I just woke up from a really cool dream. The Warriors were playing the Clippers, and they were running pick and roll the whole game. And the Clippers were blitzing Curry every time, and Curry did a great job drawing the blitz out and then hitting his big man wide open in the key, but weirdly, his big man wasn’t Bogut, it was David Lee, and Lee didn’t just stand there after he caught it, looking around for someone else to pass to, or waiting to hand it back off to Curry, no, Lee rumbled straight to the basket, and either finished the play himself, or passed it to a wide-open teammate for a dunk, and the Clippers were falling all over themselves trying to guard this unguardable pick and roll, this gorgeous sublimation of the art of basketball, and the Clippers were fouling out, and pointing fingers, and Doc Rivers was furiously calling timeouts, and…
Hey, wait… What?
Mark Jackson: I found quite a few tactical things to gripe about in this game, particularly in crunch time, but this was one of the best coached games of Mark Jackson’s tenure.
Even though my more cynical readers would point out that I am on record as stating that although the Warriors are not a better team without Andrew Bogut, Mark Jackson is most definitely a better coach without him.
And it’s worth asking the question, would the Warriors have run so much pick and roll, and such effective pick and roll, if Bogut were playing? Would they have played so much smallball, with Lee at center, and Barnes and Green at the four? Would they have scored 109 points?
Would Blake Griffin have gotten into foul trouble?
But still, Mark Jackson got a whole lot of stuff right in this game, and deserves credit. Like subbing Lee out with only 4 minutes gone in the first quarter, and then bringing him back early TO PLAY CENTER WITH THE SECOND UNIT. I loved that move, and have actually argued for it several times earlier in the season. Do you like Draymond Green at the four? Well, THIS MOVE, not starting him, is the way to get him those minutes without getting him killed. And get David Lee more minutes in the role that he excels at, without getting him killed, in the bargain.
Was this simply a function of Lee and Griffin’s early foul trouble? We’ll see, but regardless, it was a great move.
Mark Jackson also got the backcourt crossmatches exactly right: Klay Thompson giving Chris Paul hell on the pick and roll, Iggy shadowing JJ Redick, and Curry attempting to hide on Matt Barnes. Bravo.
What else? What do you do when your front office fails to give you playable backup guards? You shorten your rotation. Curry 45 minutes, Klay 41. There will be those who grumble at this, but I’m all aboard. These guys are young, this is the playoffs, and there’s a lot of rest between games.
What else? Still too much iso, perhaps, but lots of pick and roll. Definitely limited Jermaine O’Neal’s postups, and found him on the move instead. Bravo.
Kept playing Iggy despite his foul troubles. I’m with Don Nelson and Jeff van Gundy and Mark Jackson on this. It’s far worse to rigidly limit a great player’s minutes, than it is to trust him and risk the consequences.
Got Harrison Barnes some minutes at power forward, which he rewarded. Very, very tough to play the Warriors when Barnes is stretching the floor, hitting his threes, and doing his job on the boards.
What moves of Mark Jackson did I disagree with? Well, I definitely grumbled when I saw that he didn’t crossmatch O’Neal on Griffin and Lee on Jordan. Several thoughts crossed my mind on this: First, perhaps David Lee is healthier than I thought. Second, perhaps Jackson feels O’Neal is the more vulnerable of the two to Blake’s rhinoceros charges, and wants to preserve him by hiding him on the less physical Jordan. And third, is it possible that this crossmatch is a card that Jackson wants to play later in the series? Stay tuned.
Lee can definitely guard Griffin. You can see how tough he plays him in the low post, how frequently he turns him back. But it comes at a terrible physical price: when Griffin sees Lee in front of him, he invariably sees red, lowers his shoulder, and tries to bull his way to the basket. This takes a lot out of Lee, and frequently gets him in foul trouble. Whereas when you guard Griffin with a bigger player like Bogut or Ezeli, he usually gives up on his post moves, and starts jacking from outside.
In this game, it was Lee who got Griffin in foul trouble, rather than the reverse. But I don’t think that’s a trend you can count on. I prefer the crossmatch.
(A word on the officiating in this game: Quite clearly, the officials were briefed on the “bad blood” between these two teams, and had instructions to call the game tightly, to prevent flare-ups. I think we can expect this edict to be reversed in the next game. The league does not want to see Blake Griffin foul out, nor see the Clippers go down 0-2.)
A few other quibbles I had with Mark Jackson in this game:
The Crunch-time ISO’s: I particularly hated these in crunch-time, when the Warriors gave up that 9 point lead continually trying to post up Klay Thompson. Jeff van Gundy is right: Why stop the Curry/Lee pick and roll that was so utterly efficient? Can those fading turnarounds from Thompson ever match that efficiency?
The Warriors destroyed the Clippers in this game with ball movement. That’s what gets the Clippers out of position. That’s what eliminates Jordan’s shotblocking. That’s what creates open threes.
Mark Jackson has a history of clenching up and trying to over-control the game when the Warriors enter crunch-time with the lead. It’s better to just let it rip. Let the Warriors continue playing the style of basketball they’re made for, and that got them the lead in the first place.
