Grading The Warriors Game 4 Victory

Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors

(Written For Blue Man Hoop)

What was once an intriguing stop in the Nuggets playoff path has become a likely upset.  Following a game four victory, the Warriors will seek to spare the Nuggets the expense of a return trip to Oakland and complete the gentleman’s sweep.  In the meantime, each Warrior must be assigned a relatively arbitrary grade evaluating their performance in Game 4.   Though I despise this practice among teachers, these grades will be assigned based on performance relative to ability, not to objective performance.  Why?  As a generally pessimistic fan, I promised to judge the Warriors playoff performance based not on aggregate results, but on performance relative to my low expectations.  Of course, the Warriors have vastly exceeded those expectations to such a degree that even the aggregate results are hyperbolically impressive.

Stephen Curry:          A+

Despite a quiet first half scoring-wise, Curry was once again outstanding, scoring 31 points on 10-16 shooting.  In the 33 minutes Curry played, the Warriors outscored the Nuggets by 21 points.  Curry’s third quarter scoring barrage sunk the Nuggets, but by drawing constant attention, he kept the Warriors afloat throughout the game, setting up teammates both with his passing and by forcing the Nuggets to overcommit to on and off ball screen defense.  For those who do not appreciate the oral beauty of Steph Curry’s shooting, here is a more visual rendition.

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Jarrett Jack:    A+

The Nuggets focused their defensive attention on Curry, and Jack took full advantage, scoring 21 points on 9 field goal attempts.  The constantly probing Jack also dished out 9 assists, and played 42 minutes.  The Nuggets generally placed their best perimeter defenders, Andre Igoudala and Corey Brewer, on Curry, leaving Jack to score on the smaller Ty Lawson and slower Andre Miller.  While it was Steph Curry who ignited the blowout, Jack was the steady hand guiding the Warriors to victory.

Klay Thompson:        C+

Thompson finished with 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting, and played a team-high 43 minutes.  Unlike the first two games, Thompson was not a focus of the Warriors offense, and unlike Game 3, he was not completely forgotten.  He guarded Andre Iguodala for the majority of his minutes, contributing both to his 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting and to his 7 turnovers.  Iguodala did make some difficult, contested shots over Thompson, but also took advantage of Thompson’s confused off ball defense to find cutting lanes and open three-point attempts.  For several possessions, Thompson defended Lawson, who was able to score, but with far less ease than in his earlier minutes defended by Jarrett Jack.

Andrew Bogut:          A

Adding to a typically solid defensive night, Bogut had his best offensive performance of the season.  The Nuggets decided to trap Curry off pick and rolls, and committed for even longer than they have throughout the series, giving Bogut the space to attack the rim and find Warriors shooters.  Through the first three games, Bogut was hesitant upon receiving the pass from Curry after setting a screen, but tonight, was ferociously aggressive, mixing a few fancy passes with his assaults on the rim. This was the Bogut the Warriors envisioned in the Monte Ellis trade.

Harrison Barnes:       C-

Harrison Barnes played an ineffectual 31 minutes, balancing decent but not game-changing defense with inefficient offense.  Barnes contributed to the struggles of several Nuggets, but, after two promising performances, seemed to have no great effect on the outcome of this game.

Draymond Green:     A+

This was quite possibly Green’s best game of the season.  In 25 minutes off the bench, the rookie scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting, had 6 rebounds and 4 steals, and contributed to the Warriors outscoring the Nuggets by 15 points over his playing time.  Green made 2 shots from behind the arc, and played aggressive defense on several Nuggets, including Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, and Andre Iguodala.  This game was the ideal example of what the Warriors hope to receive from Draymond Green in the future.

Carl Landry    B+

Continuing his player-option playoff tour, Landry scored 17 points and 11 field goal attempts, and, though he only played 18 minutes, helped the Warriors punish Denver for trapping pick and roll ball handlers.

How Can the Warriors Slow Ty Lawson?


(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Up two to one, with two more home games, the Warriors have to be feeling good.  But, they have one nagging problem: Ty Lawson.  Lawson struggled in game one, but has consistently abused the Warriors’ defense, setting up teammates and scoring himself.  In game 3, Lawson exploded for 35 points on 22 field goal attempts and 11 free throw attempts.

