Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

The Extra Pass: Golden State’s Elevator Screen plus Wednesday’s recaps

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The Signature Series takes a look at a play that’s largely unique to one team. Here’s Golden State’s Elevator screen play:

The “Elevator” screen is one of the most aesthetically pleasing plays you’ll see in the league, particularly when it’s run by Golden State.

That’s in large part because any possession that ends in a Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson jumper has plenty of visual appeal. The speed of Curry’s lightning quick release never fails to impress and Thompson’s elbow in, straight up and down release is absolute perfection.

Creating opportunities for Curry and Thompson to fire away should always be the primary objective for Mark Jackson and his coaching staff. It’s no coincidence that Golden State’s offense tends to bog down when the Warriors play through the low post. This is a roster built to bomb from deep, and the Elevator screen allows the Warriors’ shooters to do just that.

Sometimes the name of a play doesn’t provide any clues for what’s about to happen on the court, but the Elevator screen is exactly how you’d imagine it. Courtesy of Kyle Gilreath at Fast Model Sports, here’s a version of it out of the Horns set, which means there are two bigs at each elbow:

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What makes this play dangerous is the threat of the 2 selling the action of a baseline screen for the opposite wing (3). It’s often just enough to get the defender to prepare for a switch and turn his head, which provides enough of a head start for the 2 to dive through the elevator doors set by 4 and 5.

Those doors don’t stay open for long, though. Once the offensive player jets through, they close and wall off the path to contest a shot. By the time a player fights through, runs around, or yells for his guy to jump out and contest, it’s often too late – just like missing an elevator.

Golden State has made this play so successful that teams all over the league are beginning to adopt it, particularly in late clock situations. Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman loves to use it on sidelines out of bounds plays out of a stack formation, with Kevin Love squeezing behind the doors for an open three-pointer. In this setting, it’s a real quick hitter and a great way to take advantage of refs swallowing their whistles and not wanting to call an illegal screen off the ball in a big moment.

For Golden State, though, it’s an all-purpose play that can be used out of many different sets. Take a look at this great compilation put together last season by Mike Prada at SBNation:

This set is just one of the reasons why the Warriors lead the league in three-point percentage above the break (41.6 percent as a team!) and are second in the league in total makes from that zone. It doesn’t hurt that Curry and Thompson are in range as soon as they step in the gym, but the Elevator screen consistently creates clean looks for an offense that thrives on the three-ball.

-D.J. Foster

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We couldn’t choose just one Wednesday. So we bring you the good…

and the not so good…

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Heat 97, Pacers 94: Miami closed the game on a 12-2 run to even the season series with Indiana, a team they’ll almost certainly face in the playoffs on the road to a fourth straight trip to the Finals. The Pacers led by as many as 15 in this one, but foul trouble to Roy Hibbert hindered the defensive effort, and a big-time 12-2 run by the Heat to close the game was the difference. Dwyane Wade had his highest scoring game of the season, finishing with 32 points. — Brett Pollakoff

Wizards 113, Nets 107: The Nets got Brook Lopez back in the lineup after he sat out the last two games with an ankle injury, but his presence didn’t prevent the team from getting crushed on the glass by a 51-31 margin. The Wizards also were deadly from three-point distance, knocking in 60 percent of their looks from beyond the arc. Paul Pierce had a monster game for Brooklyn in the losing effort, and finished with 27 points on just 12 shots in 35 minutes off the bench. — BP

Jazz 86, Magic 82: Orlando was without Arron Afflalo in this one due to illness, and the Jazz had just enough to take advantage. Rookie Trey Burke turned in his best performance of the season, finishing with 30 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. The Magic had trouble getting shots to fall, and managed to hit on just 28 of their 86 attempts from the field. Victor Oladipo finished just 1-of-12 shooting for three points in 36 minutes. — BP

Pistons 107, Celtics 106: Detroit has been playing really well as of late, and this latest effort in Boston was no different. After losing at the buzzer to the Blazers and then beating the Pacers the very next night, the Pistons overcame a 21-point deficit on the road to come away with this victory. Jeff Green had a decent look at a runner on a drive from about seven feet out, but it was well-defended and barely drew iron as time expired. — BP

Hawks 124, Kings 107: This was actually a close game until the Hawks blew it open by outscoring the Kings 39-20 over the final 12 minutes. Kyle Korver led Atlanta with 28 points, and made eight of his 10 looks from three-point distance — which is fairly inexcusable if you’re the Kings, considering that’s all Korver really does.— BP

