Curry brothers

For most NBA basketball fans it’s not surprise that Golden State Warriors won this series and will go to 5th consecutive NBA Finals in a row.

“The last time an NBA team went to five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics, led by Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and John Havlicek during the 1965-66 season.”

Anyway, after KD/Cousins and later Igoudala were out there was a flair that it won’t be easy Western Conference Finals for Steve Kerr’s team.

We won’t talk about Curry’s unbelievable performance and fact that Warriors ball-movement offense without ISO works excellent. Warriors have won 31 of their last 32 games without Kevin Durant…

If it’s only about offense I am 100% sure that there shouldn’t be 4:0. How to stop so far in Play-Offs great playing Lillard and McCollum was the question and Warriors had an answer!


#1. Heavy workload for Lillard. Damian Lillard is NBA player who played the most minutes this season (regular season + play-offs)

NBA heavy workload this season

#2. Trail Blazers unstable performance all game long. 3 of 4 times Portland led after half-time with total point difference +23.

GSW vs POR half-time

#3. Lillard’s rib injury.

Lillard rib

#4. McCollum’s clutch time performance.

McCollum clutch

#5. Portland’s defensive strategy in G1 allowed Curry to get many wide open looks and once world’s best three-point shooter find his offensive rhythm, it won’t be long Play-Off series for opponents.

Poor defensive performance vs Curry

#6. Portland has generated 18 more open or wide open 3-point attempts than Golden State in this series, but have just one more 3-pointer made on those shots through three games. (After 3 games).

Actually Warriors also could have lot of ”excuses” if things not going their way.  My opinions – there should be at least 1 victory for Trail Blazers, despite Warriors great performance.



  1. Pick-and-roll. Portland Trail Blazers and Lillard & McCollum plays the most pick-and-rolls of all teams who won their first NBA Play-Off Series.

PNR per team

players PNR

2. Distance of  Lillard’s made field goals attempts! High accuracy from long distance puts lot of pressure to defense.

Distasnce Lillard first game Denver

(Picture after Western Conference semi-finals Game1 vs Denver Nuggets).

     3. Lillard & McCollum success in 2019 Play-Offs.

Before series


Ball out of Lillard’s & McCollum’s hands + deny pass back (don’t let the ball to get back to Lillard and McCollum).

Let others play 4vs3. Especially if Nurkič out and Turner/Kanter/Leonard/Harkless not that effective in short roll situations vs. Warriors (decision making)?

Harkless and Aminu also should take advantage of 4vs3 situations, it wasn’t the best series for both of them.

It’s risk but… if other teammates can’t play 4vs3 effective? That’s calculated risk and it makes sense.

There will be few examples of Dubs successful aggressive defense vs. Lillard & McCollum.

SITUATION #1 explained.


Warriors defenders TRAPS Lillard. Kanter (5) short roll (elbow area). In 2 seconds he has to make a play because his defender is ready to recover after the ball is passed out of trap. Usually xA helps so x5 can recover back to 5 (also full rotation option is possible) but since Aminu (A) is not great 3-point shooter he is left in the corner completely open and it allows xA (Green) to make the most appropriate decision.

PNR trap 4

PNR Trap 5

Poor spacing don’t help Trail Blazers and Kanter play 1vs1 and lost the ball.

In short: #1 POOR SPACING + #2 BELOW AVERAGE 3-POINT SHOOTER TEAMMATE = opportunity for opponents to TRAP ball-handler effectively!

SITUATION #2. explained.


Aggressive TRAP! McCollum forced to catch the ball near half-court line. Harkless pick-and-pop.

PNR Trap 6

Since McCollum’s back is to the basket it’s great opportunity to deny first pass out of TRAP. Since Aminu is left wide open very far from ball-handler and Warriors defenders deny first pass out of TRAP he has to cut towards the ball.


PNR trap 7

Aminu (A) catches the ball and pass to Harkless (4). Harkless (4) another bad decision leads to missed shot. Since X5 has to help to stop 4, xL has to help the helper and cover 5.

PNR Trap 3

Excellent team defense that allowed to TRAP McCollum and within 2 seconds being from 3vs4 disadvantage to be back not only to 5vs5 situation but even 5vs4!

PNR trap2

Warriors back after trap

Other examples of Golden State aggressive pick-and-roll defense.



Ball out of Lillard’s hands + ball movement + open 3-pointer for Leonard. Missed 3-pointer.


Short roll + pass to Aminu (behind 3-point line). Missed 3-pointer.


Ball out of McCollum’s hands + pass to Turner + floater from free-throw line area. Turner’s floater is shot what Portland prefers instead any type of shot from Lillard or McCollum.


Turner Pick-and-Pop + drive and creates shot for himself. Missed mid-range shot.



Of course no strategy is perfect. If you trap pick-and-roll or trap player with ball once he crossed half-court line you give up something.

For example:

  • Ball-handler splits the trap or attacks defender before screen is set.
  • Ball-handler anticipates trap and quickly pass to big who is rolling to the basket.
  • Screener pops behind three-point line and if teammates not ready to rotate very often it’s wide open three-pointer or drive to the basket.
  • Screener short roll (stops at the free-throw line) and makes great decisions (for example Green, Harrell also Nurkič). Dunk, mid-range shot or pass to open team-mate behind three-point line or someone who cuts to the basket.

Great example when screener’s defender is just 1 second late or not aggressive enough… It can cost 3 points since Lillard can score from very long distance.


Not always Warriors were able to cover 4 vs 3 situations perfect after ball was passed out of trap but their plan worked well  – ball was out of Lillard’s and McCollum’s hands (tons of missed wide open threes and bad decision making from other teammates helped Warriors).

If you or your child wants to improve their basketball skills and basketball IQ contact me privately.  Beijing A+ BASKETBALL.


A+basketball scan

Thanks for reading! CoachKris@HUPU







Author: abouthegame

Basketball coaching/sports data

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