While Lawson has been effective in transition, and iso’d on several possessions, the majority of his offense has been generated through the pick and roll.  According to, Lawson ends 34.5 percent of his possessions as the pick and roll ball handler.  In these situations, Lawson scores 0.89 points per play, 23rd best in the league.  The Warriors had the league’s 13th best defense by points per play, but struggled to defend the pick and roll ball handler, allowing 0.83 points per play, 25th in the league.

The Warriors generally ice pick and rolls, especially when Bogut is involved.  This is a good strategy for slowing the ball handler while giving the big man time to recover to the roll man, but forces the big man to attempt to contain the ball handler before the guard can recover, and against the lightning-quick Ty Lawson, the Warriors have struggled.

Lawson Bogut ice 1

The Nuggets are often criticized for lacking a complex offense.  Their possessions often devolve into a simple high pick and roll with little organized off ball movement. But in the last two games against the Warriors, at least when Ty Lawson plays, this has been effective.  In games 2 and 3, the Nuggets have scored 124 and 128 points per 100 possessions with Lawson in the game.  The play shown above demonstrates many of the options the Nuggets have available out of the high pick and roll.

Jarrett Jack is supposed to prevent Lawson from using Kenneth Faried’s screen, but is too far from Faried, who simply moves to the other side of Jack.  In typical “ice” fashion, Bogut sags off the screen, hoping to prevent Lawson from getting to the basket, but because the screen was set so high, Bogut is forced to extend all the way to the elbow, far enough that Lawson has space to get by him.  With Jack hung up on the screen, there is several feet of space between Lawson and any Warriors defenders, leaving Lawson wide open for a mid-range jump shot.  Lawson shot 40.3 percent from mid-range this season, but since the all-star break, has made an incredible 52.4 percent of his mid range attempts, per to

Lawson chooses to drive at the retreating Bogut, forcing Harrison Barnes to decide between cutting off the drive and staying on Wilson Chandler, a 41.3 percent three-point shooter.  Barnes hesitates for a moment, ample time for Lawson to burn Bogut and get the rim with only Stephen Curry to defend him.

Picture 2

This is Ty Lawson’s shot chart for the first three games.  Lawson has attempted 24 shots at the rim, and only 7 from mid-range.  Though many of his at the rim shots come from transition opportunities, the Warriors have done a poor job forcing Lawson into taking mid-range jump shots.  Though Lawson has shot a high percentage on these attempts recently, allowing him to get all the way to the basket draws help defenders, and compromises the Warriors far more than a hopefully semi-contested jump shot would.

Andrew Bogut is not yet mobile enough to contain Lawson beyond the free throw line, forcing the Warriors to find another method of defending one of the fastest players in the league.  In the last few months of the regular season, and sporadically throughout the series with the Nuggets, the Warriors have defended point guards with the 6’-7” Klay Thompson.  Like nearly every player in the league, Thompson is not quick enough to defend Lawson without help, but his size does allow him to be more effective in preventing Lawson from using screens and contesting pull up jump shots while remaining in position to deny the drive.

Klay Thompson may be able to slow Lawson, but defending any good scorer is a team effort.  As Zach Lowe detailed for Grantland, NBA defenses are almost always under-help.

Picture 1

With Wilson Chandler out of the picture just crossing half court, Harrison Barnes should position himself at the free throw line and at least a step closer to Lawson, directly in his driving lane.  Also, Andrew Bogut should step off Javale McGee and into the center of the line. Though he my fear another embarrassment at the hands of McGee, discouraging Lawson from penetrating should be the priority. In both this play and the play previously shown, Harrison Barnes should be much more aggressive with his help defense.  Helping “one pass away” is a generally flawed practice, but intelligent positioning that allows a defender to guard his man and affect the ball handler will be necessary in the Warriors efforts to defend Ty Lawson.

How The Warriors Limited Kenneth Faried in Game Two

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Following David lee’s season-ending injury, there was debate over the Warriors options at power forward.  The Barnes at power forward lineup promoted for its offensive promise, was feared to leave the Warriors defenseless against Denver’s offensive rebounding.  Denver lead NBA with a 31.4 percent offensive rebounding percentage, boosted by the hyperactive Kenneth Faried, who had the league’s 6th best offensive rebound percentage.

The return of Kenneth Faried from a severe ankle sprain was expected to cause significant matchup problems for the Warriors.  A healthy Faried is too strong for Harrison Barnes, and too quick for Carl Landry.  However, the Warriors held Faried to only 4 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Much of Faried’s decreased production may be attributed to his ankle injury.  Faried’s decreased lateral mobility was clear in his pick and roll coverage, and contributed to his inability to produce offensively or rebound effectively.


