This season, GSoM hasn’t had to cover many close games.
We talk a lot about larger themes in the game like fatigue, styles and lineups — which are completely necessary — but some of the best analysis is derived by diving into key plays.
Apricot is the master of explaining plays, much better than us. That said, there are countless Game 4 moments to examine and discuss. As Dinohealth and Missing Barry have already stated in FanPosts, there may be something to discuss in regards to the changes in our offense. Namely, is it just playoff basketball, or a worrisome transformation?
Before you can really answer that, a deeper analysis of the game film is helpful. Or in simpler terms, watch it again and see how everything developed — knowing what we know about how the game unfolded.
This was a game of moments, a rare occurrence for the Warriors
When it mattered most, the Warriors were flat, tired and unfocused and tried playing the Houston Rockets brand of basketball in the fourth quarter. Maybe the Warriors win the next couple games and Game 4 is a blip. It could also have been the biggest momentum swing of the season.
As Brady wrote last week, when the Warriors lose this year, they tend to lose big.
Counting the playoffs, the Warriors have lost 27 games this year. 16 of those losses came by double digits. They lost by three or fewer points once: On opening night.
After the disastrous results in Game 4, it’s now twice that the Rockets have beaten us in close games. So let’s take a look at some of the film and see if we can predict what Kerr will do better.
From yesterday’s Warrior Wonder article, here’s a play that exemplifies the Warriors offense — ball movement, and an unselfish decision to get the best look possible. This is who the Warriors are when they are playing isolation basketball their way.
Watch Durant take the ball in isolation and back his undersized defender down. Now for those who are criticising a critical shift in the Warriors offense, here’s a rebuttal: note the lack of off ball movement. Even the announcers call it an isolation play. But then, once the double team comes, Durant quickly dumps it to the open man (who’s wisely now slid into the open space under the basket).
But they lost it in the fourth quarter.
Now, check out this set that Ethan Sherwood Strauss highlighted. In particular, look at the dearth of off-ball movement. Curry is moving a bit. Klay Thompson hardly moves, and the general set here looks like a really ungainly way to get an isolation shot for Durant on the wing.
Mind you, this was in the first quarter, the second-best quarter of the game. But also note that this was the beginning of the end of the 12-0 streak that started the game. This is the part of the game where the Rockets made a 7-2 push over just four minutes.
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Still isolation basketball, but watch how long Green holds the ball while nothing happens. Curry tries a weak drag screen across the lane, Kevon Looney wanders around for a few seconds before running Green off the spot.
It’s not the isolation, it’s the way they’re running it here that’s changed. And that may be the ultimate flaw in the Warriors adoption of this style:we aren’t used to playing like this and guys start making weird choices.
Here’s another bad play, though it’s a quick one. It’s representative of the second quarter of the game when the Warriors were outscored by 16 points. If you’re pining for more ball movement, and a return to Warriors ball, here’s an indicative play that showcases how easily a predictable play is thwarted. Watch Harden, by nearly all accounts a wretched defender, make a play - all because he knows exactly what’s about to happen.
Ok, maybe Harden’s not totally worthless. But again, here’s the problem with no off-ball movement. It doesn’t matter if this was supposed to develop into an iso play or not:
Guys Harden is a horrible defender... pic.twitter.com/1Zl6bNCR9F— NBA Buckets (@NBA_Buckets) May 23, 2018
As the game wore on, the Warriors looked increasingly gassed and we saw them really struggle to run their offense. Game 4 was physical, but the fourth quarter meltdown was rife with mental errors like this flub on a basic box out. P.J. Tucker had 4 offensive rebounds in the game, so this wasn’t an isolated incident.
Was this fatigue, or play style? Plays like this are really hard to pin on the increased use of isolation basketball. This is just the Warriors getting outplayed late in the game.
The type of fatigue plays that hurt the Warriors in Game 4: Draymond Green, who played every second after halftime, with an uncharacteristic box out whiff with 6 mins left, letting Ariza go right by him pic.twitter.com/NLJuU0CjCE— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 23, 2018
Danny Leroux highlights a few more 4th quarter isolation plays that show that it wasn’t just iso ball that was the problem. Here you can see the Warriors beat the trap through crisp passing, swing the ball through various options, and then eventually settle on a pretty sweet look for Curry.
But he simply misses it. A shot he makes at a historically impressive rate, wide open... and he just flat out misses. It happens. This isn’t due to iso ball.
Again, from that same Leroux article, here’s one where Curry’s attempt at the rim is stymied and it’s partially as a result of Bell bringing his man into the lane. Also note that the Warriors had a 10-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Again, this isn’t an iso ball problem. Watch for Jordan Bell on the low block. He’s drifting over. Curry needs to make a dump off - either a short bounce pass or an alley oop.
Instead, he gets stuffed trying to force a shot. If you can hear the announcer, Reggie Miller is saying that this is out of character — it’s not the iso ball, it’s the wrong decision there to not give Bell the ball.
These clips might not be the grandest or most important plays of the game, but they represent what happened and point to how the Warriors have a great opportunity to adjust in Game 5 and put this thing away in Game 6.
It wasn’t all about the iso ball, it’s the poor execution that cost Golden State Game 4.
Whether or not this is a systemic issue is an interesting question. But regardless of where you stand on the answer to that question, we all want the same resolution: play more like those stretches in the first and third quarters, and not like the fourth. Never again play like that.
Let the ball do the work. Trust each other. Dare I say it. Strength in numbers.