It can’t be denied that the Golden State Warriors absolutely miss Draymond Green. But Green’s absence doesn’t serve as an excuse for how much they’ve been failing to execute the basic concepts.
For example, take these following sequences — seemingly unrelated to the Warriors’ late-game-execution problems against the Los Angeles Lakers — that happened well before the late stages of the game. The first: Stanley Johnson crashing the boards and putting back a missed shot during the first quarter.
Ball watching when the opposing team gets up a shot — instead of finding potential board crashers and boxing them out — has been plaguing the Warriors as of late. Jordan Poole is the first culprit above; he lets Johnson stroll his way toward the rim for the putback, while Juan Toscano-Anderson also fails to put a body on Johnson.
There’s no doubt size, or lack thereof, has played a significant part behind their defensive rebounding troubles. But the dearth of effort and awareness must also be pointed out. Green has certainly helped with those two aspects whenever he’s there to monitor the situation.
While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, the Warriors have been a much better defensive rebounding team with Green on the floor than without him. Opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%) is 3.5% worse with Green on the floor (89th percentile), per Cleaning The Glass.
Without Green, the pitfalls of playing a smaller lineup hasn’t been limited to the lack of box outs and effort to gang rebound; it has also included an apparent lack of accountability. Green has often been the one to call out who has been lacking, and his voice carries a significant amount of weight and clout; without him, it seems that such mistakes aren’t being pointed out — or are falling on deaf ears.
The second basic concept they’ve been failing to execute: communication on switches. Here’s one instance during the second quarter:
Another thing about playing a small lineup: the defensive scheme will almost always be that of a switch-heavy configuration. In the past, Green’s ability to act as a roamer, Swiss Army knife, and defensive floor general has allowed the Warriors to survive playing small and switch almost every ball screen.
But without Green, breakdowns and lack of communication have been more common. Poole and Klay Thompson had different mindsets in the possession above. Thompson was thinking switch, while Poole was thinking of fighting over the LeBron James screen and sticking with D.J. Augustin. It results in James being uncovered in the short roll, with no effective weak-side help to stop him from taking it to the rim.
The third basic concept they’ve been failing to execute: staying home on corner shooters on the strong-side corner.
To differentiate: the “strong side” is the side of the court where the ball is located, whereas the “weak side” is to the opposite side of the ball. While the Warriors have certainly had their troubles with overhelping away from the weak-side corner (wrote about it here), they’ve also been helping one pass away from the strong-side corner — which is widely considered a cardinal sin.
Avery Bradley misses the corner shot, but that doesn’t excuse the process behind why he was left open. Toscano-Anderson leaves Bradley alone on the strong-side corner to help on the Russell Westbrook drive, which plays right into Westbrook’s and Bradley’s hands.
It’s also a matter of picking the lesser poison. If Moody stops Westbrook’s drive, that’s ideal; if Westbrook scores two points over Moody, tip your cap. But if you help off the strong-side corner and give up an open three for maximum damage, that’s a failure of staying disciplined and preventing something that is highly preventable.
Let’s recap the three aforementioned basic concepts:
- Preventing offensive rebounds through boxing out
- Sharp communication on switches/general coverages
- Not helping off the strong-side corner
The Warriors failed to pay heed to these concepts in the late game, and was among several reasons — one of them being LeBron James being LeBron James — that ultimately led to their downfall.
Failing to box out in the three possessions below led to the Lakers getting extra possessions — all of which led to points.
The lack of communication on switches came back to bite the Warriors on this particular possession:
Watch Poole and Andrew Wiggins on the weak side. Augustin attempts to set a screen for James, in what is an apparent attempt to get Poole switched onto James. When that fails, Augustin and James switch roles, with James setting a flare screen for Augustin. Wiggins and Poole don’t communicate the switch — Wiggins wants to stay attached to James, while Poole intends to accept the switch.
Poole realizes too late that both Wiggins and him want the same assignment — but James’ flare screen catches Poole enough to delay his recovery toward Augustin, who drills the wing three.
And last but most certainly not the least: the penchant for helping off the strong-side corner led to this dagger three from Carmelo Anthony:
Jonathan Kuminga helps one pass away from Anthony — a 52% shooter from the right corner — to help on the James drive. With Wiggins rotating to help as the low man from the weak side, Kuminga’s help was completely unnecessary. James has made a career of punishing defenses that help one pass away, and this one proved to be no different. Instead of a potential stop at the rim or a more palatable two-point score, Anthony drills a corner three that helps the Lakers secure the game.
There’s no doubt that Green being on the floor during these late-game situations will elevate the Warriors’ execution and decision making. But even without Green, these are basic concepts that a team of the Warriors’ caliber shouldn’t be overlooking.
The Warriors’ problems go beyond Green being sidelined, and it’s of utmost importance that they address them immediately.