Bobcats 104, Raptors 102: Charlotte missed four free throws in the final 20 seconds of the overtime period, any of which would have made this victory a whole lot easier Instead, they relied on Kemba Walker to come through in the clutch. With just a second remaining, Walker caught an inbound pass along the baseline and calmly knocked down a jumper which splashed through the net as time expired.— BP

Knicks 107, Bucks 101 (2OT): The Knicks seemingly keep trying to invent new and exciting ways to lose, but despite their best efforts, a win was in the cards this night nonetheless. Andrea Bargnani took one of the least intelligent shots you’ll ever see at the NBA level, but all it cost New York was an extra five minutes of basketball. If you’re wondering just how desperate these times are for the Knicks, consider that Tyson Chandler returned and played heavy minutes (37), as did Carmelo Anthony (55!). J.R. Smith attempted 17 three-pointers, but made just five. And, Toure Murry even played 10 minutes, simply because the team is running out of bodies. A win is a win, but the story lines surrounding this year’s Knicks team appear to be endless. — BP

Timberwolves 120, Trail Blazers 109: This is what it looks like when everything doesn’t work for Portland and Damian Lillard (36 points) can’t bail them out. Minnesota took control of this game in the first quarter, led by 32 in the second and the final score doesn’t reflect the reality of the blowout. Two key things happened here. First, Portland’s jumpers just did not fall — LaMarcus Aldridge was 7-of-22, the whole team was 14-of-40 from three. Second, the Trail Blazers play small and can be punished inside — Nikola Pekovic had 30 points, Kevin Love had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Minnesota is just a tough matchup for the Blazers. –Kurt Helin

Mavericks 105, Grizzlies 91: Not much to see here, move along. Dallas is a good team and the Grizzlies are reeling right now without Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Dallas took the lead early and cruised, having answers when Memphis would start to make a good run. Dirk Nowitzki had 20. The one bit of good for Memphis is that Mike Miller played, the way he tweaked his ankle the game before I thought he’d be out a while. —KH

Spurs 108, Suns 101: There are no statement games in December. However, maybe this one can be a “slow down there youngster” game — the veterans took care of upstart kids handily. Credit Manu Ginobili, who had 24 on the night and with the game tied 95-95 he had seven points on the Spurs little run that got them this win, including the dagger. Channing Frye had 22 for Phoenix. —KH

Rockets 109, Bulls 94: On the bright side for the Bulls, there were stretches where this was the best their offense has looked in a little while. However, they struggle with up-tempo teams and the Rockets basically ran them out of the building — Chicago got within three late in the third, the Rockets went on a 15-1 run and that was it. Dwight Howard had 23, James Harden looked fine on his sprained ankle and had 19.—KH

Clippers 108, Pelicans 95: Anthony Davis was back and looked good off the bench for New Orleans with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Aside that, second night of a road back to back for the Pelicans and they looked like it. Credit the aggressive Clippers who took care of business. Blake Griffin finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — he showed off the complete game some say he doesn’t have. He nailed some corner threes, made some nice bounces passes. DeAndre Jordan had 20 rebounds and 5 blocks Clippers have won four of five now. —KH

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

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Very little has gone right for the Lakers of late. They have dropped five in a row. Around Los Angeles, the talk has gone from “this team could make the playoffs” after a 10-10 start to “they need to tank and try to keep the pick” after going 5-21 since. (The Lakers pick this draft is top-three protected, if it’s outside that it goes to the Sixers. The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA.)

The Lakers young players look… young. D'Angelo Russell admitted he just started trying to follow a game-day routine, then said Tuesday night he didn’t focus and deserved to be benched down the stretch. Brandon Ingram shows flashes, he’s smart and sees the game, but he’s still physically pushed around.

But those flashes, like the steal and dunk above are fun.

Lakers fans, welcome to the process. This is what rebuilding is like. It’s a roller coaster, you just hope the trajectory generally remains up.

Rumor: Is Cleveland done making moves?

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13:  Kyle Korver #26 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Arron Afflalo #40 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on January 13, 2017 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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LeBron James has made it clear he wants the Cavaliers to add a veteran point guard to the mix. Cavs GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers to the roster.

The Cavaliers made a savvy move picking up Kyle Korver recently, he brings shooting and some high IQ play to the table. But was that it? Does Cleveland have another trade to pull off?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is about as connected as they come with the Cavaliers organization and he said on ESPN Cleveland radio not to bet on seeing another move.

