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NBA Playoffs Playbook: The Effect of Golden State’s Shooters

Yesterday, the Golden State Warriors surprised many by picking up a win in Game 1 of their series against the Los Angeles Clippers. In a high scoring affair they held off the Clippers down the stretch, winning 109-105.

Their two flamethrowers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, combined for six three-pointers and 36 points on the night. Neither of them was brilliant, but they did enough to help Golden State to victory.

Plus, they provided an impact that can’t be seen in a box score. Their reputations and abilities dictate the way opponents play defense, often leading to opportunities for other players. This was evident especially on out-of-bounds plays the Warriors were running.

To get a better sense of the exact influence of Thompson and Curry—even when they aren’t getting the ball—let’s take a look at one of those out-of-bounds plays. (We pick things up late in the third quarter, with the score tied at 73. The Warriors are inbounding the ball under their own basket.)

With Curry inbounding, the Warriors set up a double-screen for Thompson. Starting from the left elbow, he runs towards the right corner, off the screens from Jermaine O’Neal and David Lee.

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As he comes off the second screen, Blake Griffin is staring at him, disregarding David Lee. Griffin even steps out to the corner to prevent Thompson from catch the pass. In doing so, however, he not only focuses his attention away from Lee, he leaves him wide open.

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This forces DeAndre Jordan to now be responsible for two players—Lee and O’Neal. Lee, however, has already caught the ball in the paint, and at that point it’s too late.

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Lee makes a beautiful touch pass to O’Neal, who slams it home in an emphatic manner.

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The Warriors also scored on an almost identical play later on in the game, reinforcing the importance of Thompson and Curry. The Clippers will be ready for this play moving on, so it will be interesting to see how the Warriors switch things up—or, if they simply continue to run the same play and force the Clippers to pick their poison.

jmaloney