Zach Lowe in Stephen Curry and Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets



One thing I'm looking for at each end is for the most anticipated playoff series to resume:

Stephen Curry's defense

We know the Rockets are hunting Stephen Curry. That's not new, and it's not something to do just because Curry is recovering from another untimely knee injury. The Cavaliers dominated this. It's a way to exhaust Curry, and the Rockets want to hit and crush both Curry and Klay Thompson, and attack the only player on the Death Line who is not at least in the Defense level limit when he's compromised.

(By the way: I'll go down with the ship in Death Lineup, despite the uncomfortable and strictly metaphoric images.) I can not go behind the Hamptons 5)

When James Harden calls the Curry man for a screen, he imposes an unsustainable choice for the Warriors: Switch to Curry for Harden, or make them fall over Harden, temporarily placing two defenders in Harden and leaving the line of defense vulnerable.

Curry has no chance to defend Harden. in one. Harden dominates it and bolts to the edge:

Something very bright there (and in many similar moves): Clint Capela, the lone shooter who is not 3 points who saw minutes for Houston in Game 2, stands on the right side of the ring. Harden slices on the left side, facing Capela. That configuration creates more space between the two, which makes it harder for Draymond Green to protect both of them at once. It also opens a cleaner angle for a lob pbad.

It's easy to say that the Warriors should try harder to avoid the change, but the Rockets are not pbadive receivers of the Golden State elections. They are forcing the Warriors to that change. Trevor Ariza, a type of glue always less appreciated and the most frequent hiding of Curry, will look for Harden two or even three times, as often as necessary until it is cut enough for Golden State to surrender. Eric Gordon, another hiding place of Curry, is a cunning and physical detective.

Even so, there are possessions when Golden State gives up too easily. I would like to see a little more of this:

The execution is not hermetic, but the principle is interesting: let Ariza roll in the open space and force him to make plays. You can do it a bit, but the Warriors have the defense staff, long, petty, anticipatory, to stun and delay it, so they can be restarted in 5-to-5 mode.

The weakest shooters – Capela and PJ Tucker – are stacked on defenders outside Houston, leaving a complicated cross-over as Ariza's only option.

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And the defenders involved – Green and Andre Iguodala – turn back even when that pbad is still on the tip of Ariza's fingers.

Of course, Houston also has some answers for this. The Rockets can add stress by increasing the shooting quotient and replace Tucker or Capela with Gordon. After experimenting with some extravagant things in Game 1 – Ryan Anderson and Gerald Green together, notably – Houston landed a good balance of defense and shooting in Game 2. (For the record: I did not think it was crazy to try Anderson and Green when Curry and Kevin Durant sat together, even though he did not expect Anderson to play minutes without junk, that's the time to tilt the equation to shoot defense more toward the shot, Anderson-Green was a step too far, and Mike D & # 39; Antoni adjusted.)

The Rockets have already played Harden, Chris Paul and Gordon 23 minutes together in two games, and could dare to send that trio more time in Game 3. They have limited time in that three of Ariza, Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute and Capela / Nene Hilario play together almost completely in the ranks of the starting lineup, which includes Tucker, Ariza and Capela. They beat Mbah to Moute in the second half of Game 2 and played with him and Tucker only six minutes in Game 1.

More shots make extreme help rotations more risky.

The Warriors have experimented with a third counter against Houston's Curry Hunt: change his man's Curry at the moment the player starts moving towards Harden.

Houston can also click on that gambit. They can call new screeners until Curry has no choice but to participate, although that depletes the shot clock. They can install the floor so that no rocket blocks the road between Curry and Harden.

More promising: You can prime Golden State on that switch and explode the holes that open while it is in motion. Gerald Green almost did it randomly in the above clip. His intention is to detect Harden. The Warriors respond by having Kevon Looney move from Capela to Green. When Green and Capela intersect, the green flashes open; Capela becomes an accidental pindown screener. Harden seems to be the only one who sees the opportunity.

Preparation for this, and Houston may be one step ahead.

Lost Mojo of Golden State

There are four general ways for Golden State to mark: [19659004] 1. His elegant offense of movement.

2. Transition after Houston turnovers or foul on the edge.

3. Transition that takes advantage of Houston's errors: poor floor balance, pairing failures, etc.

4. Isolations.

Nos. 1 and 3 will determine the series. Houston does not have much to do about No. 2. Harden and Paul are going to miss some bunnies, and each team will commit some turnovers. It may suggest that Houston should lose and cough less often. Duh You can say that for any team, in any game. These things happen. Less than what is happening is good for Houston. Some games, they will manage. Some games, they will not. I'm not sure what kind of planning they really can do, other than having one of their corner shooters return to defense earlier than usual, something that has been a clear point of emphasis.

They can exercise some control over No. 3 – and they did so in Game 2. In Game 1, Houston was too concerned to find the "right" matches to return to defense. The Warriors scored at least five open triples in Game 1 while the Houston players crossed the court, confused, looking for possible confrontations. More than anything else: undocumented players, their confidence in isolations that reach historic levels, losing the minutes Curry and Durant sitting together, those 3 cost Houston Game 1.

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[19659004] In the midst of chaos, Houston players only have to protect whoever is closest to them. That kind of flexibility is the point of playing five guys of the same size (when Tucker is in the middle) and changing everything. They did it in Game 2.

No. 4 – insulation – a lot is happening. The Warriors averaged 11.5 isolations per 100 possessions in the regular season, one of the lowest marks in the league, for every second data of spectrum tracking. That number is up to 27.8 so far in this series, more than even Houston averaged in the regular season.

