The Los Angeles Clippers gave the Golden State Warriors a shellacking in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, so it’s hard to know if there are any lessons to be drawn for either team. On top of Blake Griffin continuing to dominate while on the floor (and this time avoiding foul trouble), it is unlikely the Warriors will have much of a chance in any game where Danny Granger and Hedo Turkoglu combined for 28 points in 32 total minutes in 11-of-17 shooting. In the NBA, some nights guys just make shots.
But there is something Golden State did in Game 1 they could exploit on the offensive end in Game 3.
Much was made of the success the Warriors had attacking the Clippers’ aggressive pick-and-roll coverage, despite questioning Glen Davis’s penchant for chasing Steph Curry far out onto the perimeter. And, given the tenuous position of Warriors Coach Mark Jackson, his decision to go away from pick-and-rolls to isolations and post-ups down the stretch was also much criticized after the disastrous Game 2.
Despite that, Davis and Griffin did a decent job of containing Curry on the pick-and-roll, and even if the first line of defense was breached, DeAndre Jordan was still ready to protect the rim against drivers and cutters either by blocking and altering shots:
or forcing an extra pass that leads to a turnover:
In fact, of the 21 times the Warriors ran a traditional pick-and-roll or dribble handoff play with the screener being guarded by Griffin or Davis, Golden State only scored five baskets while committing five turnovers.
However, a subtle adjustment the Warriors made in the second half either by design or happenstance really opened up their pick-and-roll game. Whether he was paired defensively with Griffin or Davis, the Clippers defense suffered greatly when the Warriors used Jordan’s man to set the initial ball screen. Unsurprisingly, with Jordan out on the perimeter, there was little or no shot-blocking at the rim for the Clippers, as Klay Thompson exploits here:
The roll man also had a much easier time getting to the basket when Jordan was pulled away from the basket (though this example below involves Thompson coming off a curl rather than a ball-screen, the principles are similar to an elbow pick-and-roll):
Unlike Jordan, Davis is caught in between stepping up to the drive and protecting the basket but instead does neither:
In fact, of the seven times the Warriors ran a pick-and-roll using Jordan’s man as the screener, they scored three times, drew one shooting foul (Blake Griffin’s fifth), got two other wide-open in-rhythm looks and only had one forced fading jumper from Jermaine O’Neal. It will be interesting to see if Mark Jackson and staff picked up on this wrinkle and will use this or similar tactics to attempt to pull Jordan away from the hoop with more regularity in Game 3.
Seth Partnow lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, daughter and dog. He blogs about the NBA and related topics at WhereOffenseHappens.com. His work can also be found at Hickory-High.com and ESPN’s ClipperBlog.com, where he is a regular contributor. Seth can be reached on twitter @WhrOffnsHppns.