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Breaking down Warriors’ perfect game-winning play



© John Hefti | 2023 Jan 25

It wasn’t the play Steve Kerr drew up in his timeout with 6.3 seconds left. It wasn’t even a play Steve Kerr called. 

But the play, a perfectly executed underneath out-of-bounds play, freed Jordan Poole for the game-winning layup against Memphis on Wednesday night in the Chase Center. 

First, the Warriors found themselves inbounding from the baseline because their play from the sideline got deflected awry. It also bled precious seconds off the game clock, leaving Golden State with 2.6 seconds of winning time. 

Draymond Green signaled for the play call, Kerr revealed postgame. The selection was one the team has had installed for years, but hadn’t practiced in at least a couple months. 

“It was a little ambitious,” Kerr said. “It wasn’t exactly as we normally draw it up because we hadn’t practiced it in a while. But I think in this case, that might’ve benefitted us. Because it was a little scattered. Sometimes, out of bounds underneath, some coaches will just run guys in a circle and just cut everywhere. I’ve seen coaches do that. It was a little more organized than that. But I think in some ways, we were a little scattered and Jordan just made a great back cut.” 

The play, no matter how well it was run compared to how it looks on a whiteboard, required three things: a great diversion, a backdoor cut and a perfectly timed pass. 

The Warriors began with three players bunched at the free throw line and Green foul line extended. Donte DiVincenzo, is the inbounder and Stephen Curry is nowhere to be found, having been ejected a minute prior. 

Klay Thompson, who had just hit a clutch 3-pointer moments earlier, runs off two screens and into the short corner. Three Grizzlies defenders flock to him, creating open space on the weak side. 

That distraction opens up the perfect window for Jordan Poole to dart to the rim. His defender, Ziaire Williams, is face-guarding him and likely expecting him to follow Thompson’s path. Williams is long and athletic, but wiry. Poole gets into his body enough to win a step toward the rim and makes a mad dash to the left side of the iron.

Poole’s backdoor cut is the key. If he doesn’t take as sharp an angle or doesn’t create enough separation, the game goes into overtime.

Almost as crucial is DiVincenzo’s dish. Since the ball got deflected out of bounds to the right of the rim, DiVincenzo actually might have an easier angle to make a pass than he would normally on an underneath out of bounds play.

DiVincenzo probably can’t attempt a bounce pass, for fear of the ball hitting the baseline and being ruled out of bounds. So he opts for a chest pass, which nails Poole in stride and allows him to rise straight up for a left-handed finish.

“Very fundamental,” Poole said postgame. “Right on time, on target. It was a really good pass.”

Poole’s layup gave the Warriors a 122-120 lead as time expired, and a much-needed victory.

The play developed out of the chaos so quickly, eliminating any fear of a five-second violation. Golden State didn’t have a timeout, so at the very least they needed to get the ball in securely.

With Green’s call, Thompson’s gravity, Poole’s cut and DiVincenzo’s pass, they did much more than that.