As they were against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, the Warriors would be without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Alfonzo McKinnie. Much like that Saturday game in Dallas, the Warriors would come up short in this one as well. Though they came back to make things close in the fourth quarter, the Warriors lost 104-92 to the Spurs, their fourth loss in five games and the first time they’ve gone 0-3 on a road trip since Steve Kerr became head coach.
Spurs’ defense suffocates Durant and Thompson
The struggles of the two All-Stars the Warriors had in their lineup, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, meant this was going to be a tough game for the Warriors to win. Durant’s rough week continues, as he scored 26 points but did so while shooting 8-for-25 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Durant did have 6 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds but, on the whole, it was another less-than-stellar performance from him.
Thompson, meanwhile, scored 25 points against the Spurs while shooting 11-for-26 from the field but went 3-for-11 from long distance. Thompson did have this nifty assist in the first quarter, setting up Damian Jones for the thunderous dunk.
With both Curry and Green out, the Spurs could focus on swarming Durant and Thompson, throwing double-teams at them and preventing them from getting clean looks at three-pointers by always having someone there to contest their shot. The past three games have proved that is definitely the way to play against the Warriors when they are missing Curry and/or Green.
In his postgame comments, Durant alluded to how teams have this game plan and employ it as well as the difficulties that arise when they are without Curry and Green.
Kevin Durant with a nuanced perspective on what it takes to improve the shooting and when to determine when to move the ball pic.twitter.com/F8Q1BRc1He— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 19, 2018
While it’s been a rough stretch for these two, one has to expect a regression to the mean coming soon for both of them, especially from three-point range. But if they’re struggling like this and the team is without Curry and Green, it’s going to make getting wins a challenging proposition.
Cook leads second-half Warriors charge
One Warriors player who had a nice game and did his best to spur the Warriors to a come-from-behind victory was Quinn Cook. Coming off the bench, Cook scored 16 points in just under 29 minutes, while also grabbing 8 rebounds and playing with a great deal of energy.
Here are 3 of Cook’s points, ones which came in the third quarter when Cook scored 7 points as the Warriors cut an eighteen-point Spurs lead in half by the quarter’s end.
Coach Kerr has kept Cook out of the starting lineup these past few games, electing to go for more defensive-oriented starting lineups with Andre Iguodala and Jonas Jerebko. Even though he can be a liability defensively, what Cook brings to the Warriors’ offense and how he gets the team moving more than makes up for that. As long as Curry is sidelined, the majority of those point guard minutes need to be going to Cook. Hopefully Kerr will insert Cook into the starting lineup for these remaining games they will have to play without Curry.
Once again, a lack of ball movement
In those postgame comments mentioned above, Durant talked about how the passes and number of assists will always go down with Curry and Green out of the lineup, given how their absence affects what the Warriors can do on the court. Here are Durant’s specific words on this issue:
Good Kevin Durant quote on the Warriors lack of typical ball movement lately, relating it to the different personnel (no Steph/Draymond) that makes it more challenging: "I know Warriors basketball is 5, 6, 7 passes in a possession, but we not going to get that at this point." pic.twitter.com/LWf8GLJ2pn— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 19, 2018
Some of these issues having to do with the flow of the offense and the lower assist numbers were inevitable with the injuries the Warriors were dealing with. There was no way around it.
With that said, the ball movement (or lack thereof) was still well below where it needed to be and warrants at least some concern. Against the Spurs, the Warriors had just 20 assists, their second-lowest team assist total of the season. The only game in which they had fewer than 20 assists as a team this season was in Thursday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets, making it pretty clear that these issues are pretty directly correlated to Curry’s absence.
Though the Warriors only ended the game with 12 turnovers, those turnovers also seemed to come at inopportune moments that killed the Warriors’ momentum. Five of those turnovers came in the third quarter when the Spurs opened up their biggest lead of the night (though the Warriors would cut into it as the quarter went on).
Quite a few of those turnovers came from overpassing, trying to play the same way they do when Curry and Green are in the lineup and potential shot-takers. While the Warriors tend to lapse into iso-heavy basketball when Curry and Green are sitting out, that might be better than trying to pass as much as they regularly do. That way, you don’t risk having the ball end up with someone who does not want to shoot, which usually leads to them forcing an ill-advised pass that leads to a turnover.
Spurs play a solid game
Make no mistake about it, the Spurs played an excellent game on Sunday night, stepping up and taking advantage of an underperforming Warriors team to get a win. The Warriors’ defense was certainly lacking without Green as the Spurs shot 44.6% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range. Though the Spurs are a middling offensive team, on this Sunday evening they played a lot better than that.
Leading the way for the Spurs was LaMarcus Aldridge , who scored 24 points and took full advantage when matched up against Damian Jones. One place the Warriors definitely missed Green was in the matchup against Aldridge. With the Warriors missing their best defender, the big man from the University of Texas was able to get whatever he wanted. DeMar DeRozan had 20 points of his own, once again displaying his proficiency in the mid-range game, to go with his 9 assists.
Also chipping in for the Spurs was Rudy Gay, who contributed 19 points, while former Warriors’ player Marco Belinelli scored 12 points coming off the bench. While the Spurs aren’t as loaded as they’ve been in years past, especially when they had Kawhi Leonard, they still look to be a tough team in a deep Western Conference.