'Just Like Curry, Just Like Durant': How 6'1" Lou Williams Gets Buckets

Will Gottlieb@@wontgottliebFeatured Columnist IApril 26, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 24: Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors  during Game Five of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Lou Williams getting buckets is nothing new. He's been doing it for 14 seasons.

But on this stage, matched up against the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, his isolation mastery, finishing prowess and killer instincts are leading to some of the biggest wins of his career. He's scoring inside and out, getting to the free-throw line, making every difficult mid-range shot and dropping 24.4 points per night off the bench with an elite 60.9 true shooting percentage against the back-to-back champs.  

"He's a great scorer, just like Curry, just like Durant," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after their 129-121 Game 5 win, during which Williams scored a team-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting. "In the games in L.A., they were trapping him a lot, so we took the picks away a lot tonight and iso-ed him with space."

In order to be a great scorer, you must first be able to read the defense. The Clippers' simple adjustment of removing the pick-and-roll to reduce the chance of a double-team has allowed Williams to go into his bag of tricks.

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"I thought that gave him room to work," Rivers said. "Thought the end of the second quarter we did it over and over again. That got his rhythm. And when Lou gets his rhythm, he's tough to guard. He's been tallying in the fourth. He believes he's a closer. He is a closer."

The rangy Warriors defenders can be difficult for smaller guards to break down. When they trap, it's nearly impossible. But microwave scorers such as Williams are well-equipped to do one-on-one damage, and there's no stopping him once he's hot.

At the end of a close game, pick-and-rolls re-emerge as the primary offensive set for every team. Once the Clippers' spark plug had gotten himself going, those ball-screen actions that were so unsuccessful during Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles started to create points every trip down the floor.

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"You just can't—you can't just say I'm going to stop Lou Williams," Kevin Durant said. "You just have to hope you're locked in enough to stop him or things go well."

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Having seen the different pick-and-roll defenses the Warriors could throw at him, Williams patiently navigated his way to any spot on the floor, from which he could get buckets with head fakes and stop-and-gos to keep defenders off balance.

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Known more for his scoring than playmaking, Williams has also picked apart the Warriors with 7.8 assists per game, attacking quickly when the defense sags back and dropping off dimes to Montrezl Harrell when the help slides over.

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"Just focus. Just focus," Williams said. "I'm blessed to have teammates that believe in me coming down the stretch, they make sure I have the ball in my hands. They have that confidence in me to go out there and make those plays.

"And when you have a locker room full of guys who are going to live and die with the decisions you make in the fourth quarter, it makes your job tremendously easy. So I go out there, top of the fourth, knowing that it is my time to go. My teammates know it's my time to go, and I go out there to do the best I can to help get us a win."

Williams is so crafty with his movement, changing pace, shifting speed and effortlessly dissecting whichever elite Warriors defender is thrown his way. He pulls different strings, gets you to bite and then finishes with a variety of artful leaners. 

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"When they're driving, when they feel contact, [James Harden and Williams] use it against the defender," Rivers said. "Lou does it going away, and that's what's so difficult for the officials. It's rare that you have a guy going away from the contact and is able to then draw the contact."

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Williams' acrobatics are an understated aspect of his scoring arsenal.

He's earning 7.8 free-throw attempts per game in this series, which not only adds to his efficiency but also reduces the risk of the Warriors going on one of their patented pull-up three-point barrages.

"He's so crafty," Durant said. "If you get close to him, you're definitely going to get a foul because he knows how to use his body. He knows how to use his game."

"He should be up there with some of the superstar players in this league," Patrick Beverley said, "because he's doing it day in and day out at 6'1½"."

He's 6'1½", but he's hitting Dirk Nowitzki's one-legged fadeaway.

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Without him running so many pick-and-rolls early, the Warriors need to find an adjustment that prevents Williams from heating up early so he doesn't torch them late. Whether it's blitzing him to get the ball out of his hands—even at the risk of other Clippers shooters heating up—or trying something unconventional like a zone, they need a new game plan.

"Lou is one of the best players in the league," Beverley said. "He's a killer, man. I guard the best of them. I see him every day in practice, man. He's a real killer. He goes up with some of the best scorers in the NBA."

Stopping him might be easier said than done. 

Follow Will on Twitter @wontgottlieb

All stats in this story are from ESPN and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. 


Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey joins Howard Beck on the Full 48 podcast to discuss his team's postseason chances in the next round. 

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