All the small details the Warriors failed to pay heed to — especially on the defensive end — are an easy target. There were also the 15 turnovers, which isn’t a new problem for a team that likes to live on the edge that separates the beauty of team basketball from plain old recklessness.
There were the micro decisions in terms of tactical matchups and lineup combinations. For one: having Steph Curry spend time guarding Michael Porter Jr. — eight inches taller than Curry — was a questionable one. The Nuggets went to Porter to take advantage and he feasted.
All those details — however little — can all build up to a result that has massive consequences. After briefly spending time as the fifth seed in the Western Conference, this loss drops the Warriors back to the sixth spot, with plenty of teams behind them that are breathing down their necks.
But perhaps the most glaring statistic of them all was the Warriors’ clip from beyond the arc. All things considered, they were able to balance their shot diet considerably well — 38% of their shot attempts came at the rim, where they were 24-of-37 (64.9%, 41st percentile); another 38% of their shots came from beyond the arc.
But the kicker: They went 9-of-42 on threes — an ice-cold 21%.
Seven of those nine threes were from Curry and Klay Thompson. But both of them combined for a 7-of-30 clip on threes. Some shots were open looks they’d normally make; some were of the high degree of difficulty that only the two greatest shooters in basketball history could be trusted upon to drill.
No one should ever get mad at the Splash Brothers for shooting to their hearts’ content. Maybe there were a couple of instances where hunting for the homerun threes was the less preferable option compared to moving the ball around and looking for a more efficient look — but when you’ve developed the kind of reputation those two have, you live and die with their shooting.
That was the theme against the Nuggets. For the majority of the game, they were proverbially dying, until a personal run by Donte DiVincenzo and a huge three by Thompson gave the Warriors life again.
Helped by forcing a jump ball and winning it, the Warriors had one last chance to mount an improbable comeback victory. They opted not to overcomplicate things — instead, they chose to involve the Splash Brothers in screening action.
It’s not an overly complex concept, but having Thompson set a screen for Curry forces defenses to have to make a quick decision — which increases the chances of them botching the coverage:
With Peyton Watson guarding Thompson and Jamal Murray on Curry, Thompson comes over to set a screen. The threat of a Curry downhill drive compels Watson to ignore Thompson “ghosting” the screen and flaring out toward the top of the arc.
Two defenders on the ball is something the Warriors have historically feasted on, whether it’s courtesy of Draymond Green short rolls or on possessions such as the one above. Thompson gets a good look at the rim — one that you can’t be too mad at him for taking. The percentages tell you he will make that shot approximately four out of 10 times, which are pretty good odds in the NBA.
It just so happened that Thompson missed it. You could also point out that he could’ve passed it to a wide-open Curry in the corner. Or also rued the fact that Steve Kerr didn’t call a timeout (which is a decision I’m okay with; a shot against a scrambling defense is much better than a shot against a defense that is given an opportunity to get set).
But the result of the quality look was pretty much the story of the night. Missed chances, missed opportunities, and most of all — a missed shot by a player that normally makes them.