The Golden State Warriors want basketball to be beautiful — they want their offense to be full of joy. And to do that, Golden State moves the ball and the five men on the court as much — or more — than any other team in the NBA.
With back-cuts and off-ball screens, the Warriors can create some attractive, multi-option, free-flowing basketball. It can be truly special stuff.
But teams don't get extra points for beauty and the playoffs are an environment of dominance, not grace.
Golden State has learned that lesson the hard way over the last two years. In 2015, the grit-and-grind Grizzlies took a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. A last year, the Cavs slowed down Game 7 and turned the series' winning contest into a battle of alternating hero ball possessions.
The Warriors came back in 2015. We all know what happened last year.
Golden State had pure scorers — guys who can create and make their own shot — before Kevin Durant came to town. But Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can't create quite like the Slim Reaper. Few in NBA history, if any, are as gifted as KD.
And the Warriors are going to put that skill to good use in these upcoming NBA Finals.
He might not look the part, but Durant is going to be Golden State's offensive muscle against the Cavs.
The Warriors run some of the most creative and intelligent plays in the NBA, but their best play — the one they'll go to when the going gets tough — is anything buy exotic: It's a Kevin Durant post-up.
Whether it comes off a pin-down or just a direct feed into the post, the Durant isolation on the block is a play the Warriors can rely upon to produce a bucket time after time.
It's next to unstoppable — and when the Warriors' free-flowing offense isn't clicking, it has proven to be a safety valve for the team.
Out of sync offensively? Need a bucket to curtail a run? Just need some easy points? Give the ball to Kevin on the block and let him go to work.
Durant only has recently come to admit it, but he's 7 feet tall. At that height, and with that jumper, he's next to unstoppable when being guarded by a forward in the mid-range.
When he posts up on the block, Durant creates a no-win scenario for his defender — usually a long wing or stretch-four player:
- Play him too tight and he can just blow past you with his killer first step.
- Play him too loose and he'll knock down a jumper with impunity.
- Play perfect defense and he'll still probably hit the jumper over your outstretched arms — he's just longer than you.
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Previous iterations of the Warriors ran this play for Shaun Livingston, who feasts on 10-foot turnaround jumpers, thanks to his long arms and ability to hang in the air for the extra second necessary to release his shot.
And while the Warriors still run that action for Livingston — particularly when a switching defense creates a mismatch on the second unit, Durant's ability to run the same sort of play gives Golden State a 48-minute advantage.
In the postseason, 12 percent of Durant's possessions have been post-ups. That's the highest number of any starting wing in the league — and he's produced 1.31 points per possession on those looks.
He's shooting 68 percent on post-ups this postseason and getting fouled 19 percent of the time to boot. In all, Durant scores on 64 percent of his post-up possessions.
That's absolutely lethal.
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The Warriors obviously didn't have a player like Durant last year.
They didn't have an offensive weapon that could wear down LeBron James on the defensive end either — The King slagged so hard off of Harrison Barnes in last year's NBA Finals that the Cavs were essentially conceding 3-point baskets to the Warriors' young forward in the final three games of the series. Barnes shot 20 percent on mostly wide-open looks. And again, we know what happened in those games.
But James is going to have to work on the defensive end of the court when Durant is playing in these Finals — you wouldn't dare leave Durant alone or put Kevin Love on him. (Some would consider this the same thing).
That's a major advantage for the Warriors in the rubber match Finals.
The easy points Durant can create via the post-up — no matter who is guarding him — can create peace of mind as well. The Warriors' offense is elaborate and complicated and in clutch situations, it's easy for those actions to break down. Having a direct, possibly rote set to run — where points are near guaranteed — when the going gets tough can alleviate a lot of pressure.
And a Warriors team playing without pressure is as dangerous as any in NBA history.