The New Defense and Tired Curry
The Warriors beat the Hornets, albeit in an ugly fashion. You could call the win “unimpressive” while marveling at how Warriors fans can shrug at a victory these days.
GSW was beset by another shooting slump from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, but David Lee’s offense and the team’s overall defense compensated for a lack of backcourt shooting. I’ve been keyed on the defense in particular, as the Warriors have switched up their strategy. Instead of having the big men race out and “show” hard at ballhandlers in pick and roll, the Warriors are putting their slower footed bigs in an easier spot. Guys like David Lee get to drift backwards like breeze-caressed dandelions, instead of running back and forth.
This shifts a lot of the caloric burden from big men to guards. Here’s Stephen Curry explaining as much, and confirming that the new scheme is more “strenuous” (By the way, I don’t know why the shot is so blurry and narrow, and I apologize a million times over):
It is now the job of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to chase their men around screens and hound them while David Lee, Carl Landry and Festus Ezeli slink. The scurrying has been outsourced, delegated from big to small. Take a look at this pick-and-roll involving Curry and Ezeli from last Hornets game.
As Steph Curry gets screened by Anthony Davis, Ezeli slowly backs away. Notice how Steph has blurry feet in the shot, and Festus has sharp-looking clodhoppers. One of these guys is moving faster.
After Curry runs around the screen to chase Greivis Vasquez and shade him to where Ezeli is, the final act is to corner him.
Klay Thompson helps out on Anthony Davis as Curry chases Vasquez into the corner. It’s a multiple guard effort.
Now compare that with how the defense used to be. Here, Nate Robinson (remember him?) gets screened by LaMarcus Aldridge, whom David Lee is covering.
Instead of racing around to chase his man, Nate will be helped out by a “showing” David Lee.
David Lee has succeeded in thwarting Raymond Felton’s drive, but his work is not finished.
David Lee–despite his lack of speed and foot-agility–must race back to LaMarcus Aldridge, lest the Portland big man get too open.
Notice how much Nate Robinson moved on the play? The answer is, “not much.” GSW’s guards are now more involved than ever on defense, in the cardiovascular sense especially. It’s worked wonderfully, allowing the Warriors to claim an 11th ranking on defense, despite a lack of size and shotblocking. Everything comes at a cost, though. GSW’s asking for a lot more from the guards, which could lead to fatigue and shakier offense on the other end. Henry Abbott recently expressed concern over Curry’s high minute totals, what with Jarrett Jack on the bench and all. Given Steph’s injury history, a successful defensive strategy may put his health at risk.