Maybe it was the 5:30 p.m. start, maybe it was knowing that the Warriors would be traveling to Los Angeles later that night to play the rival Los Angeles Clippers the next day, but there was a very strange feeling surrounding Sunday night’s game between the Warriors and the Detroit Pistons. Because of that weird energy, it might not have been all that surprising that the Pistons were able to come back from down as many as 14 points and defeat the Warriors at Oracle, 115-107.
In this game, one saw all the issues that have plagued the Warriors thus far in the first 7 games of the 2017-18 season, things that will hopefully be corrected as the season rolls along.
Let’s get it out of the way first— the turnovers
This is officially a thing. The Warriors have had 15 or more turnovers in each of their games this season. They turned it over 25 times against the Pistons, their highest turnover total since November 2011, leading to more field goal attempts for the Pistons (93 versus 77) that allowed the Pistons to overcome the Warriors shooting 57% from the field. The Warriors are allowing their opponents more field goal attempts than they did last season (93 per game as opposed to 89 during last year’s championship run) while also attempting fewer field goals themselves (84 thus far and down from 87 last season).
While the Warriors proclivity for turning the ball over is alarming and they certainly aren’t helped by giving teams these extra opportunities to score, I don’t believe that explains everything. It is worth noting that the Warriors averaged nearly 15 turnovers last season (14.8 to be exact). The problem is that the defense is not stopping the other teams. Their defensive rating is near the bottom of the league right now while last season they had the league’s second best.
With the free-flowing way the Warriors like to play, one must allow for there to be some turnovers. It is also worth remembering that this is early in the season and the Warriors played a truncated preseason schedule and thus did not get the time together to get on the same page.
How I like to think about it is like how a musician must practice their scales before they can start to improvise. The Warriors are still in that time, getting back into the groove of playing together and thus things might not be as pretty as one might like. There will be errors (in this case, turnovers) but it is all part of the process that allows the Warriors to play the way they do and as well as they do.
Many of the turnovers, particularly those earlier in the game, were because things were just a bit off. One would think that, as the season goes along and there are more opportunities for repetition and practice, that those turnovers numbers will start to dissipate and there will be a regression back to the mean.
Durant, Curry, Thompson and...?
As was discussed in the Warrior Wonder for last night’s game, Kevin Durant made a valiant effort down the stretch to win the game for the Warriors. Scoring 10 points on his own while assisting on a Thompson 3-pointer that cut the Pistons lead to two, the Warriors forward did all he could to give the Warriors a victory. After a rough opening game against the Rockets, Durant has played well in the rest of the Warriors games this season, being a consistent contributor on the offensive end.
Even as his offense has been strong, so too have the other facets of his game. Contributing through defensive rebounding and blocks, Durant has continued to be an excellent two-way player. Blocking two more shots while grabbing five defensive rebounds, Durant helped to limit the Pistons starting front court scoring to just 39 points, compared to the 45 points put up by starting backcourt members Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson.
Stephen Curry too has been playing well too at the start of this season. Scoring 27 points while guarded by Bradley, who has guarded him as well as anyone could in the past, Curry put together another strong game against the Pistons (27 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds). The only blemish on Curry’s box score were, not surprisingly, his 5 turnovers. Klay Thompson was also proficient from the offensive end, scoring a game-high 29 points and posting his second-highest point total of the season. Durant, Curry and Thompson are all averaging 20+ points thus far, so there’s no issue with their offensive output.
The issue is that they are the only ones scoring in double figures, thus creating an offense that is too top heavy. For an offense predicated on movement, getting everyone involved and taking open shots, you do not want to see the scoring stagnate and revolve around just a few players.
The addition of Nick Young in particular was seen as an opportunity to inject more offense into a bench unit that, at times, struggled to score last season. However, after an opening night scoring explosion of 23 points, Young has struggled on offense that, when coupled with numerous defensive lapses, makes him a liability when he’s out on the court. But Young isn’t the only one whose lack of offensive contributions is hurting the Warriors.
Early season offensive struggles for Green and Iguodala
After two NBA championships and one 73 win-regular season, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala have probably earned the benefit of the doubt. That said, they’ve both struggled this season, especially on offense, and that showed up against the Pistons. Draymond only scored 2 points while going 1-for-4 from the field while Iguodala only scored 4 points, going 2-for-4 from the field and posting an astonishingly low plus/minus of -26.
To be certain, both of these players contribute so much more than just points and can help the team win even when they don’t score. We also worried at the beginning of last season that Iguodala wasn’t playing well and his role might need to be diminished before being proven wrong by his play throughout the season and the playoffs. But it has been notable that both players are not playing up to the standards, especially on offense, that we’ve come to expect. Draymond’s field goal percentage (and his percentage from 3-point range) are both well below his career average while Iguodala has been equally absent on offense, only shooting 10% on 3-pointers.
As The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami noted on the Anthony Slater’s Warriors All 82 podcast following last night’s game, the Warriors don’t need Green and Iguodala to score but they still need to be threats on offense. At this point in the season, neither have been and that, in many ways, might be more responsible for the team’s early season struggles. Getting those two back on track offensively should be a priority for the Warriors in the coming games.
One hopes that playing against their rivals, the Clippers, would get the Warriors focused and lead to them playing a complete and dominant game. Green, in particular, relishes the opportunities to go up against Blake Griffin. That being said, it is worth tempering expectations as this is the second game of a back-to-back so energy levels could be understandably low. But the loss to the Pistons highlighted the things that the Warriors must make a concerted effort to address as the season moves forward. They aren’t changes that will happen instantaneously, so we should temper our expectations slightly in the short term. But it’s clear what is ailing these Warriors and it cost them a winnable game against the Pistons on Sunday night.
Who was your Warriors Wonder against the Pistons?
This poll is closed