Game 4 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals resulted in another brutal loss in which the Golden State Warriors' offense struggled to function and its defense was manhandled. In the wake of two blowout losses, the underground #FIREKERR movement is threatening to go mainstream. If we don't see some revisions to the strategy employed tonight in Oakland, that movement may continue to grow.
Here are a few no-brainers that should be considered in preparation for Game 5.
Start guarding Andre Roberson
The strategy of not guarding Andre Roberson has failed. He's a professional basketball player - whether you give him wide open looks from behind the arc or next to the rim, you should expect him to make more of those shots than normal if nobody is near him. It's one thing to not focus on a player; it's a completely different story to allow him to shoot uncontested shots and build his confidence simultaneously. Roberson tore the Warriors apart in these blowout losses, scoring 30 points in the past two games. Let's put an end to this cute little strategy of leaving him wide open and at least have someone close enough to run at him with a hand in the air to challenge his shot.
Stop double teaming Russell Westbrook so quickly
In Game 4, Draymond Green left Roberson alone to double team Russell Westbrook whenever he was guarded by Stephen Curry, leading to many scoring opportunities for Roberson. Granted, Curry is likely injured and unable to effectively guard Westbrook, which is devastating. Nonetheless, the Warriors would be better off asking Curry to do what he can on his own to tempt Westbrook into jump shots rather than send an automatic double team that leaves Roberson free to run to the rim without a rim protector to stop him. Westbrook can't make every shot and those jumpers will be made at a lower percentage, on average, than will Roberson's layups. Additionally, have Klay Thompson put some ball pressure on Westbrook in the backcourt (without fouling!) to give the Thunder less time to set up the screens designed to switch Curry on to Westbrook in the first place.
Put Draymond on a strict two-turnover per quarter limit
Minute restrictions are commonplace in the NBA. How about a turnover restriction? Draymond has been throwing the ball into traffic and otherwise sloppy with the ball to the point where it's hard to recognize him. He has 10 turnovers in the past two games. Is his processor still on the fritz from that press conference? When Draymond is off, he's really off. To prevent the damage from compiling, pull Draymond out the minute he makes two costly mistakes in a quarter. Carelessness cannot be tolerated.
Only play Festus Ezeli at the beginning of quarters
I was really high on Festus Ezeli coming into this season after what he did in Game 6 of the 2015 Finals and desperately wanted Festus to have a breakout playoff run this year. Sadly, we haven't seen it. Instead, the Thunder have showcased that Festus can't shoot free throws to save his team's life, which feeds that debilitating Hack-an-Ezeli strategy that slows both the pace of the game and Golden State's scoring.
Since OKC is exploiting his free throw woes, Festus should not touch the court once the Warriors are even approaching the bonus in any quarter. If coach Kerr wants to give him minutes, Festus should start quarters and certainly not end them. If that means starting Festus for the first couple of minutes of the game, so be it. And while we're speaking of Festus, I think Serge Ibaka has figured out that you love that righty hook; need to mix it up a little, big fella.
Wake up Andrew Bogut
It's déjà vu - Bogut is struggling in the playoffs. He's just not energetic enough to hang with these Thunder big men.
I love Bogut and against most teams he's a beast on defense, but he hasn't been quick enough to be effective on defense or on the boards in this series. Furthermore, the officials are all over every move he makes, making him ineffective as a screener and rebounder. As a result, Bogut is contributing very little while helping the Thunder get to the line at an insane pace.
How many free throws are the Warriors going to give the Thunder? Yes, the Warriors are getting pounded on the boards and going small will exacerbate that issue, but Bogut isn't rebounding well enough to make a difference anyway. If he can't initiate the offense with his passing, he brings very little value in this series. Light a fire under him so that he plays with greater intensity for shorter stretches of time - perhaps off of the bench. If he's not going at 100% in strong bursts, the Warriors are better off with someone else on the floor.
Allow Klay to play through foul trouble
You know what seemed like an awful idea in Game 4? Taking Klay out of the game after he exploded for 19 points in seven minutes in the third quarter. Klay had four fouls when Kerr removed him from the game and had four fouls when the game ended. He could have played many more minutes without fouling out, particularly after sitting for most of the second quarter!
Getting a fourth foul does not guarantee that a strong defensive player like Klay will soon get a fifth. He should be trusted to stay on the court with foul trouble because he's just that valuable. OKC hasn't shown that they have an answer for him yet. He's too quick for most of their taller defenders and he'll hit buckets for days over anyone shorter than him. Play Klay Thompson for as many minutes as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play. There's nothing he needs to stay rested for if they don't win the next three games. Let Klay get the most out of the six fouls he's allotted.
Make Klay the leader while Steph struggles
The only Warriors player who has been consistently strong in this playoffs has been Klay Thompson. He nearly brought the Warriors back from a 19-point halftime deficit in the third quarter through brilliant shooting and solid defense. With Steph struggling, Klay is the only player having consistent success in driving or cutting to the lane for layups and he's drilling three-point shots when he's open. (Side note: Klay, please stop rushing three-point shots with a nearly full shot clock, a hand in your face, and nobody around to rebound a miss. That shot is available at any time.) The ball should be in Thompson's hands as often as possible until the Thunder find a way to stop him. Again, play Klay as many minutes as possible!
So there's some free advice to Steve Kerr in case nobody came up with a bright idea at 3 a.m. this morning to fix things. One thing is for sure - something needs to change in Game 5. This team has too much talent to be losing this badly. How would you advise Coach Kerr, Dub Nation?