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

 

Thunder Blowout: What Changed?

1. More Ball Movement

v74ok6uojdgk4

I’ve previously been critical of the Thunder for going to spots on the floor and standing around while watching someone play 1 on 1.  These kind of plays were usually isolations for Durant or Westbrook or an alignment where someone posted up and kicked out for an outside shot when the double team came. On the play above, Westbrook dives in to the hoop. I like these aggressive, attack-the-hoop, kind of plays for the Thunder.

2. Better Defense in Screen Situations

cjvt25m6mgh7o

Watch Westbrook above. He’s in the middle of the lane to start, and he’s chasing Curry. Thompson is setting a down screen for Curry, and Westbrook reads the pass and makes an incredible steal.

Go ahead and say it, Russell: “Eat it, Torg!” I’ve written previously that Westbrook so frantically chases the ball that he can’t keep track of his man. On the play above, Westbrook shows a lot of awareness of a lot of different things going on. He keeps track of the ball, the screener, and his man.

If I had ten seconds with the Warriors, I’d encourage the players to use ball fakes, especially when Westbrook is guarding a screener or cutter. A hard ball fake to Thompson here leaves Curry wide open for a three.

3. Intensity (duh, but check out this rebound)

6uuf1qugycuvw

Westbrook’s offensive rebound here exemplifies the intensity the Thunder brought to Sunday night’s game.

4. Props to Steven Adams

IMG_5456

Adams gets a piece of Curry’s shot

Adams usually does a good job of getting out on shooters, and he has been the victim of shots he has contested well but Curry or Thompson still manages to make. This time, he blocks Curry’s shot.