Warriors and Pelicans Game One: Film Review

Published: April 19, 2015

The Anthony Davis playoff era began last night to what many believed to be an easy Warrior victory. Proceedings proved to fall in line with these sentiments as Golden State controlled much of the evening.

But, for what seemed destined for a blowout turned into a more competitive game as New Orleans scored 33 4th quarter points. The Pels held the Warriors to 4-16 from the field in the final period.

Eventually the game resulted in a pretty comfortable win for Golden State.

Today I’d like to take a look into exactly what the Pelicans were doing against the Warriors. GSW are a beast and beating them will be no small task.

Davis Iso’s

To start off the game the Pelicans wanted to go through their superstar Anthony Davis. This makes sense, Davis is by far and away the best offensive weapon New Orleans has. He’s versatile and very efficient. The problem however is that there are a variety of holes in AD’s game that can be exploited, should a team have the right mix of strategy, defensive length and overall talent.

The Golden State Warriors have all of that.

It was clear that the Warriors coaching staff had done a bang up job on game planning for Davis and it just so happened that they would get to test their strategy early on.

Davis iso’s featured a lot and it wasn’t working at all. AD’s decision making was poor and he didn’t seem to make the correct reads, consistently going where the Warriors were forcing him to. This resulted in turnovers, contested mid-range jumpers and him picking up his dribble.

And the problem was that the play design just doesn’t help out AD. It doesn’t have him on the move, nor any of his team-mates. It’s just one-on-one basketball which is what GSW wants. They can play help defense and clog the lane.

Example 1

Here Davis is isolated and the first thing to notice is how easily he has given up position close to the basket. He gets “pushed” out to 20 feet and then faces up. He then drives to the right, where all the help-defense is and gets stuck. AD picks up his dribble and passes out.

Green did a good job defensively, but Davis wasn’t really sure where he wanted to go. He couldn’t go left and when he put the ball on the floor (where he likes to do a hook shot) Draymond moved into the paint preventing an easier look.

The help defense is excellent too as Iguodala ignores a cutting Evans and stops AD in his tracks.

If this play was to go over again, Davis should be more patient. Wait for Evans to fully cut through so that should he get stuck with two defenders on him, he has somewhere to outlet to.

Example 2

Thompson initially shows Davis a look that indicates a double team. But rather it is the Warriors brilliant way of taking away the base-line drive which AD loves so much. What this causes is Davis to rethink his move and rather than work to find a shooter (or find the man who’s open) he picks up his dribble and lays it over to Pondexter for a contested long-jumper.

It’s exactly where Golden State want Davis to go and he obliges.

Example 3

Here we see a brief highlight of Davis’ tendency to go with his jumper when all else fails. Gordon has a look to the basket which he doesn’t take as he fumbled the ball. He gives it up to Davis who rather than try to work for something else jacks up a mid-range shot.

Again, Golden State wanted this. Why? Because look at Bogut. He’s icing the pick and does so perfectly. It prevents Gordon from driving to the hoop (which he wants to do). And the second Eric gives up the ball, Bogut recovers.

Example 4

Above is finally when the Pelicans adjusted and started to run some plays to get Davis on the move, cutting towards the basket. The help defense wasn’t as strong from the Warriors, but Cole did a beautiful job of threading the bounce pass to Davis who moved directly towards the basket for a dunk.

The action and movement is what is key here. Sure, you need to get the ball into your best players hands. But doing so in a stagnant, isolated way is not going to beat the best defensive team in the league.

Transition Defense

They try to put a lot of pressure on you off of makes and misses. They can get the ball down the floor on one-on-one situations in transition. It opens up so many lanes. We have to help and if we help, it opens up threes and offensive rebounding. — Monty Williams, April 6 2015 before Warriors regular season game

That’s right, all the way back in early April head coach Monty Williams identified one of the Warriors biggest strengths. In turn, Williams highlighted the need for good offense that would prevent GSW from even having a chance to get out in transition.

Turn the clock forward to game one and the exact thing that Monty was fearful of was happening in the first half. New Orleans’ offense was sputtering as they turned it over and clanked mid-range shots.

Example 1

The first quarter was where a lot of this happened, but it manifested itself midway through the third.

Here Gordon misses a three and the Warriors immediately push the ball up the court. Eric gets back to stop Draymond Green who cuts towards the basket. Unfortunately Gordon is then pinned underneath the basket taking him out of the play. Cole is then sort of left on an island. He’s taken the ball but because Pondexter is too pre-occupied with (Iguodala?) someone else, Thompson can cut to the basket for an easy layup.

It all happens in less than 5 seconds. Ridiculous.

Example 2

This second example happens on the very next possession. Asik turns the ball over and Curry again pushes the ball up the court. The Pelicans can’t matchup quick enough and Thompson is wide open on the wing. Steph swings the ball to Klay who then moves it to Iguodala who cashes in the three.

Precisely what coach Monty had alluded to just a few weeks before occurred. You go with the cutting man, you leave open the three ball. You take the three ball and you give a lane for the layup. It’s what gives GSW their edge and it’s a big reason why NOLA needs to have good, high octane offense.

Off-Ball Defense

A problem for many different stretches across the game was the Pelicans inability to communicate on off-ball screens. The Warriors love these to free up their guards and so if they can’t defend these it’ll be a long series.

Example 1

The first example here is a clear miscommunication. Pondexter thinks there is going to be a switch so stops fighting to stay with his man (Curry). Tyreke, does what he thinks is right and that is to show down to help Asik against Bogut. But, by doing so has made Pondexter think he’s actually going to take away Curry when in fact Evans thinks he’s containing the post-up and his original opponent Livingston.