Picture 1

As this graphic from shows, the Warriors never allowed Faried to take advantage of Harrison Barnes.  Faried was never on the floor without one of Carl Landry, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, or Andrew Bogut matched up against him.  Because of Faried’s decreased mobility, he was restricted against defenders of equal strength.


Also, at the end of the second and third quarters, and the beginning of the fourth, Faried played without Kosta Koufos or Javale McGee in the lineup.  According to, in 1142 possessions played with neither McGee nor Koufos on the court, Faried posted an offensive rebounding rate of 13.4 percent, and a true-shooting percentage of 61.6 percent, 4.3 percent higher than his season average.  When playing without Denver’s main centers, Faried typically excels offensively, but the Warriors were able to limit his opportunities and production.  On a typical offensive possession, Faried will run the baseline, set high screens, and actively cut through the paint, but in game two, he was often restricted to waiting in the low block, or setting high screens and ineffectively rolling.  Faried was not as aggressive as expected, but the Warriors did actively attempt to limit his space offensively.  When Andre Iguodala or Corey Brewer, 31.7 and 29.6 percent shooters from behind the arc respectively, were on the same side as Faried on the roll, Iguodala and Brewer’s defenders would consistently crash down to pressure Faried’s dive to the rim, allowing his man to recover.  Faried played several minutes with Anthony Randolph, to whom the Warriors gave little respect defensively.  Warriors defenders often helped off Randolph to pressure Faried in the pick and roll.  The may have over-committed to this strategy, as Randolph, a former Warrior, had 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting.

Kenneth Faried’s ability to pressure the Warriors’ defense and gain extra possessions for the Nuggets will be influential throughout the series.  As the Warriors showed in game two, they are fully capable of stopping a limited Faried. How they react if Faried regains his mobility as the series progresses remains a vital question in determining this suddenly competitive first round series.

Grading Warriors Key Players in Game Two Victory

Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors in Denver, Colorado.

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Here is a precursor to the types of grades you can expect after the Warriors’ game two victory in Denver.  For those of you unfamiliar with’s shot charts, green means good, and in this case, historically good.


Prior to Tuesday’s game, Denver was 29-3 at home, including the game one victory over the Warriors.  Without David Lee, the Warriors would need an incredible performance to even the series.   The Warriors responded by shooting 64.6 percent from the field with a 73.4 percent adjusted field goal percentage.  Bitter graduates can blame grade inflation all they want, the Warriors earned these marks.

Stephen Curry:          A-

Though he scared Warriors fans, and likely all basketball fans, with an ankle injury in the third quarter, Curry’s creation was key to the Warriors’ victory.  Following a 1 for 6 start, Curry made 12 of his final 17 shot attempts.  The Nuggets seemed less aggressive in trapping curry out of pick and rolls, and Curry took advantage of the extra space.  Kenneth Faried returned from an ankle injury, and clearly had not recovered entirely.  He appeared far less laterally mobile than usual, and Curry took advantage of Fareid out of pick and rolls after struggling to do the same to Javale McGee, who played only 14 minutes, in the first game of the series.  Curry consistently made excellent decisions, recording 13 assists and only 1 turnover.  He scored 30 points on 23 shot attempts at a 65.2 percent true-shooting percentage, and only missed the A, and likely A+, because he struggled to keep Ty Lawson out of the lane, allowing Denver to keep the game close enough to stress the most paranoid Warriors fans until the final couple minutes.

Klay Thompson:  A+

Thompson scored 21 points on 95.5 percent true shooting.  If that’s not impressive enough, much of it was done while guarded by Andre Iguodala.  Klay made 5 of 6 three point attempts, many surprisingly open as Denver scrambled to defend Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack in the pick and roll.

Jarrett Jack:     A

Replacing David Lee in the starting line-up, Jarrett Jack played 43 minutes, in which he scored efficiently and created for others.  Jack made 10 of his 15 field goal attempts, and consistently penetrated the Denver defense, opening opportunities for Thompson, Curry, and Harrison Barnes, and provided consistent offense pressure to compliment Curry and Thompson’s long-range barrage.

Harrison Barnes:       A+

In one of his most impressive games of the year, Harrison Barnes scored a career high 24 points on 9 of 14 shooting, and displayed the dynamic skills he sporadically flashed through the season.  “Be aggressive” is a sort of cure-all ointment in the NBA.  From inspired player speeches to facetious Gregg Popovich mid-game interviews, “be aggressive” is often repeated as the solution to any difficult, and while many players’ and teams’ issues are unrelated to their aggression, or lack thereof, in the case of Harrison Barnes, being aggressive may be the key.

