In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs made history by making 16 three-pointers, which is a Finals record. They made more history with a 113-77 win, which stands as the third-largest margin of victory in Finals history. Other factors contributed to the victory, of course, but the Spurs’ three-point shooting led by Danny Green (7-for-9) and Gary Neal (6-for-10) was the headline.
The 16-of-32 three point shooting is incredible in itself. But it’s even more significant when you consider how easily San Antonio found open looks. Clearly, the Spurs understand Miami’s defensive system and are able to take advantage of its flaws.
Here is an example indicative of a common breakdown in the Miami defense.
This is a variation on the “loop” set San Antonio often runs. After passing to Manu Ginobili at the top of the court, Tony Parker runs through a series of screens, curls towards the ball and receives a pass from Ginobili. San Antonio knows that Miami is a very aggressive pick-and-roll defense, so the loop often flows directly into a pick-and-roll with the last screener serving as the roll man after Parker makes the catch.
On this play, Duncan expects Chris Bosh to trap Parker off his screen and immediately drops into post-position. Parker makes a nice pass into Tim Duncan, getting him the ball before Bosh is able to recover. This forces LeBron James to switch off Kawhi Leonard to guard Duncan, leaving Dwyane Wade to defend Leonard.
Leonard instantly recognizes that Miami has overloaded the strong side and moves to basket, forcing Wade to stay tightly on him. This leaves Mike Miller to defend both Ginobili, his original man and Danny Green, who is now in the corner. Duncan, and excellent passer, finds Ginobili, who swings the ball to Green for a wide-open corner three.
San Antonio uses a clever misdirection to further take advantage of Miami’s defense. On a typical loop set, Green would be positioned in the left corner. At the beginning of the play, he appears to be headed to this spot but stops at the post area near Duncan. Green then fakes as if he were setting a screen, another common variation of the loop, but cuts back and runs to the opposite corner.
Thought this shot was missed, San Antonio was able to find open opportunities out of similar sets designed to take advantage of Miami’s pick-and-roll traps.
So, what does this have to do with the Warriors?
To achieve future success, the Golden State Warriors will have to consistently overcome defenses geared to stop them. Like San Antonio has done to Miami, the Warriors must be able to acknowledge and take advantage of defensive tendencies, a test in both innovation and execution.