What do you call Chris Bosh at center and Lebron James at power forward?
What do you call David Lee at center, and 6-6″ Draymond Green at power forward?
What do you call the Heat’s three guard lineup of Ray Allen at three, and Wade and Coles in the backcourt?
What do you call Klay Thompson at the three, and a two point guard backcourt of Stephen Curry and Jarret Jack?
What do you call small forwards battling it out for the rebounds? Green 7, Thompson 7.
What do you call having multiple offensive initiators? Lebron, Wade, Coles. Curry, Jack, Thompson.
What do you call looking upcourt for a fast break after every rebound?
Looking for early offense? Walk-up threes?
Spreading the floor with three point shooters, and letting it fly?
Playing pick and roll with multi-dimensional offensive big men?
Playing your five best basketball players, regardless of position?
Playing two-way wings, who can switch every pick on defense?
“Gimmick” defenses employing zone principles that give help on the big men?
I call it NELLIEBALL.
And the best teams in the league are playing it.
Including the two who met tonight in South Beach. To the great astonishment of many, at home and around the country, the Golden State Warriors are joining that elite group of teams, because their head coach has finally grasped the reason why Don Nelson brought Stephen Curry and David Lee to the Warriors. Finally, after two long years, Mark Jackson has started playing them in the system their divine talents were made for.
It’s great to watch isn’t it?
Long may it last.
Difference between the Heat and the Warriors as Nellieball teams: I mean beyond the “Heat have Lebron and Wade and the Warriors don’t” silliness.
Large defensive (two-way) wings: This is a hallmark of Don Nelson teams, and if you think about it, it’s an essential part of Nellieball. If you’re going to sacrifice size for talent and speed, you’re going to have an obvious defensive deficiency in the middle. The best way to compensate for that deficiency is to have a size advantage as well as great defensive ability on the wings.
The Heat have a huge advantage in this regard. Lebron and Wade are among the best defenders the league has ever seen, and when they turn it on at playoff time, they’re devastating. You can add Shane Battier to that, and Ray Allen as well, if he still has his legs.
The Warriors clearly have a deficiency here, since Rush got injured. Thompson and Barnes can barely guard threes, and can’t guard twos at all. Jack is tough, but the better twos can simply shoot over him. Draymond Green is by far their best defensive three, but guess what? He’s their best defensive four also, and that’s where he’s playing in the fourth quarter.
Three point shooting and spreading the floor: The Heat have a lot of great three point shooters at the small forward position. Chalmers can shoot it at point guard. And Lebron is having a good year shooting it from the four position.
But Dwayne Wade is terrible from three, which is a big weakness when trying to spread the floor when the ball is in Lebron’s hands.
On the other hand, Chris Bosh is now a three point shooter, as we saw in several crunch-time moments in last year’s playoffs. So when the ball is in Wade’s hands, the Heat can spread the floor better than literally any team in the league.
One through three, the Warriors have the best three-point shooting in the league. To truly spread the floor, though, they need it from their four or their five as well. David Lee doesn’t shoot the three (I would really love the Warriors to let him shoot the corner three).
That means the Warriors must encourage Draymond Green — who quite clearly is going to be their spread four going forward — to let it fly.
Leaking out: Nellieball teams must exploit their speed and shooting advantage by pushing the ball downcourt after rebounds. Up until recently, the Heat have done a much better job at that than the Warriors. They allow their guards to leak out to halfcourt to receive the outlet pass, and have the most devastating fastbreak in the league.
The Warriors, much to Jim Barnett’s frustration, have for two years refused to let their guards leak out, keeping them back for “gang rebounding” purposes, and having them walk back to take the outlet pass. But that has seemingly changed in the last few games, as Barnett has noted.
The Warriors should definitely let their guards leak out, in my opinion. First, because their frontline, with Landry or Green at four, and Thompson or Barnes at three, is doing a great job rebounding. Second, because their guards have very high IQs, and are generally ahead of the play: they know when to come back for a board, and when to leak. And third, because in these circumstances those many easy buckets far outweigh those few sacrificed rebounds.
In this game, the Warriors outscored the Heat in fastbreak points: 12 to 10.
The start of a trend?
High IQ: Another hallmark of Don Nelson teams is that they have a higher basketball IQ than most of their opponents. And I think that in general, that is a necessity for successful Nellieball. Forcing the tempo, allowing multiple players to initiate, using innovative defensive schemes, exploiting mismatches, and generally allowing your players room to create, puts a premium on intelligence.
The Miami Heat have one of the highest IQ teams in the league. Lebron, Battier and Allen are notables. But I have my doubts about many of their other players, particularly Chalmers.
The Warriors? I think they could very well be the highest IQ team in the entire league. Curry and Lee have genius level IQs. I have already argued (with some controversy) that you may soon be able to say that of Klay Thompson as well.
And what about Draymond Green? The extraordinary rookie who has apparently beaten out both Landry and Barnes for fourth quarter minutes? I’m getting a strong feeling he has a genius for the game as well.
Add Jarret Jack to that, and one through five the Warriors are a damn smart basketball team. Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley Knicks smart.
And let’s not leave out that other rookie… Festus Ezeli. The unsung hero of the first and third quarters. No rebounds the last few games, but on defense at least, that’s not necessarily his role. His role is to anchor the defense, and on the Warriors, that frequently means helping out the guards, which he is absolutely great at.
And his team is not getting outrebounded. Warriors 40 Heat 38. This kid has a basketball IQ that I’ll take over every other rookie big man in the league.
I’ll give those wily old foxes in San Antonio the edge for now. But check back with me next year.