In his first start at nominal power forward, Barnes repeatedly attacked the basket, took advantage of mismatches, and, key for a player often left open by helping Nuggets defenders, made open shots.  David Lee will play the vast majority of power forward minutes next season, but Barnes success, albeit against the small-forward sized Wilson Chandler, bodes well for future use of small ball lineups.

Andrew Bogut:          B-

Bogut played well defensively, and without Koufos or McGee consistently running the pick and roll, the Nuggets did little to expose his mobility issues.  Bogut was in foul trouble throughout the game, and only played 22 minutes, limiting his total impact, but the defensive performance was a positive sign for the Warriors inconsistent defense.

Bench:                        B+

Carl Landry and Draymond Green each played 18 minutes, and Festus Ezeli added 16.  The bench played effectively in its limited role, but Mark Jackson generally rode the success of the starting lineup.   Though the Nuggets appeared invincible on their home court, the biggest upset of the day may have been Draymond Green, a 20.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, making semi-important three pointer.

Yet Another Piece of Offensive Brilliance from the San Antonio Spurs


(Image from

The San Antonio Spurs serve as a direct contradiction to the “old dog new tricks cliché.”  After winning four championships with a Tim Duncan in the post-centric, slow paced offense, the Spurs began the shift towards their modern offense, relying on off ball movement, misdirection, and Tony Parker’s creation out of the pick and roll to generate offense.  They had seemingly perfected the system by the 2011-2012 season, when they finished first overall in offensive rating at 112.4 points per 100 possessions.  The Spurs had struggled defensively in recent years, but finished this season ranked third in defensive efficiency, surrendering only 101.6 points per 100 possessions.  Prior to the 2011 season, they traded effective guard George Hill to Indiana for the first round pick that became Kawhi Leonard.


The Spurs have never been hesitant to make changes, but in last year’s conference finals, were unable to adapt to the Kevin Durant pin-downs the Thunder ran repeatedly.

Here is the basic alignment of a double pin-down set.  5 and 4 are setting pin down screens for 1 and 2.  The pin down allows a player to receive the ball in good scoring position, allows for an easy entry pass, and provides an easy set up for a pick and roll close to the basket.

Here is an example of the pin-down play the Thunder used to beat San Antonio:

The Spurs, famous for their own innovation, have adopted the pin-down screen as an important feature of their offense.  They often set up pick and rolls or open jump shots by setting pin down screens for Tony Parker, but recently, have been running an inverted pin down, in which a guard is setting a screen for the big man (almost always Duncan).

Picture 1

To begin this play Tony Parker dribbles the ball up the court, towards the left baseline.  Tiago Splitter waits in the high right post, and Duncan runs to the left low block.  Gary Neal cuts from the left corner to the top, and Parker passes him the ball, filling Neal’s position in the left corner.

Picture 2

Tiago Splitter moves towards the three point line and receives a pass from Neal.  Duncan is now the only offensive player in the middle of the court, and is flanked by two Spurs ready for a corner three point attempt.  Kawhi Leonard shoots 38.9 percent from the left corner three, and though this may appear low it is the equivalent of a 58.3 percent field goal percentage on a two point field goal attempt, while Parker shot 47.6 percent on his 19 right corner three attempts.

Picture 5

Neal sets the pin down screen for Duncan, freeing him for the in-rhythm midrange jump shot.  This season, Duncan shot 43.4 percent on 272 midrange jump shots, many of which came off pick and pops or plays similar to this.  Neal is still holding the screen, and had the shot been better contested, Duncan is in excellent position to drive, in which case Isaiah Thomas would likely have helped off of Tony Parker, freeing Parker for an open corner three.

As has come to be expected of San Antonio, the intricate Spurs have added several variations of this pin down set to their offense.

Picture 6

On this play, Duncan is positioned at the short corner on the right side of the court when he receives the pin down.  Instead of coming vertically off the screen, he curls towards the right elbow, where he takes the open jumper off a pass from Manu Ginobli.

