With 28 seconds to go in the fourth quarter of the warriors of the golden state‘ nba finals revenge against him boston celticsSteph Curry got an easy layup off a Jayson Tatum turnover, a jump pass attempt to the weakside corner that Jordan Poole followed up and easily intercepted.
Starting with a made basket, you’d think an NBA-level defense would easily cross their t’s and dot their i’s as they return to defense: What coverage is being played? Man or zone? Yeah man, are we all paired with who we’re supposed to be paired with?
Matching is arguably the most fundamental concept in transition defense. It can be difficult when dealing with a turnover or missed shot because players are taught to pick up the players closest to them while running. Smaller players can be paired with larger frontcourt players, while big heavyweights can find themselves defending on the perimeter against quick and crafty guards.
Obviously, it’s much easier to go back and pair correctly when it’s a done cube. Which is why this possession was extremely unnerving:
Jaylen Brown punches the clutch wing three to complete the Celtics’ rally from a deficit that was once as big as 11 points. But what caused Brown to inexplicably split open on the wing, and out of a bucket made?
So make sure everything on the transition defense checklist is taken into account:
- What is the coverage being played? Answer: man to man.
- Who is supposed to be paired with whom? Answer: Draymond Green over Al Horford; Andrew Wiggins on Jayson Tatum; Curry on Malcolm Brogdon; Klay Thompson on Marcus Smart; and Jordan Poole on Brown.
Which makes it all the more frustrating that Poole, who otherwise put in a good defensive performance, forgot where he was supposed to be and who he was supposed to pick up.
Let’s just say Poole was where he was supposed to be: showing early help on potential breakthroughs and being an extra defender towards the ball side, a form of what’s generally called “strongside overload”.
The gripe I have with that is that any kind of two-man action from Smart-Brogdon is no reason to send in an extra weakside helper. Those are two very good players, but you’d think a theoretical Tatum-Brown move would get that kind of coverage, which clearly wasn’t the case.
Okay, it wasn’t just Poole’s fault. Curry and Thompson botched a switch on guard-guard screen between Smart and Brogdon. That left Smart, shooting 32.9% on 3-pointers before the game, but he was 3-for-6 at the time, momentarily open.
Smart then finds Brown creeping into the weakside wing, with Poole forced to help Smart, leaving him further out of position and with no condition to rally and contest Brown’s three (to Wiggins’ credit, he tried but couldn’t). . do anything against the space and pace that Brown was provided).
But whose help was it supposed to be? Thompson was on his way to recover and contest Smart’s potential shot. In any case, it was Wiggins who was supposed to be stunted at Smart, not Poole. If Wiggins commits to a full contest, the next man to make the rotation should be Poole, either to Tatum or Brown.
Something to do with being out of position on defense, helping too much has also been a major issue this season for the Warriors – I’ve written about it several times this season alone (including in this piece, this piece, this one tooand do not forget This).
Green himself explicitly mentioned a defensive ailment the Warriors have suffered from this season: excessive strongside help, or helping one die in the strongside corner.
“Lamb did a great job of stepping in and taking over…although he helped from a strong side angle…so I told him great job…but don’t ever help like that again” -Draymond
— Justin (RIPKOBE) (@ThePackageJG) January 17, 2023
In my opinion, avoiding helping from the strongside corner should be the rule without exception, unless of course your name is Draymond Green.
Even in most of Green’s “over-help” out of the strongside corner, he doesn’t fully commit to helping out on drives: he does stunts to throw drivers off the scent for a split-second goal. man in the corner
But even Green has moments when he forgets to stick to the rules. He happened against the Celtics in overtime:
The Celtics run the elbow action off of HORNS (the ball handler on top, two players on the elbows, and two players on both corners). Brown sets up a back screen for Tatum which Wiggins and Thompson switch in, but Wiggins ends up on the wrong end of the switch for Brown, who steps back.
Green’s instinct as a help defender is to help on the cut, but Thompson is already there to get ahead of Brown, making Green’s full commitment to help unnecessary. All he does is help the Celtics pull further away, courtesy of a 3-pointer from Horford.
It is true that it is difficult to keep instinct under control. Even the most highly trained and disciplined defensemen/defenders have these mini-brainfarts from time to time. Human nature is a hump that can be extremely difficult to overcome.
But the best defenses minimize these brain farts as much as possible. There were many reasons why they ranked second in defensive rating last season and carried that pedigree toward a championship.
More than just having a better staff and having the greatest defender of his generation anchoring their defense, they had a key ingredient last season that feels conspicuously missing this year.
The lack of that has them as the 11th-ranked defense in the league by eliminating junk time, decent but not consequential.