The Clippers won Game 5 in Oracle, not on the basis of a miracle comeback, but convincingly and thoroughly. They led for the great majority of the game, and while victory hung in the balance several times, the Clippers’ resiliency pulled them through on each occasion. They got contributions from up and down the roster: defense from the youngsters, three-point shooting from JaMychal Green, insane rebounding from Pat Beverley, and a bounceback offensive performance from Danilo Gallinari. Yet, when the going got rough, the Clippers turned to the same two players they have all year: Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Their pick and roll game, bottled up in Games 3 and 4, exploded back to life when the Clippers needed it most.
In the previous two games, the Warriors clogged the lanes, overhelping on Lou and rotating over smartly to Harrell so he wouldn’t have a clean path to the basket. Lou was forced to take tough shots, while Trez just didn’t get the ball enough, as passing lanes were in short supply. Lou, Trez, and the Clippers’ coaching staff responded by switching up the timing of the pick and rolls, figuring out the precise moment when to attack, probe, or pass.
To start the game, the Warriors did what they’d done the past two games: put Andre Iguodala on Lou Williams. But whether Iggy was not as sharp defensively, or Lou figured his patterns out, he was far less effective defending Lou in this one. The Warriors were mismatched defensively in this play, with Looney on Shai, and Steph playing “help” defense in the paint. Recognizing that there was no second defender near the point of attack, Lou and Trez run a brisk pick and roll, and Lou is able to get to his left. Steph moves up, but is too slow and not nearly as formidable a presence as Kevin Durant or Draymond Green, so Lou has a clear angle on his shot, and banks home the runner.
While the Warriors defended that one poorly, starting with Iggy on the ball, the Clippers were able to get open shots by being patient and not forcing the issue. Here, the Warriors play the pick and roll straight up as well, but Klay Thompson cuts Lou off on his first attempt, so Trez comes back to re-screen for him. This time, he’s able to get by Klay, and moves to his right. Bogut steps forward to cut him off from the basket, leaving Trez open. Lou dishes him a nifty behind the back pass, which Trez catches around the free throw line. Seeing space, he takes one step forward, and hits a floater over Klay, who contests, but is a hair late. Bucket.
The Warriors adjusted in the second half by playing the slower Bogut less, going mostly with Looney and Green at center. However, even this didn’t slow down Lou and Trez. Lou, probably encouraged by the coaching staff, did something I wrote about a couple days ago, and pushed the pace. By starting the offense early, the Clippers were able to attack before the Warriors defense was fully set. For example, in this play, Kevin Durant does not seem to be expecting a pick so early in the shot clock, and Trez gets him square on. That gives Lou enough time to dart to freedom to his left, so even though Looney closes out hard and well, he has enough daylight to get off the pullup jumper.
By this point, Lou was cooking with gas, and the Warriors knew that they needed to stop him. To do so, they started sending two defenders at him, trusting the help behind them to close off the paint to Trez and then recover to shooters if necessary. This tactic had worked in previous games, as Lou tried to dribble out of trouble, or forced bad shots or passes. It did not work in this one. Lou, once again pushing the pace, immediately draws two defenders as soon as Harrell moves by him. Rather than setting a pick, however, Trez slips and starts heading towards the basket. Lou feeds him a gorgeous bounce pass, and Trez’s sticky hands catch it cleanly. In the blink of an eye, Trez is at the rim, and goes up as he always does: strong. The result? A thunderous poster over Draymond Green and Alfonzo McKinnie, who were both a step slow in cutting him off.
The onslaught only continued in the 4th quarter. Lou is once again trapped, this time by Iguodala and Bogut, while Shamet, Temple, and Gallo space the floor. Gallo, notably, is playing nearly 30 feet from the basket to draw his defender (Durant) further out of the paint. Lou recognizes that no defender is within 10 feet of Trez, and passes him the ball, even though Trez has his back to the basket and is not particularly close to the rim: he trusts Trez to make the right play in a 4 on 3 situation. Klay Thompson stunts at Trez as soon as he catches it, but then has to retreat furiously to the corner, as Landry Shamet is spotted up, and the Warriors know how deadly he is when left open. Durant is too far away to help, and Trez is already past Shaun Livingston, so he gets a wide open dunk.
The Clippers’ offense was shut down for much of the rest of the 4th quarter, as they went away from pick and rolls and towards isolation basketball and attacking mismatches, which largely failed. However, late in the game, Lou Williams got going once more, and carried the team to victory with a series of jumpers. Interestingly, these came off pick and rolls with Gallinari and JaMychal Green rather than Trez, as the threat of those guys popping for threes meant that the Warriors couldn’t send two at Lou. Ultimately, it was just a masterful performance from Lou, who dropped in 33 points and 10 assists on 12-19 shooting, and made plays all game long. Montrezl Harrell was nearly as dominant, scoring 24 points on 11-14 shooting, and finishing nearly everything inside. Trez, for the series, is scoring 1.77 points per possession as the roll man, which is an astronomical number, and shows how unstoppable he has been thus far.
The Warriors have had no answer for Montrezl Harrell in the pick-and-roll. pic.twitter.com/PScyU6CXac— The Nylon Calculus (@NylonCalculus) April 25, 2019
The Clippers’ two bench stars played as well as they have all year in Game 5, and their chemistry has never looked better. They are just grooving right now, and their confidence is through the roof. If the Clippers pull off a win at Staples Center tomorrow night, it will likely be based on a whole heaping helping of Lou-Trez pick and roll.