This is literally the definition of a defensive breakdown. And it pains me to say it but it was pretty much everyone’s fault. Even Asik, who should be putting way more on-ball pressure to make a tougher pass. Rather he sort of just contains Bogut like he’s a threat to go to the basket (we’ll get to that later).

Example 2

This example here displays when Pondexter is more concerned with Curry and doesn’t help out Davis as a solid screen by Steph takes AD out of the play. This could of been a communication issue (no audio) but the way the Pels play this it conveys a sort of inconsistency with their approach to defending off-ball screens.

Sometimes they switch, sometimes they don’t. Pondexter might have been told to just “stay with Curry” and should that be the case he needs to help out AD somehow. These kinds of layups were extremely prevalent and just one of the ways that the Warriors attacked the paint at will.

Asik Defense

Arguably the most disappointing aspect of last night’s game was Asik’s defense. I’ve been putting together a piece on how he’s improved significantly since the All-Star break and been a big reason why the Pels are in the playoffs.

Last night though he was extremely poor. His pick and roll coverage was off, he was out of position on a number of occasions and what was really upsetting was his overall activity. He just wasn’t displaying the confidence we usually see.

Example 1

This first example shows Asik trying to ice the pick. The purpose of this is to insight the opponent to take a mid-range jumpshot. Asik does that at first, but what he doesn’t do is get back to the basket in time for Bogut who has rolled and is wide open for a dunk.

The same type of play happens moments later and this time Asik gets back to the roll man, but instead of protecting the basket, gives an open layup to Thompson.

Example 2

The second example sort of extends the pick and roll aspect to something that speaks to the disappointment of Asik’s play last night. Bogut, who has no business beating an opponent on an iso, faces up looking for the pass (which Asik has given up before). Rather than pressure Bogut, Asik is slow to react as Bogut cuts baseline. Such slow anticipation is unusual for Asik. But it wasn’t even that, after initially beaten Omer didn’t even contest the shot.

Van Gundy even noticed this, later chastising Asik for his lackadaisical effort.

I’d be inclined to think Omer is going to improve his play, but last night Andrew Bogut completely outclassed him at his own game.

4th quarter explosion

I didn’t think we played too smart on offense. I thought we took some shots that don’t go along with aggression. I want us to be aggressive. – Monty Williams after the 1st quarter where NOLA scored 13 points

Finally we get to the positive. The Pelicans were down big heading into the 4th, down 18 (the same as the half-time deficit). What ensued was finally a version of the Pelicans that fans had come to know from the regular season. AD started to begin making better decisions and was doing a good job moving towards the basket.

His team-mates too started to move without the ball in the half-court set, which we will see gave the superstar a chance to score at a very rapid pace.

Example 1 – Davis faceup dunk drive (started it all) (5:05)

This is where things began to finally kick in. Davis, receving the ball at the top of the key swung down and ripped through and began to drive to the basket. The result was a dunk.

But I want you to go back to the top (in the 1st Q), where AD was receving multiple iso plays to get the ball in his hands. What is the clear difference?

Well, if you didn’t guess it already it was off-ball movement. Look before Davis drives. What is happening? Ryno is “setting a screen” for Cole and he too is moving. Curry, completely loses Cole and tries to help against Davis. If Steph were in a better position, Davis still might of been able to find Cole/Gordon in the corner.

Example 2 – AD iso hook shot (4:11)

Davis again moves aggressively. He’s trying to get into the paint. The help defense isn’t there like in the first half because the Pelicans are starting to run off-iso actions; they’re more active. Barnes is worrying about Anderson. Iggy is sort of doing nothing and Klay is worried about Gordon.

But AD’s decisiveness and aggressiveness combined with a little more off-ball action resulted in a better look. His intention and action to get to the paint completely contrasts the first quarter.

Example 3 – AD Jam (3:00)

Just a fun dunk. But again Davis is on the move, rolling towards the hoop. What makes this work is Anderson. See how Barnes sticks to him? If this was Asik you can almost guarantee a contest or at very best, a foul. Integrating more of these types of plays with Anderson in the lineup will be crucial if the Pelicans are to get their superstar rolling.

Example 4 – Gordon 3 (3:27)

And I want to show you an earlier example. See the play is set up for Anderson. He’s open, cuts when his man closes on him which frees up Gordon for a wide open look. This offense didn’t even exist in the first half.

Look how all the Warriors sink into the paint to cover both Davis and a driving Ryno.

Example 4 – Great out of bounds play (1:35)


The theme continued with a beautiful out of timeout play design by Monty and his staff. Cole gets a screen from Davis (who was freed up by Gordon) who both then look to screen for Pondexter.

But! It’s all an elaborate rouse as the Warriors and Bogut scramble Davis is freed up who then cuts and gets a nice little baby hook.

The contrast in style was absolute between the first and second halves. Defensively it was noticeably different too. With Asik out the Pelicans went small early (with Cunningham inserted). New Orleans contained GSW without Curry and then when Asik was re-inserted mid-way through the period he was once again pulled for a smaller, Ryno focused lineup.

Playoff basketball is a lot about matchups. The Pelicans need to know they can compete with the best. There are areas they’ll need to take note on and figure out a comprehensive strategy to contain things. My summation on game one is that the first half was very much a “feeling out” stage for the Pelicans.

They wanted to get the ball to Davis, but when it failed they seemed passive and unsure how to adjust. In the second half it changed. All of a sudden they began to move, cut and as Williams said started to be “aggressive.”




  1. Pingback: Today's Best NBA Reporting and Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.