There are all different kinds of defenses that NBA teams can play, especially against pick-and-rolls.
They can play things straight up and ask the ball-handler’s man to fight through the screen. They can switch and have the screener’s man pick up the ball-handler as he comes around and attacks. They can have the screener’s man hedge in order to re-direct the ball-handler’s path and allow other defenders time to recover. They can try to force the ball-handler into a pocket of space near the elbow, where drives go to die. They can have the big man drop back and invite a drop and hope he gets a block at the rim. They can blitz to get the ball out of the ball-handler’s hands, forcing somebody else to either shoot or make a play.
On Thursday night at Oracle, the Golden State Warriors tried every single one of these defenses against James Harden. Not a single one of them worked. Harden beat everything. Straight-up defenses. Switches. Hedges. Blitzes. Everything and everyone. He had three baskets against Kevin Durant, two against Stephen Curry, three against Andre Iguodala, two against Klay Thompson, and one each against Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, and Alfonzo McKinnie. He had five assists on fast breaks, four while being blitzed, and six on other halfcourt possessions. He led a 20-point comeback and finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists, the game-tying jumper in regulation, and the game-winner in overtime.
Here’s how he did it.
Last Night, In Basketball is a video breakdown series from the basketball mind of Jared Dubin. You can see the videos for free on Twitter and YouTube, but if you enjoy the work and want to see more, you can pledge your support on Patreon.