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The Warriors’ Wheel Of Blame

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Several factors contributed to the Game 4 and 5 losses.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Four Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

DubNation, Let’s play a game.

This game is an easy one. It’s sort of like Wheel of Fortune but the puzzle is already solved and the object of this game is to find the clues as to how.

And yeah, the only prize here is you get to vent and purge until the tipoff of game 6 tomorrow.

Now you know the object of the “game,” let’s get into it.

Here’s the puzzle: “The Golden State Warriors blew two games, two opportunities to put the Houston Rockets away and advance to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. Now, the Warriors are on the brink of elimination as they head into Oracle for game 6 on Saturday.

Now, how did we get here?

I’ll spin.

After a violent spin, the needle on the wheel raced across multi-colored panels before landing on a blue panel revealing the first clue and point of blame.

Lack of execution in crunch time

To the Warriors’ credit or detriment, most of their games during this four-year run have been decided within three quarters. This team seldom has moments to where they are in crunch time and being pushed. Now, we have two games where the team folded like laundry. Why? Because they played without poise and without grit. Just like in Game 4, the fourth quarter in Game 5 was riddled with ill advised decisions and ill advised shots.

I’ll start defensively with the moment that Klay Thompson left Eric Gordon open for a clean look. The Rockets had a one-point lead with 80 seconds left in the game. Houston opened with a predictable James Harden iso on Stephen Curry. Harden gets the move and Kevin Durant had to leave Trevor Ariza to help contain Harden. This caused Thompson to move down to seal Harden’s path to Ariza which left Gordon wide open for three and the Rockets with a four point lead when all Thompson had to do was stay home. The Rockets take a ton of threes. The Warriors had to see it coming. While many of the threes throughout the game were contested and the makes were heaves of prayer, it’s no excuse not to continue to contest shots along the perimeter.

Offensively, the Warriors meant well, but well meaning intentions instead of execution is why they are where they are. I know why Coach Steve Kerr chose to ISO Durant late in the game — the mismatches were there and the Warriors needed a quick bucket, but Durant couldn’t capitalize. One example was with 3:55 left in the game when he had Chris Paul 14 feet away from the basket. Durant drove the lane. Cool. He drew Harden. Okay. Durant had two options: either hit a cutting Shaun Livingston for an easy basket or a three from Thompson. But no. Instead of attacking Paul and forcing him to back up or let the play develop, Durant hoisted a rushed jumper.

The Warriors could have taken a one point lead had Curry converted a layup with 17.4 seconds left. He had the move on Harden but missed when PJ Tucker rotated to help. Curry rushed the floater instead of taking it to the basket. He could have drew contact and headed to the line or it could have been an and-one. When I look at the play, I wonder if he was trying to draw a foul in the first place? Whatever he was trying to do, he could have finished the drive stronger than that.

After another spin, the needle landed on a red panel revealing a second clue and point of blame.

Kerr’s questionable decisions

What’s wrong with this picture?

This Audio Assist segment had me heated more than I already was with Kerr’s decisions through the game, but this segment is a pretty solid summary of where Kerr’s head is. This guy had the audacity to tell Durant to “trust his teammates.” Like Durant’s teammates don’t include a back to back MVP, a former DPOY, and one of the deadliest shooters in the game — those teammates. Like it’s just Durant and a supporting cast chock full of misfits. Granted, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green might not have been on the floor when Kerr said that. However, maybe they should have been.

The Warriors bench only mustered 4 bench points to the Rockets’ 33. In addition to that, Kerr relied and is still relying on ISO ball to bail them out when this isn’t a team based on that.

Granted, for this series, the Durant post ups and ISOs should work on paper since the Rockets are doubling and the mismatches are there in near abundance. Part of that is Houston is forcing some of these ISO situations. However, Kerr has time and time again failed to adjust. The rest of the players aren’t cutting nor are they moving to try and create more options other than a Durant jumper or another re-enactment of the three he hit over LeBron James last year.

Again, ISO isn’t a bad strategy in itself because it isn't what you do sometimes, it’s HOW you do it. Yes the opportunities are there but again, that shouldn't be the only option. Where’s the combination of pick and rolls between Curry and Durant? Curry and Green? Or even Green and Durant? Kerr can do that and should have done that in Game 4 when Durant had all of those ISOs at the top of the Key. The ISO mismatches are smart. However, a pick and roll still offers the threat WHILE having Curry as a threat from 28-30 ft out with the ball in his hands. Putting Curry on ball and letting the offense flow through him would be enough to make the Rockets’ defense scramble.

I get that he doesn’t want to let that whole “Strength In Numbers” mantra go, but he has to put more trust in his stars and put them in better positions to keep them engaged in the game instead of standing around. Which brings me to the next spin.

After the third spin, the needle bounced and shimmied to a black panel on the wheel revealing a third clue and point of blame.

Curry’s passivity

Stephen Curry’s game 5 numbers may be solid but very pedestrian. Yes I did put blame on Kerr for relying on Durant’s ISO to the detriment of the team. However, that does not leave Curry blameless. At times, Curry’s best attributes as a man off of the court is a flaw and a hinderance to the player he is on it. He’s too nice and diplomatic, and its compromising the Warriors’ offense as much as Durant’s penchant for ISO ball. Last night, I saw Curry defer for most of the game. There were opportunities that he should have took. A few open looks he had from 3 he passed up. I don't even remember him attacking the paint as much. The bad thing about it is the paint was wide open for some drives and finishes.

His passivity is nothing new. Curry is in his second year of playing alongside Durant, and at times it seems as if Curry is still searching for a consistent balance between making sure he’s getting his lofty numbers without much sacrifice and deferring to Durant.

If it’s the former for Curry’s passivity, then it’s an easy fix. He and Durant may need to workout together over the summer in addition to their individual workouts. Neither one of them workout together nor do they play pick up games. Maybe by doing that, they can mesh their skill set for season 3.

As far as this series is concerned, Curry has his rhythm back somewhat. He’s driving to the basket but he’s not doing it enough. He’s passing up open shots to defer.

Curry’s passiveness will not work for an offense that’s built around him, especially during a series where his offensive production is needed the most. In order for the Warriors to come back in this series, Curry has to stop deferring and look for his shot.

Now, it’s your turn. What do you think cost the Warriors Games 4 and 5? “Spin The Wheel” and let me know in the comments.