Picture 7

The Clippers’ defense of the Duncan pin down partly reveals why it is effective.  Had a guard been coming off the screen, the DeAndre Jordan would likely have hedged, following the guard towards the elbow and denying a driving lane while the Clippers’ screened guard recovered.  Normally, this would allow the Spurs guard to pass back to the screen setter for an open short-corner jump shot.  The Clippers do not take this approach with Duncan, and appear confused with how to defend the play.  Possibly because Leonard is perceived as a greater threat to take the jumper, his defender is unwilling to hedge on Duncan while Jordan struggles around the screen. Also, because guards are not accustomed to guarding screen setters, this likely is a miscommunication by the defense.  Duncan takes the wide open jump shot, foreshadowing the Spurs’ final play of the game.

In this game-winning play, the Spurs again run a pin down screen for Duncan, who enters the cut earlier than expected.  Jordan scrambles to beat the screen and catch Duncan, who hesitates after catching and draws the foul on Jordan as he hits the game wining shot.

The pin down adds yet another fold in the Spurs often-dynamic offense,  and represents the Spurs continual willingness to reshape and adapt their roster, style, and strategy.

Can The Warriors Survive Without David Lee?



(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

David Lee tore his right hip flexor in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game versus the Denver Nuggets, and will be out the rest of the playoffs. With Lee expected to be ready for next year’s training camp, the rest of the Warriors will determine how many games he will miss.

Though often criticized, Lee has been vital to the Warriors success this season.  Lee is a member of each of the Warriors nine most-played lineups, only one of which has a negative net rating, according to, and is second on the Warriors in usage percentage among players playing more than five minutes per game, after Stephen Curry.

Curry is considered to be the offensive, “star” of the Warriors, but the team often equally relied on Lee’s passing to initiate the offense, and his scoring to finish it.  One of the most common features of the Warriors offense is the Curry-Lee pick and roll.  The Warriors, knowing that teams will often trap Curry, often run the pick and roll just to get Lee the ball in space, generally at the elbow opposite of where he set the screen.

Picture 1

Lee shoots a respectable 42.9 percent from mid-range, and 58.2 percent from less than eight feet, enough to force the defense to rotate to deny him the shot or a lane to the basket.  As the defense rotates, Lee, an excellent passer, is consistently able to find his teammates for open opportunities.  According to, the Warriors end 16.6 percent of their offensive possessions with a spot-up, and 7.9 percent with a cut.  These opportunities are often generated by Lee’s excellent passing out of the pick and roll.  The Warriors score 1.03 points per play out of spot-ups, good for third in the league, and 1.27 off cuts, the second best production.  The Warriors have excellent shooters, but David Lee’s ability to draw the defense and set up his teammates is equally responsible for the Warriors success in these situations.

So, can the Warriors replace David Lee’s production?  In two of the three games David Lee missed this season, Carl Landry replaced him in the starting lineup. Landry is capable of a reasonable Lee impersonation.  He shoots 43.6 percent from midrange, often off the pick and roll, typically with Jarrett Jack, and could likely replicate Lee’s rebounding, as his total rebounding percentage is only 2.6 percent lower than Lee’s.

However, Landry and Andrew Bogut have yet to appear on the court together this season, and starting Landry would leave the Warriors without a capable scoring big man off the bench.  Also, though Landry scores well out of the pick and roll at 0.98 points per play, according to, he cannot replicate Lee’s passing, leaving the Warriors to run a less imposing version of their normal offense.  Like Lee, Landry would struggle to defend Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, but may be able to score on Chandler in the post.

Though Mark Jackson has been hesitant to go small all season, with Bogut playing well, the Warriors could start Jarrett Jack, and start Harrison Barnes at power forward.   According to, Barnes has only played about 1 percent of the Warriors’ minutes at power forward, and due to Bogut’s inconsistent health and Jackson’s apparent disdain for small ball, the Curry-Jack-Thompson-Barnes-Bogut lineup did not record a single possession all season. However, shortly after Lee’s injury Saturday, the Warriors played that exact lineup, though only for three possessions.

The small ball lineup presents an opportunity for the Warriors to adopt a Houston Rockets spread pick and roll style offense, with Bogut setting screens while three off ball perimeter players are ready to shoot or attack a close-out.  Barnes is capable of guarding Wilson Chandler, though a healthy Kenneth Faried would pose some problems on the defensive glass, but most importantly, playing Barnes at the four could help free up Stephen Curry.

In game one, the Nuggets did an excellent job denying Curry any decent shot opportunities.  They trapped off pick and rolls, hedged off ball screens, and refused to allow Curry to consistently score.  The Nuggets would still trap off Bogut, but without a second Warrior big man in the lane to help off of, Denver would be forced to recover sooner or help on Bogut off of wing capable of hitting the three or attacking the lane, where there would likely only be one Nugget able to help.

