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The Warriors At the Midpoint: Ways the champs can lock in and finish strong

How the Warriors can make the right adjustments at the season’s halftime.

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NBA: New York Knicks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors is a team with two interchangeable faces.

On one of the faces is the team that we have grown accustomed to during the past four years. The offensive juggernaut that’s fueled by free flowing motion, ball movement and joy that also sports an unsung yet formidable defense.

The other face is the one that we’ve been seeing for most of the season. A battle weary team that’s waiting to turn up in May, fighting their own complacency as well as a league that’s caught up to them. If that’s not enough, they are also allegedly managing an early onset of “the disease of me”.

Judging by the standings alone, the Warriors are “okay”. They’re currently a game out of first place in the West at 27-14, but their inconsistent play makes the optics of the record worse than it really is. With the way that the ‘Dubs have been playing, a game back seems like five. For a team that’s well aware of history and has aspirations of three-peating, midseason adjustments are a must.

“I just told the guys, 27 wins at the halfway point, “ Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after demolishing the New York Knicks Tuesday night, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “On pace for 54 and haven’t played well. Everyone is thinking we’re having a lousy year. Hopefully down the backstretch we get some momentum.”

It is not enough for the Warriors to simply win games and push through the second half, it’s more about the way they are winning. Is the energy right on both sides of the ball? Are they moving with purpose on offense? Are they paying attention to detail on defense? Can they close out games? Are they building healthy habits and rhythm?

The Warriors know that for whatever reason, they haven’t been doing all the things mentioned consistently and in order for them to capture their fourth title in five years, they must lock in. Here are three adjustments the Warriors need to make for the season’s second half.

It Starts With The Defense

Many of the Warriors 14 losses are attributed to breakdowns on the defensive end. Currently 18th in the league in defensive rating, the Warriors surrender 109.3 points per 100 possessions and 10th in the league in defensive field goal percentage. But that’s not the worst of it- not by a longshot.

The Warriors allow 17.3 wide open (shots where the nearest defender is six feet or more away) threes per game and 13.4 open (shots where the nearest defender is between four to six feet away) threes. Not to mention getting obliterated in the paint.

While the impending return of DeMarcus Cousins is immanent, more will be expected from him on defense. Not only in the paint but his ability to defend the pick and roll and also his ability to switch.

Granted, the freedom of movement rule is the catalyst of scoring increasing in the league. However, it’s no excuse for the Warriors to play so disengaged and detached. The rules are what they are but the Warriors can control how they hustle in transition defense. They can run shooters off the line and find a way to hedge and overplay passing lanes to either deny or force turnovers. When the Warriors lock in on defense, the energy carries over to the offense and it generates those huge offensive explosions that they’ve been known for. As potent as the Warrior are on offense, they must return to the foundation and their foundation is in playing solid and sound defense.

More Curry on ball and more movement from everyone else.

I understand why Kerr staggered Stephen Curry’s and Kevin Durant’s minutes. I understand that Kerr did it in the midst of Klay Thompson’s slump and to give the second unit a boost. I get all of that. However, the line up doesn’t explain why Curry is off the ball so much.

The Warriors are much more dynamic with Curry on the ball and initiating the offense. Run high screen and roll sets and let Curry’s pressure and gravity dictate what the defense does. If an opposing defense switches? That’s okay, Let Curry get a matchup with a big. He could either create his own shot by driving the lane or splash a three. Or , he can look to pass.

Kerr could also try some Durant (or Cousins) post ups with some split action with Curry and Thompson, for example. While I’m throwing out on ball possibilities, I’m not advocating for Curry to be on ball all the time. I’m advocating mixing the possessions up. It doesn’t make sense for Curry to run around the perimeter like he’s only a spot up shooter.

When the ball stops moving in iso, the players should continue to move. When the Warriors iso with Durant, for instance, the rest of the players tend to stop moving and watch. Constant movement puts pressure on defenses and generate shots that wasn’t there before. More motion. more looks.

Countering the sag off on Draymond Green

Opposing defenses have been running the “Forget About Dray” defense to staggering results. They would sell out, overplay the passing lanes to deny access to Curry, Thompson and to an extent, Durant and dare Green to shoot. Opposing defenses know that Green is a facilitator and not a scorer and they’ve been taking advantage of it.

To the Warriors’ credit, they’ve been using Green off the ball in recent games. Against the Knicks, Green was responsible for 10 assists and 11 rebounds.

When defenders sag off, Green has been aggressive in driving to the basket. He shot 5-for-7 from the field for 12 points against Sacramento by being aggressive in attacking the paint. Green may not can hit the uncontested jumper but he can put the ball down for layup or dunk or even initiate contact. For all of the negatives about Green’s shot, he’s shooting a better percentage from the line (77.4) than he is from the field (41.8). So driving to the basket and drawing fouls might be another way to counter this defense.

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