Golden State Warriors must continue key offensive strategy in Game 6

For a Golden State Warriors team looking to once again avoid playoff elimination, the recipe for success against the Los Angeles Lakers seems quite simple following a Game 5 victory — Make Anthony Davis work defensively.

The defending champions know that the Lakers would prefer to use ‘AD’ as a roamer, deploying Davis on Golden State’s worst shooter so that he can hang around the paint and deter shots at the rim. To counter, the Warriors have used Davis’ man as the screener in pick-and-roll actions, luring the big man out of the paint and freeing up lanes to the basket.

The Golden State Warriors have to go down swinging as they face elimination on the road in Game 6, and their best offense has come when they’ve relentlessly attacked Lakers’ big man Anthony Davis.

In Game 4, Stephen Curry ran a season-high 48 pick-and-rolls, and the Warriors scored an uber-efficient 1.175 points per possession on such plays. Davis was the screener’s defender in 24 pick-and-roll actions through the first half of Game 4, but that number was reduced to just six in the second half, in part because of a minor defensive adjustment made by Lakers head coach Darvin Ham.

Instead of having Davis guard Gary Payton II, whom the Warriors are comfortable using as a screener, Ham shifted his assignment to Andrew Wiggins, prompting some hesitancy from Steve Kerr.

Using Payton II as the screener allowed the Warriors to maximize the shooting surrounding their on-ball action, spacing Wiggins and Klay Thompson on the wings, and Draymond Green in the dunker’s spot. However, with Wiggins as the screener, Payton II was deployed as a shooter, leading to sub-optimal floor spacing.

What Coach Kerr failed to realize is that regardless of the matchups, pulling Davis away from the paint was a win in itself. In Game 5, Kerr spammed the Curry pick-and-roll button no matter who Davis was guarding, and Golden State shredded the Lakers as a result.

The Warriors kept Davis occupied away from the basket, which freed up the interior. Role players remained alert off the ball, awaiting opportunities to slash into the painted area and reap the benefits of Curry’s constant dribble penetration.

The Warriors jumped out to an early lead and the Lakers were forced into their next phase of adjustments, this time electing to switch every screening action.

This played right into Golden State’s favor, as the defending champs forced the slow-footed Davis to both navigate screening actions and defend Curry in isolation, neither of which was/is optimal for Los Angeles. Keeping Davis engaged near the three-point line enabled the Warriors to continue to probe, collapsing the defense and forcing the Lakers into late rotations.

After suffering a scary head injury near the end of Game 5, Davis is expected to suit up on Friday for Game 6, per TNT’s Chris Haynes. 

If the Warriors are going to extend this series, they will have to continue to keep the pressure on Davis and the Lakers’ interior defense. Los Angeles are yet to find an answer for the Curry pick-and-roll action, and it would behoove Kerr to run it until they can.