With 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter Golden State Warriors” NBA Finals rematch vs Boston CelticsSteph Curry got an easy shot from a Jason Tatum spin – an attempt to skip towards the weak corner was easily tracked and intercepted by Jordan Paul.
Far from a made basket, one would think an NBA-level defense could easily go over his points and spot-me while returning to the defense: What coverage is being played? man or region? If it’s the guy, are we all matched with who we’re supposed to match with?
Arguably, conformity is the core concept in the transitional advocacy. It can be difficult when there is a turnover or a missed shot because players are taught to pick the players closest to them while running back. Smaller players can take on larger players in the front court, while lumbering big players can find themselves defending on the perimeter against quick and crafty guards.
Obviously, it’s much easier to go back and match right when you’re out of a crafting bucket. Which is why this possession was so confusing:
Jaylen Brown coached the third clutch winger to complete the Celtics’ rally from what was once an 11-point deficit. But what caused Brown to inexplicably open up on the wing — and out of a made bucket?
So, make sure everything on this transition defense checklist has been fully accounted for:
- What coverage is it running? Answer: man to man.
- Who is supposed to match with whom? Answer: Draymond Green at Al Horford; Andrew Wiggins as Jason Tatum; Carrie on Malcolm Brogdon; Klay Thompson on Marcus Smart; and Jordan Paul on Brown.
Which makes it even more frustrating because Paul – who had a good run on defense – forgot where he was supposed to be and who was supposed to pick him up.
Let’s say Paul was where he was supposed to be: showing early help to potential driving and being extra defensive towards the side the ball is on – a form of what is commonly called ‘strong side overloading’.
My gripe with that is that any kind of two-man action at Smart-Brogdon is no reason to send in an extra helper from the weak side. Those are two very good players, but one would think that the theoretical Tatum-Brown measure would rule this type of coverage – which it clearly isn’t.
Granted, that wasn’t just Paul’s fault. Curry and Thompson failed to switch on the guard between Smart and Brogdon. That left Smart — he had shot 32.9% on threes before the match but was 3 of 6 at that point — momentarily open.
Then Smart finds Brown falling behind on the weak wing, with Paul having to help Smart – leaving him out of position and in no way to recover and compete with Brown’s three (to Wiggins’ credit, he tried but couldn’t do anything against the space and tempo that was set supply Brown tags).
But you’re supposed to be helping him? Thompson was on the way to recovering and competing with shot putter potential Smart. If anything, it was Wiggins who was supposed to be stunted in Smart, not Paul. If Wiggins commits to a full contest, the next guy to turn should be Paul, whether it’s towards Tatum or Brown.
Somewhat related to being off the defensive, over assists have also been a huge issue this season for the Warriors – I’ve written about it several times this season alone (including in This widgetAnd This widgetAnd This tooand do not forget this).
Green himself has explicitly mentioned a defensive ailment that the Warriors have suffered from all this season: overassisting to the strong side, or helping one out from the strong angle.
“Lamb did a great job of tackling and taking over… although he did help out from the hard side corner… so I told him great job.. but don’t help like that again” – Draymond
– Justin (@RIPKOBE) (ThePackageJG) January 17, 2023
In my opinion, avoiding assists in a strong-side corner should be the rule without exception – unless, of course, your name is Draymond Green.
Even in Green’s most “overassisting” outside of a strong side corner, he’s never fully committed to assisting the lead – he does his best to throw in drivers for a split second but is always still in a position to recover and stick with it. man in the corner.
But even Green has his moments when he forgets to stick to the rules. It happened against the Celtics in overtime:
The Celtics run an Elbow motion from the HORNS (ball handler up, two players at elbows, two players at both corners). Brown puts up a backscreen for Tatum that Wiggins and Thompson switch over—but Wiggins ends up on the wrong end of the switch on Brown, who backs away.
Green’s instinct as an assist defender is to help cut, but Thompson is already there to get ahead of the Browns – making Green’s full assist commitment unnecessary. All he does is help the Celtics get further, thanks to Horford’s third cornerback.
Admittedly, it is difficult to keep instinct in check. Even the most trained and disciplined defensemen/defenders have these little thoughts now and then. Human nature is a hump that can be very difficult to overcome.
But the best defenses minimize these mental thoughts. There were plenty of reasons why they finished second in the defensive rankings last season and rode that pedigree toward the championship.
More than having better personnel and having the greatest defender of his generation anchor their defence, they had a key element of last season that feels glaringly absent this year.
Their lack makes them the 11th-ranked defense in the league in overtime disposals — decent, but not transcendent.