Film Study: Warriors keep bringing the D

VIDEO: The Warriors talk about their Game 5 win

OAKLAND — Through the first five games of The Finals, the difference between wins and losses has been the Golden State Warriors’ offense. They have scored 114 points per 100 possessions in Games 1, 4 and 5, but just 95.3 in Games 2 and 3.

The constant has been their defense, having allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to score just 99 points per 100 possessions in both their wins and their losses. Cleveland had the postseason’s No. 1 offense through the conference finals, but it has been shut down by the regular season’s No. 1 defense in this series.

Kyrie Irving‘s absence over the last four games has something to do with that. Through the first three rounds, the Cavs’ offense wasn’t much worse with Irving off the floor (108.2 points scored per 100 possessions) than it was with him on the floor (108.9). But the extra load that LeBron James has had to carry obviously has taken its toll. Over the five games, the Cavs’ offense has been at its best in the first quarter and at its worst in the fourth.


Still, the Warriors deserve plenty of credit for making James work for his 36.6 points per game and for keeping what’s left of his supporting cast in check. It’s not like we can ignore what they’ve done defensively over the last eight months and put all of the blame for the Cavs’ offensive struggles on their injuries.

After another strong defensive performance in Game 5 on Sunday (particularly in the second half), the Warriors are one win from their first NBA championship in 40 years. Here’s a few ways they got it done defensively in Game 5 …

The J.R. adjustment

After a rough first four games, J.R. Smith got going in the first half of Game 5, scoring 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting (4-for-10 from 3-point range), with two of those shots being half-court heaves at the end of quarters. But he finished with those same 14 points, shooting 0-for-4 in the second half (all on threes).

In the first half, Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston were chasing Smith around and trying to fight through screens.



That wasn’t working. With the Warriors’ guards getting caught in those screens, Smith had time to catch, square and shoot. So, Golden State switched those pin-down screens in the second half.





Smith either didn’t get the ball, or got it too far from (and going away from) the basket to get any comfortable looks.

Switch and stay in front

James was somewhat efficient in the first half, scoring 20 points on 15 shots, with six of those 15 coming in the restricted area…

LeBron James' first-half shot chart, Game 5.

LeBron James’ first-half shot chart, Game 5.

The Warriors did a much better job of keeping him away from the basket in the second half, when he scored 20 points on 19 shots, with only two of the 19 coming in the restricted area.

LeBron James' second-half shot chart, Game 5.

LeBron James’ second-half shot chart, Game 5.

A big part of the Warriors’ defensive success this season was their ability to switch on screens with a bunch of players who had similar length and size. Andre Iguodala has been the primary defender on James all series, but Golden State hasn’t been willing to switch on screens in order to keep James in front of them.

Over his career, James has shot 71 percent in the restricted area, but just 41 percent in the area of the paint outside the restricted area. So if you can keep him from getting all the way to the basket, you’re twice as likely to get a stop.

Though James is much bigger than Klay Thompson and much quicker than Draymond Green, both guys were able to keep him from getting all the way to the rim and contest his shots on second-half switches with Iguodala.





The well-timed double

Though the Warriors effectively removed Timofey Mozgov from the game by double-teaming him in the post early and often, they didn’t double-team James very much. There was one occasion in the second half, however, where a well-timed double-team by Thompson forced James into one of his two turnovers.

After a Warriors turnover, James takes the ball directly into the post against Harrison Barnes with Thompson guarding Matthew Dellavedova at the top of the key…


As Barnes holds his ground at the left block, Dellavedova joins Smith and Iman Shumpert on the weak side of the floor…


Thompson uses that move as an opportunity to double-team James in the post, knowing that Iguodala and Stephen Curry can guard all three Cavs on the weak side…


James sees the trap coming and tries to get rid of the ball, but he doesn’t see Shumpert coming back to the strong side and Iguodala intercepts the cross-court pass.

Given the way the Warriors have defended James in the post most of the series, that looked like an audible from Thompson. And it was a pretty smart and timely one.

It’s true that the Cavs don’t have all the tools that made them one of the league’s best offenses in the regular season and through the conference finals. It’s also true that this is the best defense they’ve faced all year.


  1. Jerry O'Neal says:

    Here’s the real deal Holyfield time,

    My suggestion to the Warriors is this. In the Playoffs, if you get to the rim dunk the ball !!!!!!!!, each and every time , YOU WILL NOT MISS, or you will be fouled. A foul every 24 seconds or less, then WA-LA 10 drives and 10 fouls on the Cav’s, 2:40 seconds and the Cav’s are done, simple as that !!!! The world watched the Warriors missed 10 layups in game 5 and all other games the same thing happened , even in game one when Kirie blocked Steph. The Warriors have allowed the Cav’s to hang around all series long , no turnovers equals double digit wins, , not even taking into account the missed free throws into the equation, and beat the CAV’S by 30 points with this one simple- simple- simple- adjustment.

