George Karl didn't know what we were talking about.
On Friday, a little over 24 hours before the Nuggets and Warriors tip off Game 1 of the Western Conference 3-6 first-round playoff matchup, Karl was asked about the Warriors' "elevator play." Karl looked blankly at the reporter who asked. He'd heard about if from me and wanted to get Karl's thoughts on it. I was on the perimeter, waiting on another interview and ducking the swarm around the Denver head coach. I held up my iPad armed with the play to show him what he was being asked about while the reporter diagrammed it.
Curry, a phenomenal shooter and an especially good one behind the screen, starts to come off a cut from the corner, toward the middle, then suddenly jets up as two players set screens for him. That's the key. Two. An elbow big turns to screen, while a second big comes down from the perimeter next to him, and Curry shoots through between the two big men. Then the two close the "elevator doors" or "gate" or "window" and squeeze the defender trailing. The two bigs' defenders are caught off guard and with Curry's release, by the time they figure it out, he's got a clean look.
"Oh, the window play," Karl said Friday at practice. "We call it the window. Your bigs have to be aware of it. They have a personality to where the coaches will be able to figure it out, probably switch it, probably switch a big out on it. It will be run after timeouts most of the time."
Nuggets premium defender Andre Iguodala pointed out that the trick is not defending what seems like a super-difficult play to defend due to spacing; it's getting everyone on the same page.
"You've got to try to put a little pressure on the ball," Iguodala said, "to try to make it a tough pass. But two bigs together is always in the defense's favor, because that means one big can guard both of them, and the other big can help out a little bit. But with defense, communication is the No. 1 factor."
Nuggets assistant coach Chad Iske is the defensive specialist on staff. He said approaching the series with the Warriors, their plan is to authorize their bigs to attack more aggressively if they recognize it, because there's less of a concern of Curry making the pass low and the Nuggets having no one home to defend than there is of giving Curry an open look. They don't like either, another reason why Curry gives them such concern, but they have to pick their poison.
A nice insight into defending one of the cooler little plays in the NBA, one of many that Karl said the Warriors use as "tricks" to get Curry open looks despite him being the obvious 3-point threat. Curry set the record for made 3s in a season on the last night of the season Wednesday.
The Nuggets open against the Warriors at Pepsi Center in Denver at 5:30 p.m ET for Game 1.