While the Warriors came into this game having effectively nothing to play for, the Pacers remain in the thick of the battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference. Owing to this, the Pacers played a much better game than the Warriors, leading for almost all of the game on their way to a 126-106 victory.
Warriors defense can’t stop Bogdanovic, Pacers
After playing well against the Thunder, the Warriors defensive effort left much to be desired against the Pacers. The Pacers shot 53.8% from the field, well above their season average. The Pacers also shot an astonishing 51.7% from three-point range, considerably better than the 36.9% rate at which they normally make their three-pointers. Though it’s a cliché to say “well, it was just their night,” there’s also some truth in it. Thursday night, just about everything was going the Pacers way on offense.
While, yes, some of this was just the Pacers having an abnormally good shooting night, this was also the result of the Warriors’ lacking defensive intensity. While against the Thunder it was clear that the Warriors were focused and could really lock in on defense, against the Pacers they displayed a much more leisurely approach to defending which ended up hurting them.
One player the Warriors had no answer for on Thursday night was Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 28 points to lead all players. 18 of Bogdanovic’s 28 points came from long distance as the Warriors frequently lost track of the Pacers’ forward, allowing him to get good looks
Between Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo, who scored 21 points of his own, the Pacers had enough offense to get the comfortable win and the Warriors did not play enough defense to stop them.
Durant’s poor shooting continues
Though he ended up scoring a team-high 27 points, Kevin Durant was not at his best against the Pacers. After going 2-for-13 in the second half of Tuesday night’s game in Oklahoma City, Durant went 8-for-23 from the field on Thursday night, continuing a streak of poor shooting for the usually-accurate Durant.
Yes, Durant has to act as a volume scorer and seeing his field goal attempts rise makes sense given Stephen Curry’s absence from the Warriors lineup. But Durant still needs (and the Warriors expect him) to make those shots at a commensurate rate to when Curry is playing.
That said, Durant did show off some of the facilitating he’ll need to do during Curry’s absence, finishing Thursday night’s game with a team-high seven assists.
One of those came in the first quarter, when Durant’s gravity created the room for Quinn Cook to get an open look.
That said, it wasn’t just Durant who struggled offensively for the Warriors. The team went 31% from three-point range. Klay Thompson was the Warriors’ second leading scorer with 16 points, but all of his points came in the first half as he went 0-for-6 from the field in the second. Without Curry, the Warriors need Durant and Thompson to produce at a high offensive level. On Thursday night, they weren’t able to get there.
Damian Jones (and the lack of Pachulia)
For the second straight night, Damian Jones was able to earn substantial minutes. As one of the first big men off of the bench, Jones played in the first and third quarters of Thursday night’s game against the Pacers. Playing 12 minutes, Jones scored 7 points and again displayed ability that hints at a promising future.
As I wrote about when discussing the Warriors’ win over the Thunder, one doesn’t imagine that Jones will play a big role in Steve Kerr’s playoff rotation. But what this recent stretch of play might reflect, beyond the potential Jones might possess, is how Zaza Pachulia might be out of the rotation altogether.
The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami alluded to this in a tweet.
Pachulia was a DNP in the first half. Other than potential matchups against OKC or Minnesota, it's getting harder to see Pachulia with meaningful playoff minutes.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 6, 2018
Though he was able to play a few minutes in the fourth quarter when the game was effectively out of reach, Pachulia was a non-factor for the Warriors. Between Jordan Bell’s impressive rookie campaign, the improved play of Kevon Looney, and the consistency of David West, there might not be space left for Pachulia save for certain very specific matchups.
How Kerr manages those big-man minutes will be something to keep an eye on, both in the final games of the regular season as well as into the postseason.
Lack of effort characterizes Warriors’ play
The Pacers rank near the top of the league in terms of opponent turnovers while the Warriors are among the teams that give the ball away the most. Thus it’s not all that surprising that the Warriors did turn the ball over a lot against the Pacers, 16 times resulting in 18 Pacers points.
The Pacers also had a decided advantage in fast-break points, something they dominated by the margin of 29-10. Between that and their decided advantage in points in the paint (56-40), it was clear that the Pacers came prepared and focused against the Warriors.
While a lack of effort by the Warriors does not explain all these things, it was certainly an important factor. This was something that coach Kerr addressed in his postgame interview:
Steve Kerr roasts the Warriors performance as "embarrassing" pic.twitter.com/wUJdr6BWFz— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 6, 2018
To some degree, the Warriors taking their foot off of the gas pedal is expected as they’ve more or less locked up everything and don’t have much to play for. Also, as Durant noted in his postgame interview, the Pacers had something to do with this as their play was more central to their victory than the Warriors’ lack of effort.
Hopefully Kerr and the Warriors coaching staff can use this game as a kind of teachable moment, to get the Warriors back into their best habits with the playoffs beginning in less than two weeks.
Who was the Warrior Wonder for the loss to the Pacers?
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