In the playoffs, every little detail counts. Every dribble, every shot, every pass–everything. The smallest misstep could result in the biggest loss of the series. Teams have to make sure that they mind their P’s and Q’s because every step that they take has the potential to be a landmine.
The Los Angeles Clippers found that out the hard way. They lost a close game 1 on their home floor to the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry didn’t have a great game, but Blake Griffin was in foul trouble and he only saw 19 minutes of floor time. Chris Paul played well enough to get them the win, but they didn’t make the plays down the stretch to make it happen.
The biggest thing that the Clippers did wrong, though, was on the defensive end. They weren’t quick enough in their rotations and that allowed the Warriors a few extra buckets to win them the game.
Again, every step is crucial. Being late by just a half-second on a rotation can kill you in the playoffs. And with the coverage that the Clippers played on the Warriors shooters, they needed to be in the right place at the right time.
The Clippers are a normally aggressive team on defense. Their bigs will routinely come out to the free throw line to defend a player on the perimeter and try to trap the ball to force a turnover.
With Curry, the idea is to stop him from getting an easy look from three off of the dribble. This is a common tactic used against guards who can shoot the ball off the dribble. But the Warriors have a plethora of shooters and the Clippers chose to used this strategy against them all.
Even when using off-ball screens, the Clippers would send two defenders to chase the shooter. That left a man wide open down low and that means that the wings have got to be on point with their rotations. If they’re not, plays like this one happen.
This is a case of excellent interior passing. Not all teams have bigs who can move the ball like this. David Lee and Draymond Green are two of the better big men in the league when it comes to making the extra pass. They used this to their advantage when Davis and Collison both fought over the David Lee screen. Lee was left open, he shuffles the ball to Green.
Deandre Jordan was just a hair late on his rotation to Green and that allowed Green to gather himself and make that quick pass to Jermaine O’Neal. The same thing happens below after O’Neal screens Klay Thompson.
Griffin gets over way too late and O’Neal is already at the rim. Even if he misses, that’s an easy look you don’t want to allow. It creates a four on three situation where an offensive rebound will be readily available to the opponent without perfect defensive execution. This is a risky gameplan employed by the Clippers, but it’s one that will get the ball out of Curry’s hands. They really don’t have much of a choice in this series.
In game two, though, the Clippers tightened things up a bit. They made their rotations from the wings early and often. They weren’t as worried about the three point shot from the wing because Klay Thompson got into foul trouble early. With Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala out on the wings, they were more than willing to help a bit early.
The Warriors had 26 turnovers because they never made any tweaks to their game 1 plan. Although it was a smart plan, they still had a high turnover number and Blake Griffin still didn’t play in the game. The Clippers were going to be ready for David Lee diving into the lane this time. They helped early and often on him.
Pay close attention to how Granger slides over from the wing and gets into the passing lane.
Before David Lee even turns around to hit the paint, Danny Granger has his eyes on him and sees where the pass is about to come from. He comes over and helps early and that forces the turnover. Draymond Green doesn’t even see him and just blindly makes the pass.
This was the main problem for the Warriors. The Warriors lost by 40 points, but that isn’t the number we should be looking at. The biggest number for them were their 26 turnovers.
The Clippers have the best offense in the NBA and they’re certainly the best team in transition. With a bevy of shooters and finishers, the Clippers will destroy you if you let them get into the open floor. There’s no way that you can allow that to happen if you’re the Warriors.
It’s going to be all about ball control in game 3 for Golden State. They can’t afford to let the Clippers do this to them again. They’re going to have to make sure that they’re making the right decisions with the ball off of the catch instead of making the first reactionary play. If that means holding the ball for an extra second and letting the defense get set, then so be it. That’s better than giving up points in transition in this series.
Stephen Curry was able to get going in this one and he only had two turnovers. The Clippers are getting the ball out of his hands early in the Warriors’ offensive possessions, but other guys just have to make plays. If they can’t, the Warriors have no shot in winning this series.