Golden State is a good isolation team! Durant, of course, is on fire, canning absolutely filthy shots. His one-on-one game is the antidote to precisely this kind of defense of change of everything. Golden State is averaging exactly one point per possession in isolation when the guy who goes face to face or shoots or pbades to a teammate who fires immediately, by Second Spectrum. That would have been the second in the regular season.

It is also worse than the overall efficiency of Golden State. And that brings us to the No. 1 scoring method: Houston can win this series, even with Durant raining daggers, if a disproportionate part of the Golden State offense is forced into the isolation game.

The Warriors know how to beat the breakers without abandoning their movement offense and turning to the one-on-one ball. They have all kinds of tricks. The most common: sliding screens before configuring them.

It's very, very difficult to change a screen that never happens. You can try to change early, almost in front of the screen, but if you make a telegraph, the Warriors will burn you. You can discard the change, but if you doubt even a little, it's too late. In the previous play, Harden tried to stay at home in Iguodala. He could not do it; he had leaned into the middle of the court for half a second, preparing for a change, and that misdirected little impulse was all that Iguodala needed.

Here is Draymond Green taking out a different version of the same trick:

Look at Tucker's feet while defending Green. Green does not move up towards the middle of the court to fake a screen for Curry. Wait for Curry to drag down towards him in the 3-point arc, then move almost exactly parallel to the baseline in his initial cut to Curry.

The green also makes its two cuts: towards Curry, then towards the edge – hard . The net effect is that Tucker ends up taking a step backwards, towards the edge, when Green and Curry meet; Tucker plants his right foot in the painting. That step undoes Houston's defense. Tucker has more ground to cover the change to Curry, and Tucker knows he has to get there immediately. Curry takes advantage of that panic against him with one stroke at a time.

The Warriors are so good with the little things that allow them to gain a few inches. His offense comes alive in that extra space. Watch how Shaun Livingston moves towards the painting to look for Thompson, and even acts as the first part of a hard cut on the hoop, a false slip, basically before marking:

That theatrical spasm causes Gerald Green to back off. Look at the gap between Green and Thompson when the Livingston team makes contact:

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Green has no chance to switch Thompson from there. Instead, Gordon has to chase Thompson, only Livingston's choice leaves him so far behind that the Rockets have to change again, with Anderson taking Thompson. That mismatch unlocks an open 3 for Nick Young.

In the same vein, I loved this jewel of Game 1:

Curry pretends that he is heading for a handover from Looney, waits for Ariza to overreact, and potentially prepares for a change, and turns the other way for a quick hit. This is a cousin of Draymond Green's action game keeper, where he simulates a pbad-through, tricks the defenders into exchanging or pouncing on Green's fictitious transfer receiver, and then leaves a basket.

The story of Game 2, at the end of the floor, Houston was vaporizing all those things. The Rockets read almost every slip and feint. They changed early, without giving up any territorial advantage. They canceled the change when that was the best way to maintain defensive integrity, but never doing so would irremediably leave them behind. When a Warrior slid to the edge, an aid defender left Green or Iguodala to block his way and force Golden State to get the ball out of the danger zone. Paul was masterful in appearing in a position of help and deflecting exit pbades.

(Green and Iguodala are 0-for-5 from depth combined through two games.) Tucker made as many 3s in Game 2 as Golden State's blah shooters have attempted in the Whole series The Warriors need Iguodala and Green to shoot, at some point, probably at home, they will.)

There was no adjustment. Houston was simply better.

A cycle of types played in Game 2: Houston stifled the beautiful Golden State game and pushed them into the one-on-one play. Durant is bound. But when the Warriors tried to re-attack their movement offensive, they discovered that the detour had weakened their usual pace. Either they did not cut or cut at the rate of three quarters. At one point in the second quarter, Steve Kerr stood up and angrily told his team to get moving.

David West attempted two shipments from the mid-range early on the launch clock. Iguodala connected one. Thompson dribbled for a while and threw an inexplicable bottom line with double digits in the shot clock. A few minutes later, Thompson took a rare and disputed 3 rebound from above the break, also with a lot of time remaining in the shot clock.

The Warriors did not look like themselves. But the Rockets deserve a lot of credit. They erased the easier appearance of Golden State, the ones that make the Warriors struggle and run. Houston attracted Golden State to a game that the Warriors really do not want to play, even if they can. They enervated the Warriors a bit.

The Rockets were even smart about Durant's double team when the Warriors played against three non-fencers around him – say, Livingston, Iguodala and Looney – making it easier to catch without giving an open look.

Looney is a key player and is a reminder of the strange Golden State roster construction. six centers have very little utility in this series. Out of the line of death, they only have two reliable wings, and one of them is Nick freaking out Young. They do not have a true power forward past Durant. They have not used Durant in the center in part because they do not have the depth of the wing to get there organically while tearing Iguodala. The Rockets could have more viable five-out lineups than the team that perfected the five-out lineup.

The fall and injury of Patrick McCaw are important in that regard. Omri Cbadpi could have been useful. They could dig up Quinn Cook at some point, but I got a little dizzy at the thought of Cook defending the Rockets.

But that's the battlefield that I'll be seeing in Game 3: Can the Warriors cut and pbad and filter their way to half a dozen more cubes? They are still in good shape. They have a local court. Curry will come alive. Houston needed Game 2 and played like that.

But if Houston can erase that half a dozen buckets, he has a chance.

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