Whew, Dub Nation is in a rocky and uncertain place as 2018 comes to a close. The team is floundering and breaking all sorts of the wrong records as they stumble across the final days of the calendar.
Still, these are the Golden State Warriors. Defending Champions of the NBA, winners of three of the last four Championships.
WHO: Warriors vs. Trail Blazers
WHEN: Thursday, December 27; 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
RADIO: 95.7 The Game
Blog Buddy: Blazers Edge
Is there a “book” on the Warriors, is the league catching up, or is this just noise?
According to Anthony Slater’s post mortem of the Lakers game for The Athletic, in the four years since Steve Kerr took over as coach the Warriors only lost by 20 or more points twice. This season? It’s happened four times now (Thunder, Bucks, Raptors, and now the Lakers). It’s not just troubling on it’s own - since the team has been injured for half of those losses - but the more concerning trend may be how indicative that loss was in regards to how teams manage to beat the pants off of Golden State.
Guard the heck out of Stephen Curry, sell out hard on his secondary option (Durant, mostly), and then live with whatever the rest of the team can do. The results are what they are - without the Warriors vaunted shooting, Golden State is having trouble burying opponents under a barrage of threes. Kerr may want to tinker a bit (or a lot, depending on who you ask), but there is mounting evidence that a lot of the problem right now is that shots just aren’t falling.
After barely putting away the Los Angeles Clippers (who shot at a historic rate), the Warriors dropped a huge one on National television while missing an unusual amount of wide open shots.
Warriors shot 22/57 on *uncontested* shots last night (38.6%). Curry, Klay, KD combined for 7/23 (30.4%) on those.— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) December 26, 2018
Lakers shot 31/53 (58.5%) on uncontested looks.
That's ... wild
Ok, so let’s talk about what needs fixing
First up - defense
Defensively, the Warriors’ Achilles heel is clear - with no beefy interior deterrent, and a more-than-occasional lackadaisical focus, teams are simply murdering us by attacking off switches. The team offense is fine with our offensive rating of 112.9 being tops in the league, but our defense is, as Brady Kopfler would say: decidedly mediocre. The Warriors are giving up 106.5 points per 100 possessions - 26th in the league. This would actually all be fine if the Warriors were just hoping to make the playoffs, but for a team with Championship aspirations, it’s just not going to cut it.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are not helping
Much like the point above, neither player is actually doing harm - but both of these guys are falling well short of where they need to be if this team hopes to end the playoffs with a win this year. That last game was pretty bad; I’m not sure exactly how they can turn this all around, but if Green and Thompson needed another wakeup call, they got one on Christmas day.
From our own Joe Viray’s breakdown yesterday, Green’s dip may be minor in the grand scale of things, but it’s significant within the context of Green’s normal role:
Since the 2014-15 season, he has averaged double-digit scoring, peaking at 14.0 points per game in 2015-16 and bottoming out at 10.2 points per game in 2016-17.
That average has dropped to 7.3 points per game this season.
Thompson in particular has been in a perplexing slump all season (the odd game here or there aside). As described by Anthony Slater, you don’t even need to really dig that deeply into the numbers to see how bad Thompson has been shooting this season - just look at how weirdly horrible he’s been at hitting wide open threes:
Per NBA.com, he is 21 of 70 (30 percent) this season on 3s without a defender within six feet. Last season, without a defender within 6 feet, he made 94 of 186, better than 50 percent.
I don’t really have any quips, or handy answers to all of this, but I think it’s safe to say that most fans are at least a little bit concerned by what we’re seeing out there right now.
Stephen Curry: "We were looking forward to this opportunity ... and we just laid an egg. ... We're not going to win a championship playing like we did tonight."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) December 26, 2018
The Portland Trailblazers also took a loss on Christmas, and fans may feel a familiar sinking feeling
I popped over to Blazer Edge to see what the locals were talking about, and I must say, the similarities are striking. After running hot for a bit, the Blazers are struggling now to separate themselves from the pack. They still have all the talent, but for whatever reason are just struggling to put it all together.
Jusuf Nurkic is one of those big-bodied Centers who could make Golden State really miss some of our old big guys. Hopefully our plethora of of options will cover for the lack of heft down low.
Also, expect Oakland native Damian Lillard to get some hearty applause. Barring the playoffs, this could well be the final game at Oracle for the local prodigy. He’s always been very good to the people of Oakland, and this will be yet another poignant moment in the long farewell to basketball in The Town.
I think the Warriors will bounce back. So much of this bad season is just missing open shots. I’m a firm believer in the Warriors and regression to their mean. At some point, those shots are going to fall... right?
Warriors 121 - Blazer 119