. Attack Curry on Defense Whenever You Can

i4j4ypszgw0es

Sure, it’s old news to make the star offensive player work on defense, but OKC needs to do this even more. It’s not just attacking him 1 on 1 as Westbrook does above, but I’d try and put him in as many screen situations as possible. Who Curry guards should be screening for the ball or a shooter on a downscreen. During the regular season match up, Curry spent too many defensive possessions standing in the corner doing nothing.

4. When You Attack Curry, Be Prepared for Lots of Help

You’ve got to do more than isolate Curry; you have to plan for where the help is going to come from. The Warriors usually defend isolation plays by putting every single player in the lane and this often causes Westbrook or Durant to call off the attack, kick the ball to a low percentage shooter, or attack too deeply into a double team that often brings Warriors center Andrew Bogut, once an all NBA defensive team selection. Recently, instead of putting their big men in the corner, OKC has been filling both blocks for offensive rebounds and lob dunks.

5. Don’t Switch

suwvaormkplo

Double team Curry on high ball screens if you have to, otherwise you’re going to see a lot of what is pictured above.

Of late, OKC has had a lot more ball movement on offense and made use of their players NOT Durant and Westbrook. I’m looking forward to seeing how OKC tries to defend Curry when he has the ball and the ways they try to make him work on defense. It should be a great series!