  2. Jerry O'Neal says:

    The MVP can only come from a winning team in any professional league. The thought of an MVP being on the losing team goes against what competition stands for, All true sports fans knows the loosing team cannot claim a MVP because they lost, and cannot logically be the most valuable player, its an sportsman like gesture by people who do not play and really know nothing of physical competition, it would be a slap in the face and would be telling our children and adults alike , that team effort is less important THAN individual efforts. If the warriors had funneled the ball to Curry, Thompson, or anyone else, their numbers would also had be artificially inflated. The Warriors would have beaten the Cav’s with Love and Irving, and we look forward to next year’s finals to prove it.

    It would have just occurred a little quicker since the emotion displayed by the Cav’s is not normal emotion , and their play has shown this to be true..

    GO GOLDEN STATE 120-101

  3. Jerry O'Neal says:

    The warriors will do what they do in close out games and run the cav’s into the post season, my suggestion is trap James on entering the key, and force turnovers, and then run, run, run….

  4. paul murray says:

    The NBA keeps hyping this mismatch as a great defensive struggle. Here are the struggles: Warriors can’t hit anything in games 2 and 3 and played terrible basketball, the Cavs are completely outmatched. Smith and Delladova and Musgov are being heroic but they are just not that talented, not for a final series. Kerr has not done a great job motivating and Blatt has done some strange things from time to time. Of course everyone loves it because it is James versus Curry. James has shown he is much superior to Curry. Curry has been non-existent from time to time and he is not a complete package as a player. Not a great series at all for basketball but great for NBA and people who never watch the game.

  5. Badasi12b says:

    LOL, even the headline picture with Delly and Curry has Delly doing something dirty!!! LOL!

  6. harriethehawk says:

    The Warriors really don’t want this thing to end in Cleveland. Because it will. If it does. lol

  7. tr11158 says:

    There is no doubt that LeBron is the best player on the floor in this series and yes, the best player in the world today but alas, basketball is a team game and Golden State has been the better team all year.

  8. justhavingfun says:

    I wonder why it takes 3 games to figure out that they need to double LBJ. Warriors are a team of good defense through fast pace which was obvious during regular season.

  9. Bu says:

    Considering what Cavs have at present, Blatt has done a good job, and so has LBJ. Kerr has a much more intact & healthy roster, so games 1-3 showed how slow he was to react to make changes. They should not have let Cavs slowed the pace to iso stuff, and move to the small line up earlier. If Warriors are as good as they are supposed to be, they should have creamed the Cavs as they don’t have Irving & Love. From that, Kerr still needs a lot of experience. If it was Pop, Spurs would have destroyed the Cavs.

  10. tripledoubleturnover says:

    Huh. So congratulations Warriors on beating a battered team after they’ve been worn down. Done like true champions. Just like Dwight Howard.

    • lbj says:

      Congratulations too to the Warriors for beating New Orleans, Memphis, and Houston on the way to the Finals! Not to mention their 67-win season!

      Unfortunately, there are no could-have-been trophies this year for the Cavs. Nobody waits for you in this league because the NBA is the league of the best basketball players in the world.

      A loss in the Finals because you’re battered and injured is counted the same as a loss in the Finals even when your healthy and at full strength! Go Cavs! Maybe Lebron goes back to Miami next season: Bosh, Wade, Whiteside, and Dragic are already there. Easy way out for the King!

    • Kingjamesfan says:

      Yea, go warriors!!!!

    • taekayo says:

      Whiner King has whiner subjects. makes sense.

    • BW says:

      Congrats to Cleveland for making it through the less than pathetic Eastern Conference playoffs. Put a healthy Cleveland against the Spurs in the first round and watch the Cavs go home in 4-5 games. The article already said the Cavaliers offense was just about the same throughout the playoffs with / without Love and Irving on the floor so that should tell you something right there. But now Cavs must be so tired from all those 4 game series they’ve had to play so far. I’ve never read more articles making excuses for a team in all my life. They are all professionals making millions of dollars per year and cant muster up energy with two days rest between games??

  11. Mark from Bay area says:

    I like the defensive adjustment on LeBron.
    For Game 1, it was just one-on-one with LeBron.
    LeBron was able to take advantage on game 2 and 3 because of it.

    For the game 4 and 5, GSW made adjustment, and smart plays by Iggy and Green enabled the “Help Defense”.
    The “Help Defense” has forced turn-over and Cav’s offense to faster pace, which is good for GSW’s advantage.

    Good adjustment overall.
    I don’t blame Blatt for not making adjustment because he does not have much option for thin bench.

    • reman from bay area says:

      Obviously hindsight is 20/20. But I found this “let LB do whatever the hell he wants, we are going to stay home with the shooters” strategy extremely odd. Isn’t it always about give offensive players different looks ? meaning, some times double team, some times single coverage, some times deny the ball. If warriors used this since the beginning, Bay Area should already be enjoying the championship trophy.