Nine days of rest gave way to rust in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Defensive lapses and turnovers plagued the Golden State Warriors Thursday and resulted into a 118-109 loss to an energetic and hungry Toronto Raptors squad.
Even with those issues, the Warriors were never really out of the game. Had the Warriors made a few stops and scored in transition and if coach Steve Kerr put Stephen Curry back into the game when they trailed by three, they could have very well stole game one and home court advantage.
Now, they will just have do it in Game 2 tonight in a must win scenario.
In order for the Warriors to tie the series, here are some adjustments they might want to consider.
Adjust defense on Kawhi Leonard
In Game 1, the Warriors blitzed Leonard with multiple double and triple teams. The Magic, Sixers, and Bucks deployed the “drop” defense where a big sags back to the paint while the perimeter defender fights around screens in pick-and-roll situations. Instead, the Warriors threw traps and switching bigs at Leonard. The plan was solid. As a result, the Warriors forced him into a 5-for-14 performance.
However, due to poor transition defense and blown perimeter assignments did the Warriors in.
Golden State cannot afford to sag off Marc Gasol, Danny Green, et al and give them practice shots all game. So, a solution might be to play Leonard straight up. Doing so will let Draymond Green adjust his defense on Pascal Siakam in what could be a pivotal matchup in the series.
Abandon Pick and Roll
Toronto defended the Warriors’ pick and roll attack very well. Instead of Marc Gasol dropping to the paint, he pressed Stephen Curry and the help fought over the screen to set the trap. The Raptors trapped Curry often, and the plan seemed to work until the second half. Curry eventually began to split the traps and double teams and used the Raptors’ aggressive defense of him against themselves. Curry lit up the defense in the second half for 21 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field. Curry stopped stringing out the trap and attacked the middle of the court after blowing by the screen. He also took advantage of a handsy Raptors’ defense when they were in the penalty.
So, the Warriors should put the pick and roll on the back burner unless an opportunity is there, and let Curry cook. Have him attack Toronto’s smaller guards. Let him split the double teams and take the bigs off the dribble. The Raptors defense could only do what they’ve been doing to effectively guard Curry and the opportunity is there to take it away. Curry wasn’t clapping and excited in the locker room for no reason.
Transition defense must be better
The Warriors surrendered 24 transition/fast break points in game one. Nine of Pascal Siakam’s 14 field goals were in the restricted area with four of them came in some variety of transition. Most of that could be corrected with effort and fresher legs. The Raptors were bold enough to quicken the pace and run with the Warriors and smart enough to take advantage of a slow and rusty defense. With fresher legs, the Warriors must and will hustle back on defense to effectively guard and contest shots.
Disrupt Raptors’ half court defense
Before the second half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors gave up 21 points in transition to the Bucks. Their adjustment? They began to employ a half court defense. The Warriors love to run and score in transition so the Raptors governed themselves accordingly and implimented the same half court defense. However, the Warriors found a counter in Game 1. In their transition offense, the Warriors set screens to get some shooters open before the Raptors could set up their defense.
Another screen in transition from the Warriors. Opportunity to get their shooters loose before the Raptors 1/2 court defense can load up. No one to really help off Curry as he comes off and he gets space/foul. It was 5v4 but the concept is something the Warriors should go back to pic.twitter.com/HxXkakIa6L— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) June 2, 2019
Notice in the tweet and clip that Curry is open and free to come off the screen for space. The Warriors should attempt to go back to this because they are so quick in transition that they could really get better mismatches than the 5 on 4 situation highlighted.