OAKLAND–It was turn back the clock night at Oracle Arena, but it wasn’t sponsored by the Golden State Warriors.
Instead, the Denver Nuggets brought a rather retro approach to the defensive side of the floor.
Against a Warriors team that runs a lethal pick and roll with Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Nuggets elected to rush Curry with two players and leave Green by himself to create opportunities for Golden State’s offense. The result? A 23-point, 10-assist, five-rebound night for Green as he ripped open the Nuggets from the middle of the Warriors’ halfcourt sets.
“I told Steph and Draymond early in the game it felt like 2015, he kept getting Draymond in the pocket on that pass because they were blitzing Steph,” Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr said. “We haven’t seen that in awhile. Most people just switch on that and try to play straight up so it was kind of fun to see that again and Draymond hit a couple floaters, found a couple of guys for long three-point shots and he’s great when he can play make in the paint and the floor is spread, he’s really good.”
The Warriors recognized the Nuggets style early and capitalized with 37 first quarter points, making Denver pay for returning to a strategy that made Golden State one of the most efficient teams in basketball. Over time, teams have learned the dangers of leaving Green free when Curry is double-teamed in pick and roll sets, but for some reason, Denver felt the potential pitfalls were worth locking down a red-hot Curry.
Instead, the Nuggets failed to stop either player, as Green finished with a season-high 23 points while Curry dropped 32 on Denver.
“It was, it was very reminiscent of kind of coach’s first year and even before that where I’m sure they watched a lot of film and saw how open I was getting on high pick and rolls and open in transition and they wanted to try to take away that early offense but we were able to get Draymond in the teeth of the defense at the free throw line, got Dray some open threes,” Curry said. “Got Klay some weakside opportunities, Zaza was able to finish a couple early and from there, the ball was moving and it’s just different. Teams like to switch, I wouldn’t necessarily say play softer but try to corral me with the ball a little higher up and try to take away that three which is fine and why Draymond was able to make all those plays.”
The Warriors have been forced to evolve over time as teams have successfully locked down their pick and rolls, but with Curry and Kevin Durant, Golden State is still one of the hardest teams to stop. Even though Durant missed his third straight game due to a calf injury, the Warriors returned to an old formula on Monday night, and it just so happened to produce a familiar result.
“It did feel like 2015,” Green said. “I hadn’t saw someone guard the pick and roll like that in a long time. It was pretty fun, I like that.”