The Warriors are often at their best when Harrison Barnes is aggressive offensively.  Without Lee’s defender to clog the paint, Barnes will have an easier time attacking, and finishing at the rim.

Though overcoming Lee’s absence will likely require some incredible performances from Stephen Curry, the injury does present opportunities for the Warriors to experiment with lineups for future seasons.

Andre MIller, Nuggets Down Warriors in Denver

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Despite an impressive defensive effort, the Warriors were unable to overcome a playoff-career high 28 points from Andre Miller.  Known for his relative lack of athleticism, the crafty veteran was able to take advantage of Harrison Barnes inexperience in the post and Jarrett Jack’s lesser size, as well as the Warriors’ zone, which, contrary to the expected purpose of a zone, often left the middle unprotected.  In what could be a series altering incident, David Lee injured his right leg on a drive in fourth quarter.  The Warriors are reporting the injury as a “hip flexor strain,” and an MRI is scheduled for Sunday, according to CBS Sports.

Key Stretch

This game will be remembered for Andre Miller’s game winning layup, but the Warriors may have lost themselves the game at the end of the third quarter. With 2:25 left in the third quarter, following a Corey Brewer jump shot, a David Lee screen freed Jarrett Jack from Corey Brewer.  Jack beat the hedge, got into the lane, and elected to take his patented push floater over Javale McGee, rather than pass to the open Landry, whom McGee was helping off.  Jack, who finished the game 3 of 12, missed the floater, and on the following possession, missed a semi-contested deep three pointer after a poorly executed Warrior possession. Andre Miller then missed a baseline fade-away jumper off a post up of Klay Thompson.  The Warriors scored to pull within two at 64-66.  Down two and only 50 seconds from the fourth quarter, the Warriors appeared to be in good position.  A phrase common among NBA pundits is that, “Good teams finish quarters well,” and in this instance, the Nuggets did just that.  Andre Miler set up Corey Brewer for an open jumper, which Brewer made, and left the Nuggets time for a second possession before the end of the quarter.  Landry missed a pick and pop jumper, and Miller again found Brewer for a jumper, this time from an extra point warranting inch further back, and the Nuggets expanded their two point lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

Why The Warriors Lost

Andre Miller:  Miller, who averages 9.6 points per game for the season, was unexpectedly unstoppable to close the game.  The Warriors used an array of defenders, ranging from the athletic Harrison Barnes, the quicker Jarrett Jack, and, on the final possession, Draymond Green, but Miller scored regardless. Be it on a jerky up and under or an off-balance jumper, Miller was consistently able to prevent the Warriors from taking a commanding lead, following a Stephen Curry game-tying three, ended the game.

David Lee InjuryLee, a staple of the Warriors’ end of game unit, was forced to the locker room with the previously mentioned injury.  Though Lee struggled throughout the game, he was missed as the high-post hub of the Warriors’ offense, which struggled over the course of the quarter.

Stephen Curry’s Shooting:  Credit the Nuggets for giving consistently giving Curry as little space as possible.  Though he did find a few open looks throughout the game, Curry was generally picked up by a defender, typically Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, or Corey Brewer, and harassed from the moment he came within five feet of the three point arc through the entire possession.  The Nuggets were clearly committed to hedging hard on every Curry pick and roll, and had the personal to do so effectively.  Curry started the game missing all of his first five shots, and never appeared to be in full offensive rhythm.  In a perhaps more impressive feat, the Nuggets defense did not allow Curry to attempt a field goal until the 5:58 mark of the first quarter.  Curry’s struggles prevented the Warriors from taking advantage of an impressive defensive performance that they may be lucky to repeat.

Warriors Open Playoffs in Denver


(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Western Conference Player of the Month Stephen Curry and the Warriors enter Denver to kick off their 3rd playoff series in the last 17 years.  The Nuggets, 57-25, finished the season with the league’s 5th best point differential despite having the 10th most difficult schedule according to basketball-reference’s rating system.  The 6th seeded, 47-35 Warriors finished with the 11th best point differential after playing through the 11th most difficult schedule.  At 38-3, the Denver Nuggets had the league’s best home record during the regular season.

