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Basketball, particularly playoff basketball, is won by reading and reacting. Adjustments can be made between -- even during -- games and possessions. The ability to dial up the right play, and when necessary, execute the audible, is often the deciding factor in a successful possession, and an extended postseason. The most efficient offensive teams share structure and spontaneity in every situation.
Transition: It starts with Steph
With Stephen Curry’s handle, vision, and range, transition offense could seem as easy as giving him the ball in the backcourt and yelling "GO!" To the untrained eye, it might even look like that's what's happening, but it's never quite that simple.
In the play above, Curry (#30, spotlighted and circled) is the only player to touch the ball. He snags the rebound, advances the ball past halfcourt, dribbles off a pair of drag screens, and drains a pull-up three, and all in nine seconds. He makes it look easy. He does it all. Well, sort of.
As the ball is rebounded by Curry, the Warriors are already thinking "offense". Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson turn to get out wide. Iguodala -- in a key moment -- reads that Thompson is already on the right side of the floor, so he gets out left and the two race to their lanes (shown on the court). Meanwhile, Lee and Bogut layer the attack by trailing the play, preparing for imminent action. Everybody is in sync, everybody is now in his lane.
The next three seconds are critical for the defenders. If they don't sprint back they'll be susceptible to an open court dunk by one of the wings, wide-open 3-pointer, or coast-to-coast drive by Curry. Curry, the constant surveyor, is mindful of everyone’s movements. Matt Barnes covers Thompson on the strong side wing while DeAndre Jordan (#6, spotlighted along with Curry) drops deep into the paint to protect the rim. Time for Curry to read and react.
As the Warriors sprint to their spots, they draw defenders and create space; the quicker they get there, the more space they create. Curry sees that the rim is protected, the wings are covered, and his trailing bigs are ready to do work for him. By this time, just five seconds into the possession, he is already in scoring position. Thompson spots up in the right corner, Iguodala in the left. Lee makes a beeline for Curry's man as Bogut staggers a similar, but delayed, action.
Double drag screen alert.
With DeAndre Jordan sagging so deep into the paint, Curry knows there’s a good chance he’ll find some space to pull-up after he comes off the double. Lee sets a solid screen on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin tries to help but gets cleaned up by a second screen from Bogut. As the dominos fall, Steph finds himself at the three-point line with 8 feet of air space. As Lebron James aptly pointed out after the Warriors visited Miami, "the light that [Curry] has—it’s more than green, it’s like fluorescent". We all know what’s coming.
Wide-open, pull-up three.
The Warriors got what they wanted: a terrific shot attempt with little wasted effort and great floor balance. As the shot falls, Bogut, who never needed to step inside the three-point line on offense, is the first man back and ready to anchor the defense. Thompson and Iguodala sprint back from the corners. Defense to offense.
The Warriors ran down the court with speed, purpose and coordination. The defense was forced to defend multiple options, and pitted Curry's quick read against Jordan's positioning. After such a great look, the Clippers could adjust to take away the pull-up 3 off the double drag, but that’d just open up another option.
Transition: Read & React
Great offensive teams like to run off opponents’ makes and misses. As demonstrated in this example, transition offense can be deadly immediately following the opponents’ score. As soon as GSW grabs the ball out of the net, the offense clicks into “go” mode while the defense trots back.
This time DeAndre Jordan (spotlighted) doesn’t sag so deep in the key, and instead gets high in anticipation of the Bogut screen. Lee (#10) and Bogut (#12), who again ran their lanes with precision, give Curry (spotlighted again) options off the double drag. Notice that Curry dribbles on the left foul line extended. Iguodala's cut through the paint, right to left, provides three imperative ingredients: 1) floor balance 2) space for Thompson (#11, who remains right wing) and 3) a defender remains occupied by Iguodala’s action.
As Thompson is a major scoring threat, Jared Dudley (#9) commits to protecting against the corner-three option, leaving the key unprotected. Curry sees the space deserted by Jordan’s rise to the arc as a lane to the basket. As he comes off the first screen, Curry turns the corner to attack Griffin (#32), an unfair match 23-feet out, and Steph drives to the rim and finishes what he started. Bogut, who never got within 20 feet of the rim, and didn’t exert much energy, is the first man back.
Another easy bucket allows for another easy transition to defense.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Golden State Warriors.