Windhorst is right, in terms of players the Cavaliers don’t have much to move — James Jones? Kay Felder — and they don’t have a first-round pick to move until 2021. The buyout market may be something to watch, but a solid playmaker or point guard may be hard to come by.

The only question about the Cavaliers roster is this: How does it match up with Golden State? Barring a major catastrophe, the Cavaliers are coming out of the East, but can they beat the Warriors four out of seven? The MLK Day blowout was not an indicator one way or the other, the Cavs mailed that game in, but there certainly are questions about the potential Finals matchup. One more playmaker would help the Cavs, I just don’t know where he comes from.

Report: Pelicans explored Dwight Howard trade before Hawks pulled him off table

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 07:  Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Center on January 7, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Who are the Pelicans? They look like a movie where the writer, director, and studio suits all had very different versions of the film in mind, and the result is a jumbled mess. Think “Suicide Squad.”

There are a lot of questions about the roster and style of this team, but at the heart of all of it is this: Do they play Anthony Davis at the four or the five? They are better with him at the five but keep spending money on bigs to push him to the four.

They considered doing it again in the past month, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN (in an article that brilliantly lays out the quandary in New Orleans).

But they haven’t committed to staying small, and sticking Davis at center. They worry about the physical toll it would take, and fretted after Davis picked up two quick fouls jostling with Dwight Howard two weeks ago. In the days that followed, Atlanta and New Orleans had exploratory talks about possible Howard trades before the Hawks pulled everyone off the market, according to several league sources. It is unclear how interested New Orleans was, and there was not unanimous support within the team for acquiring Howard.

Dwight Howard? He’s played better this season and finally is staying within himself in Atlanta, but why would the Pelicans want him and that contract next to Davis? To be fair, these kinds of conversations happen a lot in the NBA and most don’t go anywhere. Still, this one is perplexing. It’s the opposite of the style they had success with this season. It’s back to the confused push-and-pull within that franchise.

Maybe this goes to having Saints people oversee the basketball side and thinking, like the NFL, you can rebuild on the fly quickly with smart fifth round picks and a couple free agents. The NBA doesn’t work that way (and there aren’t fifth round picks, although the second round serves that purpose). The Pelicans should have tanked in recent years. If the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

Bottom line, if the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

But the indecision and hodgepodge of a roster in New Orleans leaves it in the same place as always, and that is squandering one of the game’s best players.

Video Breakdown: What is Hammer action? An explainer

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Hammer action — sometimes referred to as a Hammer play or a Hammer set — was made ubiquitous in the modern NBA by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds to identify, and it’s got two main principles.

First, the Hammer part of any set is a back screen to setup a cut by a wing player around the arc to the corner (or sometimes on a flare to the wing).

Second, the Hammer always happens away from the ball side of a play. It’s a weak side action, and typically anything happening with the ball on the strong side at the beginning of the play is purposeful distraction.

You can learn all about the Hammer by watching this week’s NBA Glossary video above, or by reading the text version down below.

The Diagram

Here we have a set where the ball is on the right side of the floor, with one post high and one low. The Hammer action happens on the weak side of the court between the shooting guard and the center:

The small forward is going to start the pick and roll with the power forward going to the right side. Meanwhile, the center is going to set the back screen on the left left side of the floor. This is our Hammer action, and the shooting guard will run off that screen to the corner.

Once the play starts and the small forward gets to the baseline, he passes it out to the guard, who shoots the corner three.

Let’s take a look at it in action and how the Spurs mix it into different looking plays.

Here they have the ball at the arc on the right side of the floor. Kawhi Leonard is coming through the paint to receive a pass off the screen.

Meanwhile, Patty Mills is the player that’s going to run off a hammer screen here on the left elbow.

The ball is passed, and with Kawhi dribbling toward the arc, the trap is set, and the Hammer action commences.

The defender turns his head, and Mills runs toward the baseline unimpeded to take the jumper.

In this example, we have the pick and roll to the right side. The hammer action is going to happen between the guard and the post on the weak side.

As the pick and roll is run, the Hammer screen is set.

Notice San Antonio has cleverly positioned Tony Parker at the top of the arc, and when LaMarcus Aldridge pops out, it’s up to Parker’s defender to stunt over to help.

This makes Danny Green’s defender slide over to help cover Parker, basically leaving Green unguarded in the corner.

Aldridge sees this, and passes the ball to Parker for the quick rotation over to Green.

That’s the basics of the Hammer play. It’s nothing super complicated, but it shows you how spacing and exploitation of defensive tendencies can be programmed into an NBA offense.