The Final Play: I absolutely loved the Warriors game-winning play. First of all, it’s wonderful when a Warriors coach reads the opposing coach’s mail, rather than the other way around. How long has it been since we’ve seen that? And then the execution by Draymond Green, just flawless. It is utterly remarkable that Mark Jackson designed a play that left the crucial decision in the hands of a rookie.
Mark Jackson knew that the Heat were focused on Curry and Thompson to take the final shot. And he knew that the Heat were playing ball denial, by having the screener’s man switch and jump out on the shooter.
Here’s what happened: With Jack handling the ball up top, Stephen Curry played decoy, running misdirection left through the key, and pinning down David Lee’s man, to free Lee as a second option. Starting under the basket, Klay Thompson started one of his patented curls to the right. At the right mid-post, Draymond Green executed a pin-down screen on Thompson’s man, Ray Allen. Shane Battier, guarding Green, immediately switched and jumped out to deny the pass to Klay Thompson.
And Draymond Green, seeing that Battier’s switch left the back door wide open, instantly slipped the pick, and received the immediate laser pass from Jack under the bucket. Game over.
Note that Green had an important option on this play. If Battier hadn’t jumped out, Green should have held his pick on Allen. Then Jack would have hit Klay Thompson on the curl, and the game would have ended a different way.
If you go back to take a second look at the play, you should also note that as Green and Thompson were executing this play, not a single Heat player had even a toe in the paint. No one had a prayer of recovering to help on Green. Why? Because the threat of a David Lee shot had pulled Chris Bosh all the way out to the elbow.
Folks, that’s what a spread floor looks like.
Shout out to Jarret Jack: My regular readers know that I was a big fan of the Jack acquisition from the moment it happened. And a couple of posts back I wrote that it was imperative that Jack start looking for his own shot, because he had the ability to take over a game, and the Warriors were going to need him to do that against certain opponents.
This was that game. The Heat were determined to take Curry out of the game, putting their best defenders on him, and trapping every pick.
This is why Nellie loved having more than one playmaker, and insisted that his point guards be dangerous. So that his opponents couldn’t gameplan to shut his teams down. They could only gameplan to pick their poison.
The Heat picked their poison. And Jarret Jack made them eat it.
By the way, did you happen to notice that walk-up three that Jack buried at 0:55 3Q? Best shot in basketball.
Klay Thompson: Take a look at that floor game. 7 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, one blocked shot to go along with his 11-21, 27 point performance.
Klay has made me look pretty good since I called him an all-star caliber player at his natural position, small forward.
Pretty soon he’s going to gain some confidence, and develop some Curry swag, that lethal edge that all the great players carry with them. Then it’ll all be over.
And all the paid pundits will climb all over each other to state the obvious, that feltbot stated fearlessly when it was obvious to no one but him.
Draymond Green: Can a player who went 2-5 for 7 points be the star of the game? His man, Lebron James had 31.
But take a look at this: Green 7 rbs. Lebron 3 rbs. That hints at the physicality the Warriors’ best rookie layed on Lebron.
No one can stop Lebron out on the floor when he gets hot. But Green did stop Lebron from getting inside, and gutting the Warriors defense. He stayed in front of him, and when Lebron tried to take him in the post, he couldn’t budge the uber-tough Green.
By the way, in closeups of the two standing together, Green looked to be at least two inches shorter than Lebron. That puts him at 6’6″, if you can trust Lebron’s listing. I wouldn’t be surprised is he’s 6’5″. Not that it matters.
Take another look at that defensive sequence at 6:12 3Q. Green forced Lebron into a tough fade-away in the lane. In fact, his strength may have pushed Lebron slightly off balance. Green remained in position to take the ball off the front of the rim, and then immediately looked upcourt and hit Jack on the outlet, resulting in a Klay Thompson fastbreak dunk.
On the next possession, Green stoned Lebron at the rim again. And only the well-intentioned interference of David Lee prevented Green from snatching that rebound as well.
And that basically put an end to Lebron’s attempts to steamroll Green. Lebron began jawing at him after Green hammered him on another layup attempt, but that was just talk. It was all outside shots from there.
Holy crap, the Warriors have a player who can force Lebron outside.
I’ve rewound and watched that 24-foot three he buried at 1:55 3Q about 10 times in slow motion. Because of a big leg kick and those extra-long arms, he has a very odd-looking follow through, that resembles the escape move of a giant clam startled by an octopus.
Don’t let that confuse you. That shooting arm is right in front of his face, elbow in. He shoots it with perfect timing, on the way up. And the follow through is flawless.
I’ll take him over Barnes in a three point shooting contest. What do you say, Fitz?
But no fair screaming when he steps into the shot.
Flash Pastor Jack: I cannot fully express how happy I am with Jackson’s coaching in the last few weeks. The move to all-out Nellieball has left me stunned and joyous.
Now, if we could only do something about what happened at his post-game press conference. When asked about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the sudden rise of the Warriors, Jackson ascribed it to the intervention of God. He went on to state that God is “using this basketball team to show folks he can do the same thing in their lives.”
I pray to God that someone on the Warriors staff intervenes here, and prevents us from being subjected to more of this nonsense. If not, I’ll be forced to create a new feature on this blog, entitled: “What God showed me in this game.”
One part of me relishes the comic opportunities. But seriously, I think Flash Pastor Jack should save this stuff for the congregation that forgave him for consorting with drug dealers, cheating on his wife with a stripper, and paying blackmail to cover it up.
Holier than thou? You can stuff that. You ain’t holier than me, dude, and you’re not the one I would look to for spiritual guidance even if you were. You’re the one I look to to coach the hell out of my favorite basketball team, just as you have been doing.
There’s no religion in basketball.
It’s purer than that.