Apr 25, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) slips but maintains his dribble as New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) defends during the fourth quarter in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Over the weekend, the Golden State Warriors completed an unsurprising-yet-highly-entertaining sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. Entering the series, the Warriors most used lineup was an absolute force to be reckoned with – an unguardable menace the rest of the league has been largely unable to counter. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not quite sure how a defense guards four overlapping skill sets like this.
When all those TeamSPACE Hunting Grounds are merged together, we get a sense of how much space that lineup occupies on the court. That aggregate is useful for measuring change. The concept of change is something I’ve previously delved into in these spaces before. When we properly normalize shot activity for different sets of games and shot attempts, the comparison of Hunting Grounds becomes pretty straightforward. The differences are plain and simple: shot activity either shrinks, expands, or remains the same. Why does this matter? The changes in Hunting Grounds are indicative of subtle yet important changes to how the offense generates points.
As you can see, the Warriors’ Hunting Grounds occupied 6.35% of the court during the regular season. Against the Pelicans in Round 1, that figure jumped to just a shade over 11% – nearly double. What gives? Well, despite increasing the space, it’s not simple math. The 3pt areas above the break remained relatively consistent. However, one of the corners essentially vanished. Also, there’s some previously non-existent elbow-midrange activity that emerged. At the same time, some of the top of key scoring disappeared. It seems reasonably safe to think that all of this is the result of some tightening up (along the 3pt line), some shifting (from the top to the elbow), and some remaining constant (in the paint).
Player-by-player, it’s a mixed bag. Chef Steph Curry, Andrew Bogut, and Draymond Green remained virtually identical to their regular season outputs. Harrison Barnes’ Hunting Grounds shrunk – significantly – which likely accounts for some of the corner 3pt activity going M-I-A. Klay Thompson increased his space, most notably at the elbow and above the break 3pt. Realistically, while this is only four games versus 82, it’s telling how the Warriors will adapt to a targeted opponent. Seemingly, this model of consistency is what the Dubs will continue to employ as they march through the Western Conference.