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Warriors vs. Spurs adjustments: Two tweaks for the Spurs' pick-and-roll defense

The Spurs let a fourth-quarter lead slip away in Game 4 and have their pick-and-roll defense to blame for the collapse. How can San Antonio adjust to slowing down their ball handlers? For starters, stop giving up open jumpers.

Jed Jacobsohn

The Golden State Warriors tied their series with the San Antonio Spurs in an overtime victory on Sunday. The Spurs lost the eight-point lead they had going into the final five minutes of regulation and completed their collapse by scoring only three points in overtime. In Game 5, San Antonio must challenge the Warriors' ball handlers out of the pick-and-roll and commit to stronger defensive rotations.

The Warriors' ball handlers averaged 1.32 points out of the pick-and-roll in Game 4, according to MySynergySports. Overall, they shot 9-of-16 in pick-and-roll sets. Jarrett Jack scored eight points -- all shots created after taking a screen -- in the final five minutes of regulation and was key in the Warriors' comeback.

As Jack takes this screen from Andrew Bogut, Tim Duncan opens up his stance and begins shifting back.


Duncan is trying to protect the basket, but Jack sinks a jumper instead of challenging Duncan at the rim.

The Spurs cannot give the Warriors' ball handlers space to take quality looks. Duncan backed up to prevent dribble penetration, but that is not a solution for San Antonio. The Spurs must crowd ball handlers more and rely on their help defenders to rotate to stop everyone else.


The Spurs did try challenge Curry out of the pick-and-roll, but the help defense failed to actually help. Manu Ginobili, the help defender on the opposite side, cheats into the paint while Curry works the pick-and-roll.



Curry drives and both Spurs defenders from the corner have an angle to step in front of him. If Green steps in front, Curry can easily pass the ball to Jack in the corner -- defenses are told never to leave the "strongside corner shooter." This puts the responsibility on Ginobili to make a fast rotation.


He does not and Curry gets an easy layup in overtime.

Ginobili must do a better job of rotating in that position or Curry will continue to take advantage of the Spurs. If Duncan can't rely on the help defense behind him, he will be inclined to sag and prepare for dribble penetration. If he can trust Ginobili, or whomever may be the helper, then he can challenge the ball handler at the top of the arc instead of watching the jumper sail over his head.


Defensively, the Spurs did not execute a sound game plan in stopping the pick-and-roll attack. Curry was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, two of which came after he took a screen, and San Antonio was caught playing lackadaisical defense against him. Here, Tiago Splitter makes a poor defensive play that cannot happen against an elite shooter like Curry:



There's no need for Splitter to sag off the sharp-shooting Curry, as Duncan was in position to help if he drove to the paint. The lack of recognition from Splitter shows minimal defensive commitment to challenge shooters out of the pick-and-roll from San Antonio. If Splitter moves up to the arc, he gets into Curry's comfort zone, and can disrupt the shot.


As is, Curry has a clean look. Mistakes like the play above need to be minimized by the Spurs. When added on top of the inevitable "Curry magic" from deep on well-contested plays, it becomes increasingly difficult to beat the Warriors.



The Warriors have done a great job of using the pick-and-roll to ignite their offense and force the Spurs into defensive mistakes. The Spurs lack a big man who can stay with the Warriors' ball handlers out of the pick-and-roll, but if they tighten their defensive rotations and use other help defenders to protect the rim, they can take Golden State out of their comfort zone.

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