So the Spurs kind of took it to the Warriors on opening night. I was curious if there was anything worth noting in it or if it was just a bad game by the Warriors.
So was there anything worth noting?
Yeah there were a few. And a lot of them were on the defensive end for the Warriors/Great gameplan by Coach pop.
Alright so that may not seem all that complicated, but it was actually a really great play design by the Spurs, and shows the main problem that the Warriors will be facing this year. Zaza Pachulia is their starting center.
On the surface that is a normal pick and roll, but once Parker gets into the paint, Aldridge essentially sets up and sets another pick, and both Steph Curry and Zaza Pachulia fall RIGHT into it giving Parker a easy layup.
Once again, that is a nice play design, but it is just one quick sign of a what the Warriors lost when the sent Bogut away. Bogut is, when on the floor, one of the best defenders in basketball. Not that he for sure would have made this play, but he would have likely snuffed out the 2nd pick coming and made a better play or at least not been in such poor position in the 2nd frame.
The simple fact is, what should be one of the best teams ever to step onto the court has Zaza Pachulia in their starting lineup. Zaza is not a bad player, but he is not that good either. And he certainly is not on the same level as Andrew Bogut at seeing where plays are going and snuffing them out. He also doesn't have the athleticism of (a healthy) Festus Ezeli to make up for his lack of brilliance.
This is a fairly classic Spurs set piece, with Pau filling in where Tim Duncan would've been. And once again, Zaza gets totally burned on it, and once Pau slipped the screen you can see that Zaza knows he done goofed, and he does not have the quickness or length to get back into the play. Once again, this is not really a horrible thing, the Spurs have been doing this exact play to teams for a really long time. But a lot of people forget that the Warriors defensive prowess has been just as important as their offense the past 2 years, and Bogut was a huge part of that.
When David West enters the game (nominally) playing center it only gets worse. You see, Zaza is a decent defensive player, he just can't make defensive reads on the same level as Andrew Bogut which is hardly a sin. David West on the other hand, was never all that good a defender to begin with, and before last year he never played center before in his life.
Here, the Spurs run a pick and roll with Simmons and Lee, and the reset the pick after the initial pick. Once Simmons starts to make his drive into the paint, West continues to slide with him, despite the fact that Ian Clarke has actually stuck with him AND Draymond Green is already there to wall off the paint, then all 3 of them jump into the air, leaving David Lee open for an easy pass.
Then in the last frame, you see why you want to have tall and athletic guys as your center, not short (by NBA center standards lol) and old guys who can't really jump anymore. Because David Lee is not exactly a high flyer at this point either, but West literally cannot jump high enough to do anymore than foul Lee. Zaza has a similar issue to this, although he is a bit bigger.
Just in general, the Spurs had too easy of a time getting into the paint, and you could see that Zaza (and others) were having trouble deciding when and where to help.
Like on this sequence, it isn't a horrible defensive possession for the Warriors, Kevin Durant is good enough defensively that you can live with him taking Kawhi 1 on 1, but there is no help for him at all and Kawhi gets into the paint far too easily, and when a player as good as Kawhi gets into the paint that easily and no help comes, he is going to make you pay. In this case he draws a foul on Durant.
Once again, look at this sequence. Kawhi takes Kevin Durant off the dribble, he doesn't beat him badly, but he gets a step. Zaza ends up standing in no mans land. Kevin Durant is a good defender, but it isn't really fair to ask him to straight up stop Kawhi with absolutely no help.
So the Warriors are doomed.
No. First off, a lot of these are plays they will get better at, and there were some that were much more obvious cases of them just not being totally in sync yet.
I mean look at that, it is a basic pick and roll with Manu and Aldridge, and both defenders (Klay and Draymond) follow Aldridge leaving Manu WIDE open for a 3. (that he would hit.) That sort of stuff (though not quite so obvious) happened several times in this game, they won't be doing that when the playoffs come around.
On this play the Warriors are going with the new look "death lineup". Kevin Durant has very little experience in such a lineup, and after the initial pick and roll gets Aldridge into space, Durant just sort of stands on the lower block probably wondering when Steven Adams is going to come and try and stop this dunk. The "Death Lineup" requires hyper active switching and frenzied closeouts, its strength is in its speed. Durant has to just slide down to stop that dunk while Klay either rushes over to Simmons with Draymond and Iggy following the train to cover for the other's guy, or they just let Simmons take that shot. Once again, this is something that Durant will learn as the season goes on.
Did the Warriors do any good?
Yes sir. The Spurs generally tried to switch mostly everything on defense, and the Warriors responded by mercilessly hunting Pau Gasol.
When Kevin Durant gets to go at Pau Gasol, it is going to end poorly for Pau Gasol.
They also got Steph Curry onto him several times, and Gasol decided he'd just sort of give Curry the 3 point shot.
That's not the defense Pop was teaching.
One thing about this though, is that the Warriors offense is going to have to look different this year. Last year it was a whirring machine of off ball cutting and passing with insane spacing to create holes all over the place. But I think that more teams will go with the "just switch everything" approach that the Spurs went with, which means the Warriors will want to do more "Give the ball to Kevin or Steph and let them score." which is not a bad thing, but it might mess up their mojo just a little bit. They still did have some of their normal wizardry though.
I mean, that is basketball brilliance. Unfortunately Klay missed the shot.
Why should Spurs fans feel good about this?
Because the Spurs have the goods to hurt the Warriors. The best way to attack the Warriors "switch everything" offense is with great isolation scorers, because ball screens and other shenanigans do very little when everything is getting switched by the defense. And in Aldridge and Leonard, the Spurs have two guys who are fully capable of doing that, it is the same basic principle that let the Thunder nearly beat the Warriors last year. If you just are beating them with isolation, all that switching is doing no good.
Also, Jonathon Simmons!!!! If he is actually going to be that good, the Spurs will be much more dangerous. Obviously he won't shoot so well every night, but he brings a hectic energy to the team that they don't really have otherwise. On that same note, the Spurs bench mob should be a blast all year, Patty Mills, Simmons, and Dedmon are all freaking maniacs.
Why should Warriors fans feel good about this?
You have Kevin Durant. He showed in the playoffs last year, that when fully locked in he can protect the rim. At some point he is going to be playing center in the death lineup and it is going to be terrifying.
A lot of the things that they screwed up will get better over time, and Klay Thompson is not going to shoot that poorly very often. I didn't bother to take shots of them, but he missed some WIDE open looks. Durant actually looked fairly comfortable in the offense, but it will take some time for him to mesh totally.
The biggest worry is the fact that the Warriors just sort of seemed to roll over eventually. Bill Simmons said this and I agree, it was just kind of weird.
But look, it was never going to be as easy as a lot of people were saying. This team will still be incredibly good lol. Just there are some issues (bigs, bench) and good teams will be able to find ways to hurt them.