Film Breakdown | NBA Finals Game 1 – Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors
Showing High on Stephen Curry Pick & Rolls – 6 seconds
To ensure that Stephen Curry could not anchor the Warriors half court offense, as well as to force lesser talents into larger roles, Toronto decided to “show high” to the level of the screen in all ball screens.
Effectively, this momentarily placed 2 defenders on Curry, while the remaining 3 Toronto defenders guarded 4 Golden State players. This worked to Toronto’s benefit due to the lack of spacing and shooting, as 1 defender could often competently guard 2 non-shooters.
Gasol did a tremendous job in this defensive coverage throughout Game 1. He was thought to be a point of weakness for Toronto’s defense coming in to the series by many pundits, as he is a large 7 footer. However, he is quite agile and gets to spots early. Additionally, he has some of the most active and effectively used hands to make passes to the Weak Side more difficult.
Klay Thompson Pindowns vs. Toronto’s Bigs – 135 seconds
In the same vein as their coverage guarding Curry pick and rolls, Toronto appeared to want to put 2 defenders on the ball for every catch Klay Thompson made coming off of Pindowns.
However, due to poor execution, Thompson was able to spring free and get clean scoring opportunities.
Golden State’s Offensive Counters – 195 seconds
The Warriors ran the same – Delay Punch Slip – twice in the 2nd half to counter Toronto’s aggressive defensive coverage against them. By setting a “Split Cut” screen with Kevon looney (a non-shooter) for Thompson, Toronto was coerced into sending 2 defenders to Thompson. However, Golden State was ready for that and had Looney slip to the rim with minimal help available due to careful spacing.
By having Curry receive ball screens at half court, Toronto’s ability to “show high” and corral him with the screen defender becomes more difficult. Curry’s momentum is harder to contain and he can burst through this defensive coverage more easily.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Various Pick & Roll Coverages – 267 seconds
Switch to Blitz: Golden State introduced some trickery via defensive scheme late in the 4th quarter when they looked as though they were continuing to simply switch ball screens with Kawhi. However, after Kawhi retreated, sized up his mismatch, and drained time off the shot clock, the Warriors would eventually spring a trap and blitz Kawhi. With so little time left on the shot clock, it was difficult to take advantage of the unguarded players.
Showing to Screen Level: Just as Toronto did to force the ball out of Curry’s hands, so to did Golden State attempt to get the ball out of Kawhi’s hands in ball screens. However, Toronto has more off-ball shooting to execute on the advantage of unguarded players than Golden State.
Kawhi did not look nearly as comfortable or healthy as he did to end the Conference Finals, but he still was able to produce and hurt Golden State’s big men when they switched ball screens. A couple of pull up three-pointers and a healthy dose of drawn fouls buoyed his offensive productive in these scenarios.
Blitz: Earlier on in the game, Golden State went to a simpler coverage where they immediately blitzed Kawhi coming off of ball screens, instead of waiting until later in the clock as they did towards the late 4th quarter.
Loading Up vs. Kawhi Leonard’s Isolations – 463 seconds
When Kawhi isolated his defender on the Wing or the Low Block, with the remaining 4 Toronto players on the Weak Side of the floor, Golden State loaded up to the ball and brought an extra defender to the Strong Side.
As a result, Golden state felt they could defend the 4 Weak Side offensive players with 3 defenders in a tight and confined space.
Once again, this is a strategy to limit Kawhi’s individual offensive production and to test his passing.