Raptors 131, Warriors 128
- The Raptors took a big lead early and hung on to beat the Warriors in overtime despite a herculean performance from Kevin Durant.
- The Raptors got off to a great start, led by Kawhi Leonard who abused the Warriors on the switch of the ball screen. I will break it down below, but the Raptors were really able to get good looks all night in the ball screen, even after the Warriors stopped exclusively switching their 5 onto Kawhi.
- In the first half, and especially the first quarter, the Raptors were very good in transition and were incredibly effective offensively off of Golden State turnovers. That trend continued in overtime as the Raptors scored 5 points in transition off of Golden State turnovers.
- The Raptors really struggled in this game, as they have all year, covering off ball actions and down screens in particular. They were not confident or successful in their base defense (chasing every down screen), so they began to switch, but their communication on switches was poor.
- The skill level of the Warriors, in particular KD and Klay Thompson, was on display in this game. The Raptors did play well defensively and competed very hard on that end, but both KD and Thompson hit difficult shot, after difficult shot.
Ball Screen Offense
Vs. The Switch
- In the modern NBA, the ability to switch the ball screen might be the most coveted defensive asset that teams look for. The Warriors have won 3 NBA Championships with a stingy defense that make its very difficult for their opponents to gain an advantage due to their ability to effectively switch their bigs on to opposing guards.
- In this game, the Warriors started the game switching their 5 men onto Kawhi Leonard, who methodically punished them every time they switched. Below is a compilation of every time the Warriors switched their big onto Kawhi in the first half.
The Warriors had to change their ball screen strategy early because of the success Kawhi had against their bigs in the switch. As you can see in the clips above, they just couldn’t stop him in 1 on 1 situations.
- The warriors adjustment was to throw different looks at Kawhi in the ball screen – they trapped, dropped, hedged and ICE’d. Kawhi was able to effectively pass out of the 2 on 1 situations and find his teammates, however the Raptors weren’t able to capitalize on their looks. If they were, the Warriors wouldn’t have been able to catch up:
Notice in these clips the Warriors wouldn’t switch the ball screen, as the only player they were comfortable with covering Kawhi with was KD. Kawhi used the experience he gained from the 4th quarter of the Memphis game, read the situation and became a distributor. He was able to constantly create open looks but his teammates weren’t hitting shots at a high percentage.
- Apart from Kawhi, the other Raptors guards were also able to create great looks all night out of the ball screen.
- Staying on the offensive end, the Raptors were very good in transition in this game, running at every opportunity they had. They also contributed to their offensive transition by creating and capitalizing on plenty of Golden Sate turnovers.
These clips are from the first quarter alone, where the Raptors constantly put pressure on the Warriors in transition by playing fast. Notice how disciplined the Raptors wings are with sprinting wide and getting the 3 point line in transition. Combine that with Siakam’s freakish ability to run the floor and collapse the defense, and the Raptors cause defences lots of problems.
- This trend continued in overtime where the Raptors made the two biggest plays of the game in transition – both from forcing Golden State into turnovers.
Defense – Struggling with off-ball Screens
- Apart from KD and Klay making incredibly difficult shots, the Raptors biggest technical issue on the defensive end was their inability to consistently cover off-ball screens. The Raptors plan is to switch equals (1-4) on any screen, and chase when the 5’s man is the screener (this principle applies loosely to their ball screen coverage as well).
- While occasionally being successful, the Raptors made plenty of mistakes and generally looked confused by what their plan was against these types of actions. Lets take a look at some clips:
Notice in these clips the Raptors being unsure of how they want to handle 1-4 off-ball screens. In the first 2 clips, they don’t switch, but the screeners defender is not aggressive slowing down or preventing the cutter from getting the ball. When an aggressive defensive team like the Raptors is this tentative, it’s usually a sign of confusion. In the third clip you’ll notice CJ switch the screen, but Kawhi doesn’t switch. In the last clip, you’ll notice that Lowry switches but Green doesn’t.
- This trend continued into the 4th quarter, where the Raptors got burned in 2 transition screen situations:
This exact situation happened twice in the 4th quarter (the second clip had a very bad camera angle), but this is just a simple switch that isn’t communicated. If any two players on the Raptors should be switching together, it should by Kawhi and OG as they are very similar defensively, so this shouldn’t have happened.
- To further express how confused the Raptors were handling these actions, watch this clip:
VanVleet randomly switches onto Klay who curls the the second screen of the staggers action – which is a heads up play from him because Kawhi lost his chase – but he doesn’t see the ball on the Warriors throw the pass right over his head. The Warriors are incredibly good at making teams pay for mistakes, and they feast on teams who aren’t confident in their plan.
- As much as the defenders off the ball struggled to figure this out, there are many situations where these types of mistakes can be covered up with good ball pressure which can limit the passers vision – this didn’t happen often.
- Also, part of what makes the Warriors so good (especially when Curry isn’t on the floor) is that they confuse a defense with many similar sized players. If you are not willing to switch everything, and instead put rules on the situations that you want to switch, the speed of the game and the confidence with which GSW run their actions will undoubtedly force mistakes.
KD and Klay
- Although the Raptors made their mistakes, they did compete very hard and they forced Golden State into many difficult shots. Unfortunately for the Raptors, Klay and KD are two of the best offensive talents in the world. I put together a compilation of highly contested, well defended shots that both of them made – the old saying of great offense beats great defence very much applies here. Enjoy..
- I really liked how KD made a point of refusing to switch off of Kawhi after the 1st quarter – KD gets knocked a lot for his move to Golden State, and an oft used criticism of him is his competitiveness, but he demanded that he guard Kawhi the rest of the game. Watching those two go head to head all night was highly entertaining.
- The coaching staff has done a great job of managing JV’s minutes so that he doesn’t have to end up covering the ball screen against guards who can really expose him. With that being said, I think Nurse and his staff left him in too long near the end of the 3rd quarter with KD on the floor, who attacked him twice in the ball screen which led to 2 easy pull ups, and Durant getting hot.
- The Raptors need to clean up their defensive rebounding, as the Warriors destroyed them in the 4th quarter on the O-Boards.
- The Raptors are starting to more frequently set mid-ball screens with Siakam, and the trend continued in this game. His ability to attack his defender on the pop and get downhill puts a lot of pressure on the rim. Look for the Raptors to do more of this throughout the year (especially if his 3 keeps falling).