Warriors have to adjust, keep exploiting AD in pick and roll


SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Kerr's latest lineup change before Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals appeared to be a defensive-minded statement with Gary Payton II entering for JaMychal Green.

One is a 6-foot-2 pest with a 6-foot-8 wingspan who can cover ground vertically and horizontally, allowing him to guard multiple positions. The other is a 6-foot-8 big man who can stretch the floor. But Payton being on the floor from the start also opened the Warriors' offense. 

How? Payton was a menace in Golden State's pick-and-roll plays. 

"He gives us a little different look in pick and roll with his speed," Kerr explained Tuesday, one day after the Warriors' 104-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. "He created a lot of space for us." 

At halftime with the Warriors up by three, Payton was a plus-4 in plus/minus with six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Kerr's decision appeared to help Steph Curry, too. Curry was at 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first half, and also had seven assists without a turnover. 

Curry assisted on two of Payton's three made shots through the first two quarters. Both were off high pick and rolls, forcing Lakers defensive star Anthony Davis to clear the paint and leak out to the 3-point line. That was the Warriors' bread and butter in the first half, just as it was in their Game 2 win. 

Slowly but surely, the plan began to evaporate. Lakers coach Darvin Ham also adjusted to the scheme. 

The Warriors in the first half, attacked Davis in the pick and roll. They used him as the screener's defender 24 times and scored 1.13 points per chance. In the second half, however, he was used as the screener's defender only six times and the Warriors scored 0.67 points per chance. 

"They changed the matchups," Kerr explained. "They just changed who was guarding whom and that affects who you're bringing in to pick and roll and who's stationed on the perimeter. That's a fairly common adjustment. 

"Come playoff time, it's who's guarding whom. And just by changing matchups you can change the tactics. That was a good adjustment by them. We did some things in the third quarter that I really liked. And in the fourth, there were probably some things that we could have done better." 

What Ham did was put Davis on Andrew Wiggins. The Lakers' center was no longer chasing high pick and rolls. At least that became more and more true as the game went on. 

The second half began with Wiggins setting a screen for Curry and rolling to the hoop. There he found a cutting Draymond Green, who then hit Payton for an easy layup. Payton in the third quarter was 4 of 4 from the field for nine points. 

Each of his points in the period came from his speed running down the court, or was initiated by a pick and roll that had Davis defending out of his comfort zone. 

Payton scored 15 points on the night, the third-most on the Warriors behind Curry (31) and Andrew Wiggins (17). All of his points came in the first three quarters. Even with Lonnie Walker IV lighting the Warriors up and even with Payton's unique skill set opening the Warriors' offense, he played just over two minutes in the fourth quarter

Golden State in the third quarter, one where the Warriors outscored the Lakers by four points, made 12 shots on 10 assists. The flow faltered in the fourth quarter. They made six shots in the final 12 minutes, and three were assisted. 

More than half of their fourth-quarter shot attempts were 3-pointers, and a handful were poor selections -- at best. 

Curry in this playoff run has been used as a pick-and-roll ballhandler on 95 possessions, which amounts to 30.1 percent of the time. The Warriors have scored 96 points, 1.01 points per possession. Payton as a screener has been highly efficient, too. 

He has been used there in eight possessions, and the Warriors have scored eight points while going 4 of 6 from the field. 

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With their backs against the wall facing elimination, the first ingredient to a recipe for success is getting the ball in Curry's hands. Getting Davis out of position and higher on the court is a win for the Warriors as well. Even if Ham adjusts again, Kerr will have to as well. 

Everything starts with Curry, and that's going to have to be the case Wednesday night in Game 5 as he and the rest of the Warriors look to pull the ultimate Undertaker and rise to their latest challenge.

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