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Taking a look at the Warriors’ overpassing problem

Steph Curry and the entire team may be overthinking some of their possessions.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Stephen Curry hasn’t had the prettiest couple of games. One could argue that it may be the ugliest two-game stretch of his otherwise illustrious career.

Over the last two games, Curry is shooting a combined 8-of-41 from the field (19.5%). Breaking down that clip further makes it even uglier: 6-of-22 on twos (27.3%) and 2-of-19 on threes (10.5%). His scoring efficiency over those games has also cratered, with a True Shooting percentage of 26.4%.

It goes without saying that on most nights, a bad Curry performance will almost certainly translate to an overall bad team performance. But the team has had the support around him during this season to at least put up a fight, and sometimes even win during those bad nights.

Against the Miami Heat, the Warriors relied on Jordan Poole’s 32 points off the bench and ability to act as a Curry doppelganger while the actual man himself wasn’t scoring up to his usual standards. Andrew Wiggins also had himself a good night against the Heat, scoring 22 points on an efficient 13 shots.

From a team-wide perspective, the Warriors also were able to establish an offensive rhythm against the Heat. They dished out 39 assists on 45 made field goals. They relatively limited their turnovers to 12.

Their offense was humming even without Curry shooting well, using his gravity and creating advantages through a combination of tiring out the Heat’s defense in the half court with constant motion and running in transition/semi-transition after stops or forced turnovers.

But for them to win even with their superstar producing subpar performances, there’s a certain checklist that has to be fulfilled. They will need scoring support to act as a ballast; their defense will have to be near pristine and flawless; and they will have to limit their turnovers.

Against the Dallas Mavericks, almost none of the boxes in that list were ticked.

The scoring support was absent. Poole had 6 points on eight shots, and was 0-of-4 on threes. Wiggins had 17 points on 13 shots, but had bouts of tentativeness and passivity (more on that later). Draymond Green had 2 points on only four shots, and turned the ball over five times.

Their defense gave them plenty of chances to come back. The Mavs shot only 38% from the field. The Warriors had a defensive rating of 103.1 — not far off from their league-best mark. They forced 12 turnovers and scored 14 points off of them.

However, when it came to limiting their own mistakes on offense, the Warriors fell extremely short. They coughed up 16 turnovers and largely lost the possession battle against the Mavs, who had six more shot attempts due to those turnovers as well as from their 10 offensive boards.

The turnovers were terrible, but what was even more glaring and head-scratching was the Warriors’ penchant for overpassing. There is a fine line between poking holes within the defense until an opening surfaces, and not seeing those openings and passing the buck to someone else.

For example:

The Mavs defense must be credited for forcing the 24-second violation in the possession above; their rotations being crisp and concise were instances of them giving the Warriors a dose of their own medicine. But if Damion Lee has his man beat and is able to penetrate toward the rim, he must be cognizant enough to know to get a shot up, instead of dumping the ball off to Nemanja Bjelica.

There were more egregious examples of overpassing:

Wiggins is able to penetrate and get to the rim with a euro step — but despite no one challenging him at the rim, he makes the highly questionable decision of kicking out to Lee on the weak-side corner for a three that doesn’t go in.

Curry was also guilty of overpassing:

The Warriors place the ball in Curry’s hands in an effort to get him going. A Wiggins screen and a Green seal gives Curry an open lane — but with the layup there for the taking, Curry passes out to no one and commits a frustrating turnover.

The possession above is a microcosm of the Warriors swinging for the fences instead of hitting for contact. Going for home runs was indeed questionable, considering their cold streak from beyond the arc, where they managed a mediocre 5-of-28 (17.9%) on threes.

A certain theme is developing throughout most of the team’s setbacks. In all of their eight losses, the Warriors are turning the ball over at a rate of 17.6 per game — tied with the Houston Rockets as the worst turnovers-per-game mark among teams during losses.

The team will need Curry to be much better in order to survive on most nights — but it is merely a symptom of a team-wide problem. Turnovers and overpassing are byproducts of a team that relies heavily on ball movement — the Warriors overwhelmingly lead the league in passes made per game (318.0).

Straddling the fine line between complexity and complication can be difficult — but occasionally, the answer to the Warriors problems is to not overthink things and go for what is the simplest solution.

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