The Warriors lost the season series to Denver 3-1, including a 101-107 double overtime loss in Oakland, however Andrew Bogut did not play in any of their meetings.  Additionally, the Nuggets will be without forward Danillo Gallanari, who suffered a season ending ACL tear, and possibly without Kenneth Faried, who suffered a severe ankle sprain.  The Nuggets hope to replace Gallanari’s production by increasing the offensive responsibility of Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, and, in the last few games, rookie Evan Fournier.

Though both are known for a quick pace, the Nuggets and Warriors are surprisingly dissimilar teams.  The Nuggets played the second fastest pace in the league at 95.1 possessions per game, while the Warriors were 4th at 94.5, according to basketball-reference, however they vary greatly in most other facets.  This game, and much of the series, may be determined by a team’s ability to control the rebounding battle.  The Nuggets finished with a league-leading 31.4 percent offensive rebound percentage, however the Warriors may be equipped to limit the Nuggets extra possessions, as the led the league with a 75.5 percent defensive rebound percentage after finishing last in the 2011-2012 season.

The Nuggets and Warriors also differ in offensive strategy.  Denver attempts the most shots at the rim per game and struggle from deep, while the Warriors tend to focus on finding threes, often at the expense of aggressiveness to the paint.  The Nuggets appear to be especially concerned with Steph Curry.  Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson told the Associated Press, ““Just be physical with him. He wants to shoot, so don’t give him too much space. Just make him drive. Even when he does drive, he wants to step back and get a jump shot.”

Though the Nuggets will focus on Curry, Klay Thompson will be key to a Warriors’ victory in the series-opener.  The Nuggets will likely Andre Iguolada, one of the league’s premier defenders, onto Curry, often leaving Thompson matched up with smaller guard Ty Lawson.  Thompson’s ability to score on Lawson will help the Warriors dictate matchups throughout the series, and is especially vital on the Nuggets home court.

Warriors End Season With Win Over Blazers (4/17/13)

Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard

(Written for’s Blue Man Hoop)

On the final night of the regular season, the Warriors beat the previously 33 and 48 Portland Trailblazers 99-88, overcoming a 30 point 21 rebound effort from LaMarcus Aldridge to secure their 47th win, the sixth seed, and a first round series against the Denver Nuggets.  With 5 minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Stephen Curry hit his second of four three pointers on the night, his 270th of the season, breaking the record Ray Allen set with the Seattle Supersonics in the 2005-206 season.

Key Stretch

The Warriors began the second half with a 14-point lead, but only 16 points in the third quarter, allowing the Trailblazers to reduce the lead to 3 by the end of the quarter.  Portland had kept it close through the fourth quarter, when, with 7:18 left, Klay Thompson hit an open three off an impressive no-look over-the-head pass by a driving David Lee, putting the Warriors ahead 79-73.  Joel Freelend made an uncontested midrange jumper, and then Jarrett Jack turned the ball over.  Portland was in position to continue giving the Warriors unexpected trouble, when Steph Curry intercepted an Eric Maynor pass and got fouled while making the fast-break layup attempt.  Curry made the free throw, Portland followed with a turnover, Lee finished a layup over Meyers Leonard, and, up 84-75 with 5:41 left, the Warriors never looked back.

Why The Warriors Won

Klay Thompson: Though Thompson finished 9-19, he made 5 of his 7 attempts behind the arc, many of which silenced Blazer runs or capitalized Warriors ones.  Thompson followed an impressive offensive outing against San Antonio with an effective, but dissimilar performance.  The Warriors abandoned the Thompson post-ups, instead generally leaving him behind the arc.  Though he was less of a creative offensive force, Klay Thompson’s contributions were vital in a second straight Warriors win.

Harrison Barnes’ Defense on Damian Lillard:  In the latter half of the fourth quarter the Warriors switched Harrison Barnes onto Lillard.  Though Mark Jackson has recently favored using Klay Thompson on similar positional switches, the athletic Barnes was able to effectively pressure Lillard on the ball and deny positioning to Lillard on Meyers Leonard’s screens, disrupting a Trailblazer offense that often relies on perimeter penetration from Lillard both as a primary source of scoring and to set up secondary options.  Before he hit a three with 1:13 left in the effectively-over game, Lillard had not scored in the fourth quarter, largely due to Barnes’ successful pressure.

