Clippers X’s and O’s: Game 5 at Golden State Warriors


November 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6, right) blocks the shot of Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s most heated rivalry kicked off with the Golden State Warriors winning a battle against the Los Angeles Clippers 112-108.

Offensively, the Clippers played quite well against the Warriors’ stifling defense. However, it was the Clippers’ defense that waned, being down as many as 17 points and blowing a late fourth quarter lead.

Once Stephen Curry got hot, the Clippers had no answer.

Everything the Warriors ran late in the game was predicated by a high screen-and-roll with Curry. The Clippers were unable to adjust and ended up losing another big game in the closing minutes despite being up double digits after the third.

This article series will focus on breaking down the Clippers x’s and o’s, analyzing key plays from each side of the floor. The goal here is to take a seat inside the coaches film room and see what the team executed well and where the breakdowns were.

Let’s get started with the Clippers and Warriors tape…

In case you somehow haven’t noticed, Blake Griffin has been otherworldly to begin the season. He currently ranks fourth in points per game, sixth in rebounds per game and second in PER and win shares, according to Basketball Reference.

Griffin’s reads and decision making have caught up to his skills, which make him nearly impossible to defend. The above clip is a great example.

First, Griffin grabs a rebound and brings the ball up the floor in transition. Doc Rivers has worked on this with his team, because you can see Lance Stephenson and Austin Rivers sprint to the corners while Jamal Crawford pulls Shaun Livingston away from the action by staying above the break and drifting to the ball-side sideline.

DeAndre Jordan sets up behind Draymond Green, setting a flat screen which allows Griffin to attack going to his left. Griffin sees Marreese Speights help off Jordan, allowing him to slow his attack with a hesitation dribble behind his back (something you won’t see many power forwards attempt).

This momentary pause by Griffin allows Jordan to screen Green out of the play and then disengage the pick, creating a two-on-one in the paint against Speights, who isn’t a great defender.

Speights is beat, because he can’t come off Griffin attacking the basket. Griffin immediately begins to toss a lob to Jordan, but actually hangs in the air to allow Jordan time to roll into position to finish, before dishing it off with one hand.

That sequence is what makes Griffin elite offensively. His vision is as good as any forward in the league, but his lightning-fast reads allow him to use his skills to counter defensive assignments.

Although many of the Clippers’ sets were ineffective because of the Warriors’ amazing defense, this one worked quite well.

First, J.J. Redick and Jordan being the set inverted. After Griffin and Chris Paul, Jordan and Redick are the second-most lethal tag-team partners on the roster.

Redick begins the play by setting a down screen on Festus Ezeli. The reason for the down screen is to keep Curry’s eyes focused on his man, Redick. Essentially, the set turns into a 1-4 low, with Griffin operating on the opposite block and Rivers sitting in the far corner.

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Paul comes off Jordan’s initial screen heading left. However, this is a decoy screen in order to setup a closer screen on Paul’s defender, Kay Thompson. Jordan doesn’t come all the way out on Thompson, allowing him to easily go over the screen and trail Paul.

Next, Jordan immediately turns and sets a tight screen on Thompson, because Paul did not draw him too far out. Now, they are able to attack heading to Paul’s hot-spot on the right elbow.

Much like the Clippers’ new pick-and-roll coverage, which I detailed last week, Ezeli sags off the screen to protect the paint. The set essentially turns into a common pick-and-roll attack with multiple options for Paul, stressing the Warriors’ defense.

Typically, Paul would either pull up for a jumper at the elbow, read Ezeli for a lob to Jordan or kick out to Rivers in the ball-side corner off a Griffin back screen. As you can see, Paul obviously has his open jumper at the elbow. Instead Jordan’s roll sucks Curry, the target of this play, into the paint to dig.

As soon as Jordan rolls, Redick slides up from the corner, into Paul’s passing vision. Curry realizes Ezeli doesn’t need help and attempts to recover from his dig, but it is too late. Paul zips a pass to Redick, who was the target all along, and he nails an open three.

Unfortunately, this clip above has become more and more commonplace in Crawford’s offensive repertoire, despite playing quite efficiently two seasons ago.

The ball is pushed ahead in transition, but all five Warriors are already back defending.

Griffin executes a dribble hand off with Crawford, who has the lanky, 6’7″ Shaun Livingston on him. Livingston cuts off Crawford’s lane to the rim and Griffin comes back over to run a side screen-and-roll. This is common continuity in the team’s offense, except for the fact that Stephenson and Jordan have barely crossed halfcourt.

Livingson fights over the screen, Green helps on Crawford’s penetration and Speights literally has nobody to guard and also helps into the lane to cutoff penetration. Instead of kicking the ball out to Stephenson to reset the offense or even to Griffin for an open three, Crawford attempts a wild off-balance shot with 14 seconds left on the shot clock.

These are bad shots and wasted possessions, most notably when attacking three-on-one against the league’s best defense.

Here, we see a really nice misdirection play designed by the Warriors.

Curry brings the ball up the floor and Harrison Barnes flashes for a high ball screen. Curry crosses right and heads into a faux pick. Instead of setting the pick on Rivers, Barnes slips and cuts towards the basket and then fills into the corner.

Next, Green darts out and sets a screen on Rivers with Curry now heading to his left.

Again, the Clippers’ new pick-and-roll coverage has Jordan sagging off screens to help protect the rim. The Warriors clearly saw the Clippers’s new pick-and-roll coverage on film and knew they could take advantage of Jordan via this set.

Curry turns the corner off a great screen by Green and has what amounts to miles of space between the best shooter in the league and the Jordan, the closest defender. Curry gracefully pulls up and knocks down a three, which might as well haven been a layup.

So, how will the Clippers adjust the coverage as the game moves along?

Next: DeAndre Jordan is officially the best rebounder in Clippers history

First, the situation. The Warriors are down one with just over a minute left in the game. Curry has been red hot during the fourth quarter, nailing three after three.

As Curry crosses halfcourt, Clippers fans should see a recognizable set, one the team abused the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs with in the playoffs last season.

The Clippers ran horns sets (double high post) as well as anyone in the league last year. However, they modified that set in the playoffs to shed defenders like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Corey Brewer off Paul. Instead of the two bigs setting up at the elbow, they ran out near halfcourt and essentially trapped whoever was on Paul with a double screen.

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Here, we see Curry cross halfcourt when Green and Barnes sprint out beyond the three-point line to set a double screen on Paul.

Jordan realizes what is about to happen and slides to his right to initiate his pick-and-roll coverage. The problem is he doesn’t jump out on Curry and he buries another open three.

Looking closer at the film you can actually see Rivers attempt to push Jordan out on Curry after he comes off the double screen. Additionally, you can view Clippers assistant coaches Lawrence Frank and Sam Cassell toss their arms and heads back in agony. Cassell yells at Jordan to step out on Curry, which was their adjustment late in the game to defend him coming off picks.

The logic was sound to push Jordan up to contest Curry’s threes coming off screens, but why wasn’t that adjustment made earlier? In this clip, Curry nailed his fourth three of the quarter, all of them coming in the last 5:32 of the game, which essentially sealed the victory.