The Golden State Warriors have now won two straight moral victories. Unfortunately, moral victories count as much on an NBA team’s record as Kevin Durant’s two rings do to an NBA Twitter troll.
After taking a 10-point lead into the last period, the Warriors succumbed to a 36-17 fourth quarter from the Los Angeles Clippers to lose by 9 points to another title contender. Omari Spellman and Glenn Robinson III both led the team with 17 points each, followed by Alec Burks’ 16 points off the bench.
On the other side, Clippers superstar and proven Warrior-killer Kawhi Leonard dominated with his 36 points and 9 rebounds.
1) Omari STEPHman? OMOri SPEIGHTSman?
Omari Spellman has been a revelation this season. He has been perhaps the most prominent beneficiary of the Warriors’ decision to waive Marquese Chriss. With Chriss around, Spellman was further down the big-man depth chart, being utilized as an occasional center but more often being used as a power forward.
With Chriss gone, Spellman stepped into the center depth chart with a more prominent role as a stretch-five. Steve Kerr gave him the starting center role against the Clippers in what was a clear matchup-driven decision. Spellman’s mobility and ability to shoot the three is a notable advantage over the Clippers’ Ivica Zubac. Early on, it worked — in the first half, Spellman shot 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, mostly from popping out to the perimeter and garnering wide-open looks that were all too often poorly contested by his lumbering counterpart.
Spellman only had a 1-of-3 clip on threes in the second half, but his lone made three came on the fourth quarter during this possession, where a simple yet effective play out of the timeout drawn by Kerr set Spellman up for another wide-open look:
Spellman is currently shooting 31 of 76 from three-point range this season — good for 40.8 percent on 2.1 attempts per game. He is the team’s top three-point shooter in terms of percentage, a bona-fide stretch-five not seen by the team since the likes of Mo Speights.
Spellman is under contract till the 2020-21 season, with a rookie option that can be picked up by the team during the 2021-22 season, meaning that the team has more or less full control of him for at least two more years. He is showing the team that he is a viable rotation piece for the future, and his work ethic is bearing fruit.
Imagine a lineup with him and Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and/or D’Angelo Russell on the court — the Warriors certainly are, and no one can blame them if they’re drooling at the thought of such a combination.
Long back-and-forth with Steve Kerr on Omari Spellman, who is pushing his way into the starting center role and is now up over 40 percent from 3 this season. pic.twitter.com/uN4NM4j29U— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 11, 2020
2) The Warriors moved the ball well against the Clippers
The Warriors finished the night with 28 assists on 37 made field goals, which is a good sign of their ability to make each pass and each shot count. Consistency is still largely a problem — the team averages 24.3 assists per game, good for 15th in the league. With Kerr sticking to his system of ball and player movement, that figure should be way higher.
On the other hand, the Warriors do not have the talent to elevate their assist numbers to what their dynastic version of themselves managed to do on a nightly basis in years past. Their only bona fide playmaker is Draymond Green, whose assists numbers and ability to distribute is highly predicated on his recipients consistently knocking down their shots. Their elite shot makers — Curry, Thompson, and Russell — are all out with injuries (although Russell is slated to return this Sunday against the Grizzlies).
But for one night, the Warriors’ ball movement was almost pristine. The Warriors generated plenty of good shots and, more or less, had several good offensive possessions, such as this corner three from Robinson that was made possible due to the Warriors not settling and passing the ball until a wide-open look was there for the taking:
Garnering 28 assists seems like a recipe for victory, if not for one glaring problem ...
3) The Warriors shot terribly from three-point range
Yes, Spellman shot 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. But he was the only Warrior who managed to knock down multiple threes. Besides Spellman, only Robinson III, Burks, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole hit a three-point shot. Damion Lee, who was shooting 37.9 percent on threes going into tonight’s game, was a notable 0 of 5 from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Warriors shot 8 of 39 on threes, good for an abysmal 20.5 percent.
After making 15 threes against the Milwaukee Bucks a few days ago (another anomaly), the Warriors came crashing down beyond ground level. They average 33.2 percent on threes as a team, good for 27th in the league — clearly placing them in the bottom tier of teams in terms of the league’s bread-and-butter shot.
Again, when your elite shooters are sidelined, the Warriors aren’t really left with much choice. On the other hand, when your top three-point shooting player is a hybrid stretch-four/five who averages 2.1 three-point attempts per game, then there is clearly something wrong there.
Next up: The Warriors go to Memphis on Sunday to face the Grizzlies.