You saw it, right? The way that David Lee at center, playing all-out pick and roll with Stephen Curry for literally the first time all season, simply demolished the Curry blitz?
David Lee is one of the best pick and roll centers in the league. A two-time All-Star for that exact reason. And Stephen Curry could be one of the greatest pick and roll point guards in history. IF GIVEN THE CHANCE.
This Cavs team is the best defensive team the Warriors have faced all season. And they couldn’t lay a finger on the Curry-Lee pick and roll. It is absolutely unguardable.
If you don’t blitz Curry, you’re dead. But if you do blitz him, then Lee gets the ball in the lane in a 4 on 3 situation. And Lee’s skills in this situation are extraordinary. Sag into the lane to defend the rim, Lee finds Iggy in the corner for an open three. Give him a sliver of daylight? Lee darts to the rim for the And One.
Kerr has been unwilling to use the Draymond Green at center lineup against the Cavs. For very good reason. First, because it appears that Draymond has worn down, particularly since that hard fall in Game 2. But also, I suspect, because Kerr realizes that his super-small lineup simply doesn’t match up well with the Cavs small lineup. Does a Draymond, Barnes, Iggy front line have the edge over Thompson, LeBron, Shumpert? I don’t see it.
No, the best frontline against the Cavs small lineup is Lee, Draymond, Iggy. That’s a lineup that can not only score at will, but can hold its own on the boards. And, whether you believe it or not, it can play defense.
This last point continues to elude people. The mantra that you constantly hear about Lee is that he gives up just as many points on defense as he gets you on offense. I heard Greg Papa say it on the radio today, the day after Lee put up a +17 in 13 minutes.
+17 is not giving up as many points as you get, Greg Papa. +17 is outscoring your opponent by 17. +17 is outscoring LeBron James’ Cavaliers by 17. In the fourth quarter. In the finals.
Last season, David Lee had one of the top ten plus/minuses in the league. Is that giving up more than you get? And the frontline of Lee, Draymond and Iggy — which was played only in crunchtime, against the toughest defense — was the best Warriors frontline of all by plus/minus. Is that giving up more than you get?
Last season, and the season before that, the Lee, Draymond and Iggy frontcourt beat the World Champion Heat’s frontcourt of Chris Bosh, LeBron and Shane Battier. Twice. In crunchtime. In Miami. Is that giving up more than you get?
Check it for yourself. Go to NBAWowy.com and run the Lee, Draymond and Iggy frontline from last year. What you will find is an offensive efficiency of 1.165 ppp, and a defensive efficiency of .984 ppp (right in line with the Warriors league-leading defensive efficiency this year). Is that giving up more than you get, Greg Papa?
How this utter fallacy has managed to persist and thrive despite all evidence to the contrary simply confounds me. It’s a testament to the power of an ignorant, lazy and biased press.
Last night, out of sheer desperation, Steve Kerr reached for and found a blueprint to win this series.
Break the blitz, Steve Kerr.
The LeBron Defense: There is another way to break the Curry blitz, which is to speed up the tempo of the game, and to get Curry and Klay shots in early offense.
Easier said than done, right? The Warriors have found it impossible to run against this Cavs team that is holding the ball deep into the shot clock and pounding the offensive glass. The Warriors got a total of 4 fast break points in the last game.
The answer might just be to change up the defense on LeBron. The Warriors have been single covering him as much as possible, and staying at home on the Cavs’ three point shooters. And this defense has worked to a certain extent: both LeBron and the Cavs have a miserable offensive efficiency.
But what this defense has also done is allowed LeBron to completely control the pace of the game. He posts up and pounds the rock until the clock has completely run down. He is succeeding in taking the air out of the ball, and significantly reducing the number of possessions in the game. Great for the short-handed, reliant on defense Cavs, terrible for the Warriors.
I think the Warriors should reverse course. Do everything they can to get the ball out of LeBron’s hands with double-teams. Yes, this will leave shooters open. But what it will also do is speed up the tempo of the game. Make the ball start moving before the clock runs down. Make the shots come quicker. Bring turnovers into play. Make the offensive rebounding opportunities less predictable. Scramble the game.
And give the Warriors a chance to get out and run.
The Gunslinger: One thing we saw the Warriors do to open Game 3 was to isolate Curry against Delly up top, instead of inviting the blitz by bringing a screener to the party. This was smart.
It just didn’t work. Curry was successful getting into the lane and finding the open man, but it led to nothing. And he was successful getting his shot off, but missed. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good strategy. Yet the Warriors went away from it.
I have a theory why Steve Kerr didn’t like Curry’s body language in Game 3. Kerr’s motion offense wasn’t working, Curry knew it, and he was impatient. The Cavs’ MVP was isoing every play down, but the Warriors MVP was in chains, imprisoned in a failing system.
Before the game, the broadcast showed Curry warming up. What was he practicing? 30 foot threes. Now I’m guessing that is part of his regular routine, but it seemed to mean something in the moment. I wondered on twitter whether he had come up with an adjustment of his own for the Cavs’ defense. We never saw it in the first three quarters, but lo and behold, there it was in crunchtime, with the Warriors staging their desperate run. 30 foot threes! Splash!
Stephen Curry jacking up shots in the teeth of a blitz is arguably selfish. The correct play there is to hit the open man. But Stephen Curry firing quick-release long-range bombs over the surprised face of an isolated defender? That’s not selfish. That’s what he does, with unparalleled efficiency. That’s the MVP.
You have to dance with the MVP who brung you, Steve Kerr.
Unleash the gunslinger.
The Wagering: I like the Warriors to win Game 4. Bogut and Draymond are badly beat up, but the Warriors have more warm bodies than the Cavs, and the Cavs are beat up worse. Particularly Delly, who suffered severe cramping after Game 3, and spent last night in a hospital hooked up to fluids. The short turnaround is going to be real tough on the Cavs. This is the point in the series where the Warriors depth will begin to tell.
Plus it’s Game 4, which means its time for the Warriors to roll out their adjustments.
Before the series started, I advised not betting the Warriors to win the series, laying 2 to 1. I hated that price, particularly before we knew whether Kyrie could play. And I hoped to find better opportunities to bet the Warriors later in the series.
This is that opportunity. If you like the Warriors in this series, this is the game to bet. Unfortunately, the Warriors are a bigger favorite to win this game than they were the last, at -2.5.
I won’t be betting this game, at this price. The public has the same opinion I do, and I don’t like betting with the public, at the public price.
But I’m not adverse to rooting.