Playbook mechanics: Clippers, Warriors' creativity lost in the ugliness of Game 6

Friday May 2nd, 2014

How did the Warriors orchestrate this alley-oop finish for David Lee? (Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) How did the Warriors orchestrate this alley-oop finish for David Lee? (Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Warriors' 100-99 win over the Clippers on Thursday was as ugly a display as we've seen at any point this postseason. Both teams combined for 70 free throw attempts, some out of gamesmanship and most out of sloppiness. Golden State and Los Angeles shot 38 percent from the field between them, as even the stars involved struggled from the field. It was a muddled mess of a game, sealed fittingly by dodgy execution and wild scrambles.

There were, however, singular moments of legitimately sharp basketball -- particularly when either team was given a chance to reset and execute an explicit play. Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson might be considered motivators first and foremost, but both have shown a knack for creative play design. Take this particular Warriors set from the third quarter, called out of a Jackson timeout:

The mechanics in play there are too precise for improvisation. Parking Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as standstill shooters in opposite corners was an intentional play. Andre Iguodala's pass to Draymond Green just as David Lee commenced his roll to the basket demonstrates a coordination beyond mere chemistry. This was a great look because Jackson and his staff engineered it to be so. Consider the moving parts involved and their specificity:

 Hover over image for dynamic captions.

Had Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O'Neal, or even Lee himself been put in Green's position, they wouldn't at all draw Blake Griffin's defensive interest in the same way. Green, though, is just capable enough as a three-point shooter to make Griffin step his way when he catches beyond the arc. Similarly, Golden State wouldn't be running this set with Harrison Barnes handling the ball in place of Iguodala, nor with a lesser shooter standing in for Thompson or Curry. It works so well precisely because of the way the player's design draws from those involved -- an oft-overlooked consideration for teams that generalize their playbook across their rotation.

Just as impressive was this situation call by Rivers, whose team had just 1.2 seconds to fire up a shot following a sideline inbound:

That's a beauty. Most designed plays aim to turn the defense's natural instincts against them; they rely on a defender's personal responsibility to guard his man by using orchestrated movement and misdirection, the combination of which can turn a five-man defense into distinct one-on-one matchups. A defense segmented in that way can be exploited, as we saw in the play above.

  Hover over image for dynamic captions.

This play doesn't go off so cleanly without some defensive misstep along the way, but the play is also designed to provoke just that kind of misstep. Jamal Crawford -- a skilled quick-fire shooter -- runs a route that could end up in a three-pointer if Thompson doesn't pursue him over the screen. In doing so, however, the Clippers dare Marreese Speights to wander away from Griffin. He doesn't, and with the rest of the Warriors deliberately drawn out of rotation radius by well-coordinated action, that leaves Crawford with an unchallenged look at the basket.

More NBA playoff coverage

2014 NBA playoff schedule: Dates, times and analysis

NBA playoff predictions: SI experts give series-by-series picks

MAHONEY: Why your team will (or won’t) win the title

GOLLIVER: Five storylines to watch in 2014 playoffs

MAHONEY: Ranking first round series by watchability

GOLLIVER: Grading all 30 NBA teams’ seasons

AWARDS: Durant’s unanimous MVP winner

DOLLINGER Ranking playoff teams 1-16 in Power Rankings
SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.