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GSoM roundtable Part II: How can the Warriors counter?

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The Warriors have been taken out of their game. The GSoM crew share some ideas of how they can get back in the groove.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Five
Pass the damn ball.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In Part I of our roundtable the crew hit the panic-o-meter. Here we take a look at how the Warriors can bounce back.

The Rockets have forced the Warriors to play their way. What can the Warriors do to counter at this point?

Daniel: We need Andre Iguodala, the conscience of the team. He knows how to drive and kick, speed the game up, set his teammates up. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson will benefit greatly from Iguodala running offense like a mini Scottie Pippen.

Charlie: As a team, they can run fewer isolations. I’m fine with K.D. taking shots within 10 feet. But the number of dumb shots is still palpable. There’s an interesting narrative building with Curry and Durant not looking comfortable making plays at the end of the game. I’m not trying to instigate, but the last two game winning plays have been executed poorly in large part to them.

Patrick: I do feel a little like we’ve seen this movie before. When they went down 3-1 to the Thunder they got blown out in Games 3 and 4. The Thunder were doing all kinds of things to disrupt the Warriors offense and there appeared nothing they could do.

This series might be a lot closer, but the Rockets are picking at the Warriors weaknesses with a similar forensic expertise you might expect from a team that was specifically built to beat them. They’ve forced us to stop moving the ball, the constant switching weakens our pick and roll attack, and they’ve forced us to execute in a couple of grind out games, which is something the Warriors have sneakily struggled with at times.

How do we fix that? Well, Iguodala is a key piece to get back on the floor, even if he’s at 75%. But really they’ve got to get the ball in Curry’s hands more. He’s been weirdly passive, deferring too much to Durant. The offense has to run through him if we’re going to have a chance of turning this thing around. I’d still like to see the Curry- Draymond Green pick and roll dusted off with some motion to get Durant and Klay decent looks off the back of it.

And then they’ve just got to execute properly. Some of the turnovers have been mindblowingly bad. These are serious veterans, proven All Stars, MVPs, and champions. They can’t be out there getting rattled like rookies.

Duby: Well, based on his comments last night, Kerr seems to think the style of play is fine. So I guess it’s a given that this is how the rest of the series will go. I’d make two main changes though. First, I’d drop the KD iso attack in the post. He’s got 10 assists IN THE ENTIRE SERIES, and that’s just not what we brought him here for. It isn’t what he liked about our team, and it’s not the role we wanted for him.

And then secondly, Curry just flat out needs to do more. He’s making me look bad in front of the Rockets fans who keep telling me he’s not our best player.

Greg: I would have imagined we could have changed the pace to match ours at this point but it hasn’t entirely happened, just in spurts. Iguodala is so key to their game. He’s another ball handler that allows Curry to work off the ball and he has the calming presence.

Brady: Much of the narrative surrounding these teams all year was that the Warriors played a beautiful brand of team-oriented basketball, while the Rockets ran an endless stream of isolations. For one reason or another (credit to Houston’s defense), Golden State has largely abandoned their approach, and tried to imitate the Rockets in this series.

Except it’s been a shoddy imitation. As Houston showed all year, isolation can work really well, when you have the right pieces and the right approach. Golden State has the former, but not the latter.

In these two gut-wrenching defeats, Houston has shot 28 (28!!!) more three-pointers than the Warriors. Their isolation begins at the three-point line, and when it enters the arc, it either ends at the rim, or in a pass back behind the arc. Golden State isn’t doing that.

I tweeted last night that Kevin Durant isn’t responsible for the Warriors’ problems, but he’s emblematic of them. He’s starting his isolations 12-20 feet from the hoop, and looking for a (relatively) inefficient shot. He passes not because there’s an opportunity to create a shot, or exploit the defense, but because he failed to get a good shot. The Warriors need to shoot threes, stop camping out at the elbows and the blocks, and pass earlier, as Kerr was caught on camera imploring Durant to do.

Tom: Better ball movement and crisper passing seem to be a necessity as well as (yes) minimizing how much iso ball they play. I understand the logic of hunting the mismatch with Durant (and there are some big ones in this series) but it’s gone a bit too far.

The Warriors also need to find a way to start their offense closer to the basket. The Rockets—Trevor Ariza and PJ Tucker in particular—are doing a good job defending the Warriors just over the halfcourt line. That’s another reason for some of the KD isos and bad shots.

Mainly, I think the Warriors need to be calmer and more deliberate. The haymakers that they like to throw that knock out other teams don’t work with this Rockets squad. Thus they need to play much smarter and in control. I wrote about Game 1 that I thought the Warriors were using Muhammad Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” strategy with Harden. I’ve been thinking a lot about Ali in conjunction with this matchup and some of these comments from the famous author Norman Mailer in the documentary When We Were Kings about the Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman.

The Rockets are team the Warriors can’t knock out (at least like they can other teams) and that can hit back like they can. They need to be much more controled, careful, and deliberate in how they approach this Rockets team. In many ways, I feel like the Warriors are as Mailer described Ali after the first round of the Rumble in the Jungle. Are they going to get it together? That is the question.

Hugo: The Warriors need to figure out where the double-team is coming from. The Rockets switched everything and stuck to one-on-one defense early in the series, but now they’re mixing it up with pressure, doubles, and traps. Whether it’s a Durant isolation or a Stephen Curry pick and roll, getting the ball safely out of pressure will lead to an advantage the Warriors must convert on.

Jannelle: Like I say in my article “Warriors’ Wheel Of Blame’ that it isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it. Kerr still wants that ISO and it’s smart. However, he should roll out the pick and roll. PNR will give Kerr that option but they will have a threat with Steph shooting from 28-30 ft.

Tune in tomorrow for part III where the crew prognosticate the Warriors destiny!