Warriors must learn defensive force
If you look at the numbers from last night’s loss, you might be pleasantly surprised at how close the young Dubs were in several categories.
- FG%: Jazz 49%, Warriors 48%
- Rebounds: Jazz 51, Warriors 51
- Steals: Jazz 3, Warriors 8
- Turnovers: Jazz 12, Warriors 10
- Fast Break Points: Jazz 4, Warriors 20
- Points in the Paint: Jazz 46, Warriors 42
This shows the Warriors were putting forth the competitive effort, despite the 14-point loss. But the Jazz proved that raw effort alone isn’t going to get the job done under the heat of physical, manipulative basketball.
Throughout the game, the Jazz actively sought ways to force contact, bullying their way to the free throw line. Whenever Utah got in trouble offensively with a bogged down play or the shot clock winding down, they’d aggressively put their head down, grit their teeth and draw a foul.
They went 26-of-32 from the line compared to Golden State’s 8-of-14 performance. 18 more free throw attempts was a key difference in this ball game. The Warriors became so paranoid about giving up paint penetration to Utah’s guards or lobs to Utah’s giant center Rudy Gobert, that they would abandon perimeter shooters. Those overreactions led to the Jazz finding their shooting pocket and drilling 16-of-35 triples.
At a certain point their ramming strategy became so cartoonishly obvious that Draymond Green got himself thrown out of the game for vociferously protesting the crash test dummy experience. These young Dubs are still learning the balancing act between giving ground to avoid cheap fouls, creating a wall to protect the paint, and rotating back out to the arc.
Until they do, expect a lot more enemy free throws and three-point bombs.
Some perspective on the offense
When Steve Kerr first took the head coaching gig of the Golden State Warriors back in 2014, he set about implementing an offensive system that emphasized the movement of both player and ball.
To remember how frustrating that process was, let’s reflect on an excerpt from one of the most brilliant pieces on the beginning of the Warriors dynasty from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:
It’s early November, and doubt is creeping into the mind of the Warriors’ GM. His team has begun the season 5-0, but basketball-wise, it’s a disaster. The Warriors are racking up turnovers like they’re storing them for winter -- averaging 21.6 per game. That’s not only the worst mark in the league, it’s about five turnovers per game more than the worst team in the prior season and only a few off the worst mark in NBA history.
In morning film sessions, while coaches show players 15 to 20 clips from the previous game, they also post passing totals. And indeed, the Warriors are hitting that 300-per-game mark -- averaging 320.8, in fact, through the first five games, eighth best in the league.
The good news, then? The team is passing. The bad news? They’re overpassing.
”Don’t pass for the sake of it,” Kerr implores his team. “If you’re open, shoot it. If not, pass it. But don’t be stationary. Move!”
Keep in mind, Kerr was operating with a roster that was coming off of back-to-back playoff runs. The depth chart was stacked names like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala with the addition of cagy veterans like Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. Despite those vets, that group still had to learn each other through the framework of a new gameplan that broke bad habits through exasperating trial and error.
Now let’s take a look at this season’s iteration of the Dubs, suffering from massive roster turnover and injuries.
The Warriors record this season, explained in one picture https://t.co/uAQWFocBTQ— Duby Dub Dubs (@GSOM_Duby) November 11, 2019
Per NBA.com, through 11 games, the current duct-taped Dubs are ranked 2nd in the NBA in total passes (317.5 per game), average the 7th fewest turnovers (14.5 TO per game), and are 11th in assists (24.2 per game). Those are very respectable numbers for the deck of cards Coach Kerr is shuffling around with so far this season, and a sign the team still wants to play “Kerr-ball”.
Unfortunately, Golden State is shooting 43% from the field, 7th worst in the league. A big part of that problem is that they are a woeful 33% from beyond the arc, 8th worst in the NBA. Those woeful shooting numbers are compounded by the brain farts the new players are having as they try to figure out the how/when/where/why of scoring within the offense. Sometimes the ball just swings around with no one attacking, allowing the defense to loom around like a boogeyman.
In those moments, it’s nice to have a fallback option like D’Angelo Russell.
Thank you, DLo
When the offense stagnates during the learning process, Russell is quick to take over in an attempt to bail the team out. When he scored 18 points in the first quarter, the roof almost blew off of Chase Center.
Four 3-pointers for D'Angelo Russell in a 75-second span of game action pic.twitter.com/fzbdOdmj8U— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) November 12, 2019
D’angelo Russell last 4 games— ❄️DLO❄️ (@IceyDLO) November 12, 2019
VS UTA: 33 PTS, 2 REB, 8 AST, 52%
VS OKC: 30 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST, 53%
VS MIN: 52 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST, 51%
VS SA: 30 PTS, 3 REB, 8 AST, 38%pic.twitter.com/9G60ZfsZRn
But when he’s at his best, the Warriors egalitarian offense approach morphs into something more Russell-centric. So far, that has changed Green’s role from the playmaking engine that dishes out assists, to a P.J. Tucker-esque spot up shooter role.
Last night -- https://t.co/Rz9J2fDDUe -- Draymond Green returned to a Warriors offense unlike the one he is familiar. He and Steve Kerr discussed the challenging adjustment. pic.twitter.com/4u7i8gUtKe— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 12, 2019
It’s not a perfect fit yet, as evidenced by the loss. But the Dubs are only 13% of the way through the season; there’s plenty of time to figure out what they’ve got while the Splash Bros are on the mend.