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

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.