Good Set, Bad Outcome
And to be fair to the naysayers, a lot of the invective directed at Jackson's overall offensive philosophy is well-earned. Cameron Purn dropped this excellent deep-dive into the Warriors' surprising mediocrity on that end of the court. The short version is that Golden States runs a lot of very simple sets which quickly devolve into shot clock-killing isolations if they don't generate a quick look.
Additionally, the Warriors as a whole (whether it is the coaching staff, just the players, or a combination of both) all too often have little respect for the value of the shot clock. In the fourth quarter last night many many of the Warriors' half court sets didn't start until 10 seconds or more had passed:
“Our offense is not complex at all,” Mike Brown said.
The Cavs just faced the Sixers a few days ago, so when Brown and Hawes spoke by phone Thursday night, Hawes said he had a pretty good idea what the Cavs do.
“You probably do,” Brown told him. “What you went over in your scouting report is all we do.”
Further, belying the general complaint about Jackson's inability to get the Warriors into offensive looks quickly enough, this was a 2-for-1 situation; if Golden State was able to get a shot up in around 4 seconds or less, they guaranteed themselves the last shot of the game. Despite this narrow time window, this is exactly what occurred. Absent Harden's strip, Lee would be shooting with about 31 seconds on the clock. And as it turned out, this 2-for-1 was crucial as Curry was able to answer Harden's clutch shot to force overtime.
But to return to the larger point, Golden State accomplished two important things with this set - they got the ball to a favorable spot on the floor or matchup, and they did so quickly enough to ensure the last possession. From that point, the principles of "Make or Miss League" take over and its flipping a coin. In a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser, one team will be pleased with the result and the other won't. Much like the furor over "letting LeBron James beat them" just before the All-Star break, the negative outcome in this tiny sample size of one shouldn't obscure the fact that the Warriors put themselves in possessions to make the plays most likely to win the game. Harden made a great play, but he won't make it every time, and he won't make it enough for the Warriors, or their fans, to second guess what was a good play call that happened to end poorly.