The Spurs took advantage of the Warriors' weaknesses to the tune of a 29 point demolition on opening night. The Warriors lack proven depth, and the Spurs bench outscored the Warriors bench 54-16 with Jonathon Simmons, Manu Ginobili, and Patty Mills all in double figures. Another area of concern for Golden State is size and rim protection, and the Spurs out-rebounded them 55 to 35 and 21 to eight on the offensive glass. David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon came up with a combined seven offensive boards as reserves to add to LaMarcus Aldridge's eight. The degree of domination was surprising, but it's not shocking that the Spurs won in these specific facets of the game.
What was a great sign for Spurs fans was dishing out 25 assists to 24 for Golden State. With the Warriors' shooting and spacing, it would seem near impossible to have more dimes than them, especially for a Spurs team some feared would rely on isolation plays from Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. But the Spurs shared the ball, with three or more assists from Mills (five), Parker (four), Simmons (three), Leonard (three), and Aldridge (three).
While Simmons stole the show with 20 points and a twitter-worthy dunk (in what was an audition for Kyle Anderson's minutes when Danny Green comes back), Patty Mills had a great overall line of 11 points, 5 assists, 4 steals, three of five from deep, and a plus 35. One of his team-leading assists was especially nice, as it showcased LaMarcus as a part of the offense, rather than just a one-on-one threat:
Nice play from last night with LMA and four reserves. pic.twitter.com/AckAsaAwEw— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) October 26, 2016
Here the Spurs have their second unit of Mills, Ginobili, Simmons, Lee, and Aldridge instead of Dedmon. They set up in a 1-4 Flat, also called a 1-4 Low Stack. The concept is simple:
1. Have a scorer isolated at the top of the key (Mills)
2. Have two players on the low block (Lee & Aldridge)
3. Have two players in the corners (Ginobili & Simmons)
The players in the corners and on the block make up the "4 Flat" or "4 Low Stack" with the player at the top being the "1."
A 1-4 Flat is typically run during end of quarter situations, with either the ball-handler getting the green light to attack in isolation, or with a high pick and roll combined with off-ball screening.
In this case, you have Stephen Curry on Mills, a favorable matchup for Mills even without a screen. But with over three minutes left in the third, it's not time for hero ball. Lee, guarded by David West, comes up to set the screen.
Watch from the two to four second mark on the play to get a sense of the Warriors PNR coverage. This is a "Show & Over." Steph Curry goes over the Mills screen to prevent the three, and West gives a show, which prevents Mills from turning the corner, but leaves Lee alone as he rolls. (A show is similar to a soft hedge, think prevent defense versus a hard hedge where the big momentarily blitzes the ball handler.)
The trickery of the play comes in its simultaneous threats: Aldridge slips from the weak side block to the strong side block. Watch from two to four seconds again but focus on the paint. As Aldridge slides over, Draymond Green moves slowly, almost as if he's surprised by the move. This is because Aldridge is moving directly into the path of Mills' drive, something you wouldn't expect.
While unconventional, Aldridge dragging Green initiates confusion. During the four to five second mark, you'll notice that rookie Patrick McCaw is now the lone help defender. He becomes responsible for both the rolling Lee and Simmons who is open for three. Had Aldridge stayed put, Green would have been able to clog up the Lee roll momentarily, allowing McCaw to stay closer to Simmons.
It is very likely that Green, a smart defender, senses that McCaw is being left in rim protection, which could explain his delay in getting to Aldridge. This stall is all the time Mills and Aldridge need to hook up on what becomes an easy entry pass for Mills, and a routine one-dribble righty hook for Aldridge.
Not only do the Spurs get an easy bucket, but they have tons of options once Aldridge receives the ball. Pause the play at the six second mark and you'll see the following:
1. Simmons is wide open on the far side wing
2. Ginobili's presence means his man cannot double Aldridge
3. Lee's roll to the rim forces West to duck down onto him instead of helping on Aldridge
Having Aldridge flash to the same side that Mills appears to be driving is unorthodox, but it compromises the Warriors rotations. Rather than settle for a Mills floater or a tough finish from Lee with Draymond Green at the rim, the Spurs get Aldridge an easy look with a hot Simmons open as a secondary option.
With rumors swirling about LaMarcus, it's encouraging to see him integrated into the motion offense early. The Spurs should be able use more sets on Thursday, especially with Aldridge and Gasol together, as Pau couldn't play big minutes against the smaller Warriors.