Shorthanded Trailblazers:  This season, Portland’s typical starting lineup, Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Hickson-Aldridge has been outscored by 2 points per 100 possessions, 2.2 points better than the team’s actual net rating, per Though this may seem unimpressive, the Trailblazers recent commitment to improving their draft position has decreased the statistical reputation of the lineup.  Fortunately for the Warriors, the Trailblazer’s were without Batum or Matthews, two members of the starting group and the core of their perimeter defense.  Against a healthy Portland team, rather than exposing the shortcomings of rookie Will Barton, Klay Thompson would have been attempting to score on Batum or Matthews, two far above average defenders.

Jarrett Jack:  Though 6 for 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from the line appears to be a relatively unimportant contribution, Jack, though he has been anything but consistent in recent months, was able to stable the Warriors’ offense when Curry struggled.  Though Jack has recently drawn the ire of Warriors fans for his often questionable shot selection, his contributions to begin the season were instrumental in many a Warrior victory.  Jack’s ability to replicate Curry’s creating and scoring production in the pick and roll has been vital to the Warriors all year, and in a fitting end to Jarrett Jack’s nationally under-appreciated season, the sixth man’s quiet contributions, in contrast with his often explosive performances, guided the Warriors to victory.

Warriors Handle Short-Handed Spurs (4/15/13)


(Written for’s Blue Man Hoop)

In their final home game of the season, the Warriors overcame an impressive effort by the depleted San Antonio Spurs, to, in combination with a Rocket’s loss, retake the sixth seed with a 116-106 victory.  Spurred by Gary Neal and poor Warrior defense, San Antonio scored their way to a 57-54 halftime lead over the Warriors.  Golden State rallied in the second half, outscoring San Antonio by 17 points in the first 7 minutes of the 4th quarter to secure the teams 46th victory, a feat previously achieved 12 times in franchise history.

Key Stretch

Though Steph Curry entered, in the words of Bob Fitzgerald, “human torch mode,” toward the end of the 4th quarter, the Warriors opened their lead several possessions before.  They were clinging to a three point lead, when at the 8:33 mark of the 4th quarter, Klay Thompson a midrange jumper off a Jarret Jack-David Lee pick and roll.  The Warriors forced Nando De Colo into a missed jumper, then caught a break when DeJuan Blair missed a putback.  The next possession, Festus Ezeli, a 51.9% free throw shooter, was fouled after rolling to the rim, and made both free throws. A Jarret Jack jumper followed another Warriors stop, and then the Steph Curry shooting exhibition began.

Why the Warriors Won

Spurs’ Offensive Inconsistency:  Though they began the game hot, the Spurs reserve squad suffered through spurts of offensive inefficiency, the last of which they were unable to overcome.  In terms of usage percentage, without Duncan, Parker, or Ginobli, the Spurs were missing their top 3 sources of offense.  Though Gary Neal, 10-15 and 4-5 from 3 for 25 points, attempted to compensate, the Spurs simply could not keep pace with the Warriors.

Offensive Contribution from Role Players:  While Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had dominant offensive outings, only one Warrior had a true-shooting percentage below 50%: Jarret Jack, who managed 12 assists.  Efficient offensive contributions from Carl Landry, Festus Ezeli, and David Lee helped to fill the gaps between Thompson and Curry’s scoring.

Klay Thomson’s Offense:  Tonight was one of Thompson’s more impressive offensive performances of the season.  Though he has had higher scoring outputs, Klay revealed a variety of offensive moves in isolation, out of the post, and off his usual pin-down plays.  Thompson was able to consistently take advantage of smaller defenders Gary Neal and Danny Green.  The mid-post game, a development only recently displayed, adds complexity to Thompson’s seemingly limited offensive game, and not only affected tonight’s result, but could be a key to future success.

Steph Curry’s Shooting: Steph Curry’s incredible shooting, one of the few near-constants of the Warrior’s season, was on full display versus the Spurs.  Curry’s shooting ability, combined with his quick release, force defenses to constantly adjust to his presence, and tonight was no exception.  Curry’s position on the opposite wing prevented San Antonio from fully extending their help on David Lee rolls, Klay Thompson post-ups, and most strong-side action.  Curry’s shooting did not only serve as a threat, but was on oft-used weapon in this game. Curry was 7/13 from 3 en route to a 35-point outing.


Steph Curry’s 7 made threes leave him within 1 of tying Reggie Miller’s single season record.

Though the Warriors put the game away late, two memorable highlights, a nifty-Steph Curry double-crossover and a Harrison Barnes dunk, occurred in the 1st quarter.

Though this was mentioned above, the Warriors use of Klay Thompson in the post, often derived from a 1-2 pick and roll, is a wrinkle to the offense worth watching for in the playoffs.