Steve Kerr’s latest lineup change before Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals appears as Gary Payton II replaces JaMichael Green.S.
There is a 6 foot 2 inch vermin with a wingspan of 6 foot 8 that can cover the ground both vertically and horizontally, providing protection in many places. The other is a 6 foot 8 tall man who can sweep the floor. However, having Payton on the floor from the start also let down the Warriors’ offense.
How? Payton was a threat on Golden State’s pick-and-roll play.
“He’s a little different for us on the pick-and-roll with his pace,” Kerr explained Tuesday, a day after the Warriors lost 104-101 to the Los Angeles Lakers. “He made a lot of space for us.”
With the Warriors leading by 3 points at halftime, Payton was plus-4 from plus/minus as he scored 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting. Stephen Curry also seemed to be helped by Kerr’s decision. Curry went 11 of 17 on 6 of 17 shots in the first half and recorded 7 assists with no turnovers.
Curry assisted on two of Peyton’s three shots during the first two quarters. Both survived high pick-and-rolls, forcing Lakers defensive star Anthony Davis to clear the paint and leak at the 3-point line. This was the Warriors’ bread and butter in the first half, as was their Game 2 win.
Slowly but surely the plan began to fail. Lakers manager Devin Ham also adopted the plan.
The Warriors attacked Davis on the pick-and-roll in the first half. He was appointed as a screener defender 24 times and scored 1.13 points per opportunity. However, in the second half, he was placed as a screener defender only six times, and the Warriors scored 0.67 points per opportunity.
“They changed the matchup.” Kerr explained. “They just changed who’s guarding whom, and that affects who you bring in for the pick-and-roll and who’s deployed. It’s a fairly common adjustment.
“When it’s playoff time, it’s all about who’s defending whom. You can change tactics just by changing the matchups. It was a good adjustment by him. We did a few things in the third quarter that I Really like. And in the fourth quarter, some things we probably could have done better.”
What Hamm did was put Davis in the care of Andrew Wiggins. The Lakers’ centers were no longer chasing high pick-and-rolls. At least that became more and more true as the game progressed.
The second half began with Wiggins setting up a screen for Curry and rolling the hoops. There he found a cutting Draymond Green, who hit Peyton for an easy layup. Payton went 4 of 4 from the field for 9 points in the third quarter.
Each of his points during that span came from either running speed down the court or the pick-and-roll Davis defended from his comfort zone.
Payton scored 15 points on the night, third most on the Warriors behind Curry (31) and Andrew Wiggins (17). All of his points came in the first three quarters. Lonnie Walker IV set the Warriors on fire and despite Peyton’s unique skill set opening up the Warriors’ offense, he played a little over two minutes in the fourth quarter.
In the third quarter, when the Warriors led the Lakers by 4 points, Golden State had 10 assists on 12 shots. The Flow faltered in the fourth quarter. He had 6 shots on target in the last 12 minutes and assisted on 3 of them.
More than half of his fourth quarter shot attempts were 3-pointers, and some of the worst were picks.
In this playoff run, Curry was used as a pick-and-roll ballhandler on 95 possessions, 30.1 percent of them. The Warriors scored 96 points for 1.01 per possession. Payton was also very skilled as a screener.
He was used on eight possessions there and scored eight points while the Warriors shot 4 of 6 from the field.
With his back against the wall and facing elimination, the first key to success is getting the ball in Curry’s hands. Moving Davis out of position and up on the court is also a win for the Warriors. Even if Haim adapts again, he will have to do it.
It all starts with Curry, and it will be Game 5 on Wednesday night when he and the rest of the Warriors try to take out the ultimate Undertaker and face the latest challenger.