The Unreleased Ron Adams #2: What Draymond figured out about Houston

From right after the legendary 2018 seven-game Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and Rockets

Ron Adams is the legendary assistant coach whom Steve Kerr brought with him when he began with the Warriors. I’ve always enjoyed his scholarly and thoughtful discussions of basketball.

The Story So Far

The series of exclusive, unreleased Ron Adams chats so far:

The Setting

This chat came just after Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, one of the best playoff series of all time, and before Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

One of the pivotal moments came after Game 5, a potentially crushing loss leaving the Warriors down 3-2 in the series, having to win at home, then back in Houston to stay alive. But afterwards, Steve Kerr was defiantly optimistic:

I feel great about where we are right now. That may sound crazy, but I feel it. I know exactly what I’m seeing out there, and we defended them beautifully tonight. We got everything we needed. Just too many turnovers, too many reaches, and if we settle down a little bit, we’re going to be in really good shape.

And Draymond Green cryptically said they’d “figured something out”:

I asked Ron Adams what that was.

What Draymond Figured Out

Eric Apricot: Coach, after Game 5, Draymond Green said they figured out something about the offense. Now that the series is over, can you say what things he figured out?

Ron Adams: Well, they are a switching team, and their switching was bothering us and so on. And I thought we probably got back to some better ball movement.

As well as: with switching sometimes you have to attack with principles, it's not always a set that you're going to run. Sometimes it can be.

But I think that was probably the evolution. Being more efficient, moving the ball better, making some simple passes.

Offensive basketball, you can't get into this home run pass mentality. You just got to chip away, chip away, chip away and maybe a pass that I'm able to pass to my partner here to get a really good shot is the critical one, so.

The playoffs... I'll say one other point so maybe this'll make more sense. I have friends, they’re basketball nuts and so on, and they'll say "God the game was kind of grungy! And it didn't flow!" Yes, because it's the playoffs! I mean, I can remember as a kid watching the playoffs what it was really really physical and you can't do the things that you perhaps always did the normal season because of the physicality, the pressure of it.

So I think we kind of flipped that and did a better job perhaps the last two games. We played well all the way through, I thought. They defended us well. We defended them well.

Ron Adams wouldn’t go into further detail because GSW were about to play CLE who was also going to switch on defense, but at the time, here was my guess about a couple of specific scheme changes:

Here is a short video identifying three adjustments GSW has made. The two big tactics the HOU defense has used have been:

  1. Switching all screens

  2. Leaving non-shooters to soft-double Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant

The three adjustments we peek at are:

  1. Run on everything. GSW is great in transition, HOU is so-so defending it, and the pressure doesn’t let HOU set up its defense. It also tires out Harden and the short-bench Rockets.

  2. Slip screens. In the high pick and roll, screeners are slipping the screens hard. This causes faster decisions around switching and often leaves the slipper open.

  3. Relocation flares. When Steph got soft doubled, he would feed the abandoned player (say Kevon Looney) and have them pitch it back and set a screen for Curry. Or he’d give up the ball and immediately run to accept a flare screen for a catch-and-shoot 3. 

If you want to support more analysis like this and you haven’t subscribed yet, here’s a button to mash: