The story of the game can be boiled down to these efficiency metrics that Cleaning The Glass tracks for every game.
At the 1:47 mark of the fourth quarter — when Steve Kerr decided to pull out his starters and wave the white flag — the Golden State Warriors managed a paltry 106.3 points per 100 possessions. Cut that metric down to only half-court offensive possessions however, and the final number they put up against the Cleveland Cavaliers was 83.5 points per 100 half-court possessions. That would easily be the equivalent to the worst half-court offense in the NBA.
On the other end of the floor, the Cavs scored 115.5 points per 100 possessions — 102.5 points per 100 possessions in the half-court, which would be equivalent to the third-best half-court offense in the league.
In short, the Warriors were hammered on both ends of the floor. An attempt by Draymond Green to fire them up resulted in an ejection through accumulated technical fouls — and while that resulted in a third-quarter rally by the Warriors to cut what was once a 17-point deficit to one by the end of the third quarter, they fizzled out in the fourth, mostly due to the same problems and deficiencies that got them in the hole in the first place.
The Cavs’ offense had their way against the Warriors’ defense, who could not contain anyone at the point of attack. A seemingly endless stream of paint touches resulted in either layups for the Cavs’ dynamic backcourt duo of Donovan Mitchell (21 points) and Darius Garland (19 points) — or kick-outs to open shooters whose looks were created.
Along with Mitchell and Garland, four other Cavs were in double figures — the other three starters in Evan Mobley (19 points), Jarrett Allen (12 points), and Max Strus (16 points), and 22 huge points off the bench from Caris LeVert.
The Cavaliers handily won the points-in-the-paint battle, 50-34. The three-point clip (11-of-30, 36.7%) may not show it, but they hit threes in key stretches where the Warriors were threatening to come back — including two threes by Dean Wade to start the fourth quarter.
The common theme in these two Wade threes? A Warriors defense in rotation, which opens the corner look for Wade two possessions in a row:
The first instance: a poorly executed 3-2 zone that forced the Warriors — most notably, Dario Šarić, who’s not the fastest close-out defender out there — to scramble. The second time around was more representative of the paint-touch problem, with LeVert getting past Moses Moody at the point of attack, touching the paint, forcing help off the weak-side corner from the low man, and kicking out to Wade for another corner three.
There were other instances of this problem — such as this three by Garland that was created due to Steph Curry being forced to “tag” the roll. Andrew Wiggins being unable to keep Mitchell in front of him placed Trayce Jackson-Davis in a precarious position in drop coverage, which forces the tag from Curry.
This, once again, was a chain of events initiated by a failure to contain at the point of attack:
Wiggins’ troubles to start the season of offense has seemingly bled into his point-of-attack defense. The failure to contain Mitchell above was one instance; this was another:
While the Cavaliers shot 13-of-21 at the rim by the time the Warriors waved the white flag, they won that battle through sheer volume — the Warriors themselves were a perfect 9-of-9 at the rim but translated to a mere 17% rim-attempt rate — fourth percentile.
Curry had 30 points but bled for his buckets — 9-of-24 from the field (5-of-10 on twos, 4-of-14 on threes) on 54.5% True Shooting, which makes this game his least efficient scoring outing of the season so far.
The next highest scoring Warrior was Klay Thompson, who had 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field. Wiggins had a decent line: 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, but still not up to the standards the Warriors were expecting out of him.
The Cavs have the perfect cocktail for defending the Warriors, and while there was room for better lineup decisions and better individual play, it may simply be that they are a bad matchup for this roster as currently constructed: lengthy, athletic, quick, and tall.
All of those traits happen to be what the Minnesota Timberwolves possess. They’re coming into town tomorrow for two home games, one of which will be an In-Season Tournament matchup on Tuesday. They also happen to be the number one defense in the league, both overall (allowing only 101.2 points per 100 possessions with garbage time eliminated) and in the half court (allowing a stingy 82.2 points per 100 half-court possessions — 6.7 points better than number two on the list).
With a quick turnaround against another dangerous team, the Warriors will need to do something fast to address their current structural problems.