The Warriors find themselves in an unfortunate, but all too familiar place as they look at their depth chart and try to figure out a way around yet another injury. Stephen Curry will play his second game after returning from a groin injury that has kept him on the sideline for weeks — but there are still a number of holes in the rotation for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors to figure out against an Atlanta Hawks team that leads the league in pace of play.
Some good news, bad news on the injury front
First and foremost, we wish Damian Jones the best of luck (and medical care) on his journey towards recovery. In case you’ve been away from the internet this weekend, Jones tore his pectoral muscle on a fairly innocuous-looking play at the end of the 3rd quarter against the Detroit Pistons — an injury that will keep him out months, if not the rest of the season. This is the other side of the same muscle that Jones tore in training camp as a rookie, and as Kerr said on Sunday, “a big setback for him..and for us.”
No indications yet who will get the start in Jones’ stead against Atlanta and their starter, Alex Len, a mobile seven-footer with just enough beef to make it a problematic matchup for both Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney.
On the other side of fortune, we do have two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry back on the court, which will help alleviate some of the pace and space issues that have been the bane of Warriors basketball since he left. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Just to finish the injury updates: it looks like Draymond Green will not be returning to action during this road trip, but Alfonzo McKinnie may be back as early as Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fans clamoring for a different look and more shooting may get it
While the Warriors have plenty of firepower, they are slowly losing the three point shooting war against the league. In spite of having two of the best three shooters of all time, Golden State finds themselves consistently outshot from deep. The team ranks 20th in the league for total three pointers attempted — asked about this issue after the most recent loss to Detroit, Kerr strongly indicated that changing this would be a high priority moving forward.
Steve Kerr takes blame for the Warriors lack of 3s, calls tonight one “of my worst performances as a coach,” said he’s gotta create more space for his offense, unclog paint pic.twitter.com/884K8JjRIv— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 2, 2018
I’m not sure what this will look like, exactly, but with one less non-shooting big man available, we could see Kerr get funky and start chasing threes by abandoning the traditional Center position all together. This has reliably been one of his big ‘AH-HAH!’ moves — working most famously in the playoffs but seemingly just as pertinent during the regular season.
Without Jones, the Warriors are going to be forced to play smaller — a modification that could serendipitously result in a solution to some of the ugly offense we’ve seen lately.
Atlanta still not doing so hot, but could challenge this clunky version of the Warriors
I mean... that header pretty much says it all. The Atlanta Hawks are not having a great season. Heck, they’re not even having a good one!
But what they do manage to do well could give the Warriors fits. The Hawks aren’t elite at much, but they lead the league in pace and are third-best at forcing turnovers. While the Warriors have Curry back in the fold, it did not immediately solve all their problems. As elucidated by Curry’s seven turnovers against Detroit, Golden State just isn’t the same without Draymond Green out there as well. As per Anthony Slater of the Athletic:
During the first 12 games, the Warriors had a 118.8 offensive rating. In the 12 since, missing Curry for 11 of them, they put up a 109.0 rating.
Remember that while Golden State managed to come away with the win, the Hawks played us extremely well last time these two teams met — holding a halftime lead and keeping it to within just a handful of points before eventually ceding the contest by just eight points. Another lackluster showing on offense could be the window Atlanta needs to steal a win from the champs — especially if Golden State turns the ball over a lot.
Maybe it’s the gold-blooded infusions I get daily from Daniel Hardee’s Slack channel comments, or maybe it’s the fact that Steph’s back and the Hawks aren’t good — but whatever it is, I feel good about this game.
Warriors and Kerr relax into the fast-paced frollicking fun, put away Atlanta 121 - 108.