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Stuck In The Warriors’ Elevator: How Klay And Steph Get Open Threes

In 30 games this season, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have combined for 180 threes. Between the two of them, they attempt 15 threes per game and knock down 6.3. They are also both shooting over 41.8 percent from the perimeter, which is just terrifying. I guess you could say – if you really, really want to – that they are living up to their “Splash Brothers” nickname.

Now, this is no secret. The rest of the league knows that a slight look at a three gets Steph and Klay foaming at the mouth, which makes it all the more impressive that they continue to light teams up from distance. Even with all that attention focused on them, they still happen to make a ridiculous amount at an incredible high rate, which got me thinking: How do they do it?

Obviously some of the shots they make are sheer talent. Curry’s ability to cross someone up, pull up on a dime and shoot a three over the outstretched arm of some freak athlete doesn’t come out of the playbook. That comes from a hell of a lot of practice. But there are some plays that are designed specifically to get at least one of the Splash Brothers open on the three point line and as you know, when that happens, it’s often cash-money.

The Warriors have an extensive playbook, but here’s one of the plays they’ve ran this season that I’ve taken quite a liking to, called something along the lines of “Elevator.”

Step One: The Set-Up

Steph brings the ball over half-court and David Lee starts jogging towards Klay Thompson with his fist up as though he’s going to set a screen for him. Don’t get confused. He’s lying. Notice how Jermaine O’Neal is at the left elbow and that Draymond Green is clearing out to the opposite baseline.

Step Two: Options

Instead of setting the screen on Klay in the corner, Lee stops at the free throw line extended, gets the ball from Steph and faces up towards the basket. Steph runs past him to the corner, sets a screen on Klay who presumably has the option of curling up if his man goes under the screen. However, in this case, Ben Gordon sticks to him like glue and follows him around the screen. Klay simply jogs into the paint.

Level Three: Last Call

After setting the screen, Steph moves back to behind the three point line and replaces Lee. Without the ball in his hands anymore, Lee moves towards the other elbow, leaving plenty of space between him and O’Neal. While this is going on, Green starts running from one corner to the other because it gives them another option, it’s a nice little diversion and it forces four defenders into the paint.

Level Four: (Ben Gordon is) Stuck in Warriors’ Elevator #TimbalandVoice

Klay runs in-between O’Neal and Lee and as soon as he passes them, the two bigs get all cozy and rub shoulders with each other. (This is the elevator part). Ben Gordon has no chance of running out and contesting the shot, which forces Jeff Adrien to fight over the screen to no avail. At this point, Klay’s got too much space and the likelihood of him missing is extremely slim.

There is one more thing I want to note about this play, though, which are the options that result from it mainly at the end.

The same play has been run here, only this time it’s for Steph in the corner.

Now, imagine that Steph didn’t shoot it because McRoberts was able to close out a little sooner. If that was the case, David Lee would have a mismatch in the post with Kemba Walker guarding him. If Curry feeds him the ball and the Bobcats double down, it leaves Barnes, Thompson or Curry wide open on the perimeter, which is what the Warriors wanted in the first place. If they don’t, well, Lee will probably get an easy layup or Kemba would just opt to foul him.

Therefore, this isn’t only a play for one player. If it was, they’d have no options when it breaks down. The thing is, given how quickly Steph and Klay get their shot off, there aren’t many looks they are going to turn down, which is why it does usually end up with one of them firing it up.

Interestingly enough, only 8.5 percent of Steph’s offense comes off of screens, so most of the time, the Warriors run this play for Klay. Nevertheless, they have drawn it up for Steph and it’s equally as effective, as you’ll be able to tell from the short compilation below:

You could probably count the amount of times the Warriors have ran Elevator this season on your hands, but that could just be because they don’t want to run it to death in the regular season. Come playoff time, Jackson may be chalking it up some more when the Warriors are in dire need of one of their token threes. But even if they don’t, it’s a play that has proven to be highly effective, which is why I wouldn’t be overly surprised if we see more teams run it in the future, you know, as long as they have someone who can shoot threes half as well as Steph and Klay can.

Statistical support courtesy of MySynergySports.com.

Scott Rafferty