Hack-a-Jordan: Definitely a reasonable strategy when you’re down in a game and are running out of time. Stopping the clock and sending a 40% free throw shooter to the line makes perfect sense in that spot.
But is it the right strategy when you’re UP 3, with 3 minutes remaining? Do you really want to stop the clock and lengthen the game here?
@haralabob thinks Jackson did the right thing. In fact, wanted him to do it again, even after Jordan hit the first two FTs. He’s the expert, but I don’t know. What do you think?
Fouling Chris Paul: Jackson sent Chris Paul to the line with 13 seconds left and the Warriors up 3, to prevent the Clippers from potentially taking and making a game-tying three.
I think Don Nelson is right, that this play isn’t worth doing unless there are less than 6 seconds on the clock. And particularly with 13 seconds, and a great free throw shooter like Paul, the play seems clearly wrong.
Most of the time, Paul is going to make 2, and the Clips are going to send the Warriors to the line with 11-12 seconds left. Then they get to do the whole thing over again. Or perhaps the Warriors miss one, and the Clips only need two to tie the next trip?
It worked this time, but I’m far from convinced. Sometimes you have to let the game play out. What do you think?
Curry: As predicted, the Clippers committed to an all-out blitz, willing to let anyone but Curry beat them. It should be noted that while this strategy will prevent Curry from putting up superstar stats in this series, only a superstar could induce another team to play such an all-or-nothing defense.
Struggled a bit with his handle and a few loose entry passes on isos, but did a superb job passing out of the blitz.
Thompson: Despite that terrible crunch-time decision to try to dribble through the double team, a superb floor game. Drove relentlessly, and was unlucky with foul calls. Set up his teammates beautifully. 5 assists. And rebounded extremely well from the small forward position with Iggy out (as I knew he could). 7 rebounds.
Incredible defense on Chris Paul in the pick and roll. Paul got hot from three, but was 5-14 from two.
Struggled, as predicted, trying to guard JJ Redick. Klay’s length works beautifully in the lane on Paul, but his foot speed isn’t up to staying close to Redick behind the arc.
Iggy: Really got unlucky with the foul calls. I still think he’ll have a huge series. It’s clear he’s going to be used frequently to post up Redick and the other small guards Doc Rivers tries to hide on him.
Pretty sure Redick got most of his points being guarded by others. Iggy is the right man for this job.
David Lee: As the defender of Blake Griffin, the player who fouled Griffin out, and Curry’s main outlet out of the blitz, he was the most important Warrior on the court, and the Warrior most responsible for this win.
20 and 13, with great physical post defense. But what was most impressive was his interior passing, which completely annihilated the Clippers’ pick and roll rotations. Only 3 assists? It seemed like far more.
George Karl and Don Nelson and Jeff van Gundy are right: You CAN run your entire offense through David Lee. He is that great a basketball player.
It’s very gratifying that Lee finally got the opportunity to show his stuff in a playoff game. Is finally getting the chance to prove to the ignorati that he’s a winning basketball player.
Are we done with the idiots who thought the Warriors were a better team without him? Who have no comprehension of what he does on the basketball court?
Pfft. Who am I kidding? This is a battle that will be fought all the way to the Hall of Fame.
Draymond Green: 22 minutes, 7 rbs, 4 assists, 2 blocks. +17.
What, no steals?
What a ballplayer. Guarded everyone from Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan.
I exulted about Feltbot’s Law when he bounced in his second clutch free throw off the front of the rim.
Premature expostulation. He bricked his next off the back iron.
Draymond! Never, ever, miss a free throw long.
Harrison Barnes: What is it about Barnes in the playoffs? It’s about playing power forward, mainly. And being left unguarded. But it can’t be denied that while some falter under the bright lights of the playoffs, Barnes somehow finds a way to shine.
Shooting aside, Barnes was terrific in this game. Great rebounding effort, even in traffic. (Why do we never see this in the regular season?) Spectacular, possibly game-saving, block of Chris Paul’s fast-break layup. Followed up by that dagger transition three. The sequence of the game.
Mokur: See anything wrong with his minutes in this game? I’m perversely looking forward to seeing him go head to head with Griffin.
In a fight, I’d take Mokur. By knockout.
Crawford: After I talked him up in the preview, only 5 minutes. But I liked what Jackson did with him in this game. Put the ball in his hands, not Steve Blake’s, on the second unit. Gave him a look, a chance to get hot, to light it up. When it didn’t happen, sat him down.
Since he’s not a defender, or as Jeff van Gundy politely put it, is an “up and down” defender, that’s probably the best way to handle him in a playoff game.
The Series: They say a series hasn’t begun until the favorite loses on their home court. So did this series just begin?
Maybe. This was an odd game, with Griffin in major foul trouble, that in all likelihood won’t be repeated. The league won’t allow it.
I expect Griffin to be back with a vengeance for Game 2. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors get blown out in a game they don’t need. Such is often the way in the NBA playoffs.
Jermaine O’Neal: The Warriors might not be at their best with him on the court. Only 3 rebounds. -11 for the game. But they desperately need his minutes. His physicality.
And isn’t it wonderful to have a center that loves the ball under the basket?
He survived intact. One game down for the old warrior, five to go.