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Second quarters are dragging down the Warriors, but not for long

Why are the Warriors struggling in second quarters? Mostly no Curry, and bad luck

Andre Iguodala looks around for anyone who can make a shot in the second quarter.
Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

On last night’s telecast, the announcing team complained about how the otherwise-dominant Golden State Warriors seem to fall apart in the second quarter. Scorching beginnings to games have been followed by cold-shooting seconds. Last night, it took an Otto Porter Junior three-point explosion to salvage what looked like another trudge to halftime. It certainly feels like the second quarter is a rough time for the Dubs, and the statistics bear that out.

The Warriors’ first quarter scoring is up significantly from last season - 32.2 from 28.6 in 2020-21. But they’re the worst scoring team in the league when the second begins, scoring only 23.2 points in those quarters, which is way down from last year’s 27.9 average. Then it’s back up to 28.6 in the third, and 28.6 in the second, which are 7th and 2nd in the NBA respectively,

Who is the most frequent fivesome for the Warriors in the second? It’s a lineup of Andre Iguodala, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Otto Porter Junior, and Nemanja Bjelica, who’ve played a whopping 12 minutes together in second quarters this season. They have a terrible offensive rating of 54.2 points per 100 possessions, while their defensive rating is 128, for a net rating of -73.8.

The main issue is this group has been shooting terribly in the second, with a lot of missed threes, which hurts them on the defensive end because long rebounds lead to more transition opportunities the other way. But it’s a little flukey: overall, the group has a -16.2 net rating. This probably isn’t an ideal 5-man combination, but they’ve also probably been a little unlucky in their second quarter minutes. And it’s a group where only Lee-Iguodala and Lee-Poole have played together at all before this season.

What’s the second-most common lineup? That same group, with Juan Toscano-Anderson in for Bjelica. And they’ve been awesome, with a net rating of 83.3 and a true shooting percentage of 105. Maybe the added speed from JTA helps alongside Andre and OPJ? Or maybe it’s the small sample size - these are very limited samples, and despite what Bob Fitzgerald might tell you, three-point shooting is notoriously volatile.

Here are the second quarter scores for the Warriors first nine games (Warriors listed first):

@Lakers: 21-25

Clippers 22-40

@Kings: 31-31

@OKC: 19-25

Memphis: 18-25

OKC: 27-24

Hornets: 32-26

Pelicans: 16-19

Rockets: 32-29

The team hasn’t been great in the second quarter, but the disastrous game against the Clippers has an outsized effect on their bad second period stats. Take away that outlier quarter and you’re looking at a -8 point differential over eight games - not good, but also not a huge deal. In general, the struggle is only on the offensive side - they’ve only allowed 30+ points in a second quarter once this year. And their defensive rating for second quarters is 11th in the league - worse than they are overall, but nothing alarming.

What’s the main reason they struggle in the second? It’s probably that Steph Curry doesn’t play as much. It’s understandable that Steve Kerr is talking about adjusting Curry’s rest to goose the second quarter lineups, but it’s more likely that these early second quarters will go from “Yikes” to “Meh” through regression to the mean and plkayers getting used to each other. Until the league figures out how to stop dunk machine Gary Payton II, the second quarters should improve simply based on that.

And if they do juggle the rotations, they risk messing with the stellar second-half defense they’ve had all year. There may be an argument for trying to maximize the time Bejlica and Curry spend on the court together - any lineups with both of them have been lighting it up so far - but in terms of the time of game? It’s probably better to let Curry play whatever stretches he’s most comfortable.

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