This isn’t to downplay the Minnesota Timberwolves’ tremendous defensive effort — they limited the Golden State Warriors to a 97.9 offensive rating — but I felt the Warriors kind of shot themselves in the foot tonight.
The Warriors have always done a great job mixing up their offense and giving opponents different looks. While the motion offense is their bread and butter, having one of the best pick-and-roll ballhandlers in the league in Steph Curry allows them to have the versatility and luxury to switch things up and throw opponents around for a loop.
If the situation calls for it — e.g., there’s a big juicy target for Curry to hunt down — the Warriors are more than willing to dial up ballscreens for him to get the matchup he wants. The defense must then respond in one of two ways: either they give up the easy switch and therefore, the mismatch; or they scheme up a coverage quirk to prevent the potential mismatch.
The Wolves defense did a great job with the latter approach, but they also gave the Warriors small windows of opportunity. Such windows gave the Warriors chances to pick apart the small cracks and bust them wide open.
But for some reason — bad decision making, bad process, or settling due to other factors (e.g., fatigue) — the Warriors just settled too much for my liking. Chucking shots early in the shot clock, bad shot selection, moments of indecision, and going too fast in situations where patience was the prudent approach — all of which helped the Wolves shut down the Warriors offense.
One possession stood out above all others as representative of what ailed their offense against the Wolves:
This isn’t probably the possession you were expecting me to point out (I’ll get to the more glaring ones later). But hear me out on this one.
The Warriors run two ballscreens (“Dive Roll”) to get Karl-Anthony Towns switched onto Curry. This is normally a matchup that Curry takes all the way to its conclusion: either a blow-by and layup, or a stepback three after gaining separation against a slow-footed big.
But instead of Curry attacking Towns in isolation, he passes to Jordan Poole, who doesn’t generate anything against Taurean Prince. The possession then turns into a low-post split action with Curry trying to force Towns to chase him.
All things considered, Towns does a good job on Curry — but I felt like Curry could’ve done more to break Towns down. Instead, he gives up trying to score against the switch, passes to Draymond Green, and a rushed shot with the clock winding down is the result.
That’s a subtle example, but in many ways it spoke the loudest. While it’s difficult to put blame on Curry — after all, the Warriors did outscore the Wolves by two points during his minutes — it was a microcosm of the disjointed offense that plagued the Warriors.
Now, to the more glaring examples.
Whenever the Warriors lose due to shooting themselves in the foot, there’s really only one factor you can point to as the cause of that: turnovers.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the Warriors have lost several games due to turning the ball over too darn much. Most of it is a natural consequence of their tendency to move the ball a lot — they lead the league in passes per game at 321.7 (and by a wide margin over second on the list: the Indiana Pacers’ 304.1 per game).
But they’re also posting the second-highest turnovers per game at 16.2 — only the Houston Rockets (16.5) are worse than them. That goes for turnover percentage, as well — their 15.7 TOV% is worse than any other team in the league save for the Rockets’ 16.5 TOV%.
They committed 16 turnovers against the Wolves, who flipped those giveaways into 24 points. We’d be here all day if I pointed out every single one, so let’s go over the more egregious ones.
This one was brutal because it came after a huge defensive stop, with the opportunity for the Warriors to score on the break against a scrambling defense:
(By the way, welcome back, Gary Payton II!)
This one near the end of the third quarter was also equally brutal:
But it was this one with less than 30 seconds left in the game that probably stung the most — especially because it was born out of indecision and confusion from two franchise bedrocks:
All the Warriors had to do in this situation was to hold onto the ball, dribble it out, and burn as much clock as possible. Curry does a good job dribbling the ball out and making the Wolves chase him — but then makes a risky overhead sling pass to Green, who then proceeds to turn the ball over when he had a live dribble and could’ve drawn out the possession, especially with the Wolves having one foul to give.
If there was ever a possession that is representative of the Warriors’ season, look no further than the coup de grace above that gave them their 37th loss of the season, and only their eighth loss at home.
Instead of jumping up one place in the standings, they remain sixth, with plenty of teams behind them raring to overtake them for a playoff spot. These are mistakes a team can’t afford with the playoffs looming and playoff positioning playing a crucial role.
The Golden State Warriors season, ladies and gentlemen: pic.twitter.com/tRbXkrpSPg— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) March 27, 2023