One thing the Atlanta Hawks seemed to do very well in their 124-116 win over the Warriors on Friday night was this: They shut down the “pitch ahead.”
What’s the “pitch-ahead?” It’s when the Warriors take the ball out of the net — after an opposition’s make — get the ball to Stephen Curry in the backcourt, and then he throws a long pass up the sideline and into the frontcourt to a perimeter player on the wing.
Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala all have benefited from this quick offense, often finding themselves in an advantageous open-court situation — even though it’s after a make. We’ve seen countless Warriors’ scores like that this year.
But even if the Warriors don’t get a quickie off that, they’re still in a great spot.
And the reason is because they’re still in the frontcourt in a hurry (allowing themselves more of the 24-second shot clock) and the ball is already on one side of the court. So, if that player doesn’t have a good scoring opportunity, he simply throws it back to the middle of the floor, likely to Curry, and he quickly swings to the weakside.
Even when just that and only that happens, it has a positive effect because the ball swings from side to side, meaning the defense is on the move and not set. And it’s all done very quickly, leaving the Warriors as much time as possible to run their halfcourt offense.
But the Hawks had Al Horford, their big, agile center, linger in the backcourt after his team scored. Horford hung around and made the entry pass to Curry a pain. That allowed the Hawks another second or two to get all the way back on defense, set up and get the Warriors to use more clock getting into their offense.