Preview: In the midst of rough losing streak, Warriors try their luck against Pacers

For a team that has done as much losing as the Golden State Warriors have done this season, it feels presumptuous to label anything as a low point. And yet, the 33-point drubbing they took at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Wednesday feels about as low as anything this team has endured to date.

Tonight, they host the shockingly good Indiana Pacers in what will be the Warriors 13th consecutive contest played with just one day of rest in between games. So strap in, Dub Nation, it could indeed get worse before it gets better.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (10-36) vs Indiana Pacers (29-16)

WHEN: Friday January 24, 2020; 7:30 pm PST

WHERE: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA

WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area

Blog Buddy: Indy Cornrows

(Should we still do this, LGW family? Let us know.)


Warriors problems - some big, some small

One of the hardest parts of analyzing the game of basketball is that everything is extremely interrelated. In other words, when you ask, “what’s wrong with Golden State right now?” The answer is “pretty much everything.”

So let’s start off with the Warriors’ big men.

Yesterday, Let’s Go Warriors intrepid on-scene reporter, Poor Man’s Commish was able to ask coach Steve Kerr about the lack of promising rookie, Alen Smailagić against the Utah Jazz - a team that would seem to be crying out for a dynamic off the dribble threat to attack free roaming rim demon, Rudy Gobert.

His response was basically one of admitted redundancy. The Warriors prefer to start Willie Cauley-Stein for his size, need Omari Spellman’s shooting (more on that in a moment), and like the off-the-bench impact offered by leaper Marquese Chriss.

It just doesn’t leave a spot open for Smailagić in the rotation, especially when you consider how impactful Draymond Green tends to be at the Center position.

It’s Spellman that has really the been the X Factor. He ranks 6th on the team in 3 point shot attempts per 36 minutes, and his conversion rate of 40.4% from that range leads the team (once we remove Kevon Looney’s quirky 50% shooting on the two threes he took this year).

Spellman’s offense is extremely quirky, as per Cleaning the Glass, his effective Field Goal Percentage (52.8%) is bad enough to land him in just the 37th percentile for his position, but his three point percentage is in the 96th percentile!

This is exactly the sort of stretch big that that Warriors will want to be ready deploy next season alongside the returning Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State’s top five shooters from long range, by percentage, via Basketballreference.com

The guards, and wing defense in general

As per the always excellent Anthony Slater of The Athletic, the Warriors defense on the perimeter is exceedingly bad - and it’s been exasperated by the team’s general dearth of multiple outside threats:

…the Warriors have taken the fifth-fewest 3s in the league.

The result: Only 458 made 3s, the fifth-fewest, diminishing their chance of survival against teams that’ll fling up 30 to 40 a night.

The flip side is even worse. The Warriors defense, which actually hasn’t been as poor as expected (currently 21st in rating after a bad Wednesday night) doesn’t shut down the 3 very well.

Opponents have taken the fourth-most 3s against the Warriors this season and made the second most: 615 makes. That’s a discrepancy of 157, meaning the Warriors have been outscored by a league-most 471 points from behind the line.

Now, the answer here is fairly obvious. His name is Stephen Curry, and the Warriors say he may return as soon as March 1st.

But that snippet is also incredibly indicative of the sort of truths that have led to a lot of us labelling this season as a Tank job. Coach Steve Kerr isn’t bending over trying to maximize this current team. Almost to a fault, the strategy seems to be more about indoctrinating these players into the ball movement-based offensive system that has served the team so well over the past decade, rather than putting in stop gap solutions in the near term.

Getting to know the Indiana Pacers

Indiana has long been the forgotten middle child of the NBA Eastern Conference. Sometimes sniffing around a top seeding, sometimes just missing the playoffs, they’ve been defined by being overlooked.

This season, they again find themselves exceeding expectations, but unless you’ve been watching the Eastern Conference fairly closely, you probably haven’t heard much about them. Again, this isn’t a world-beater squad destined for a likely Championship of anything, but the team is solid. They’ve got the 10th best offense, and a fairly solid 15th ranked defense, as per NBA.com advanced stats.

They don’t turn the ball over much, and play excellent shot defense - where they hold opponents to an eFG of .506; good enough for 7th in the entire league.

In other words, this is a good team that plays solid fundamental ball, and will almost certainly grind the Warriors down to their 13th loss over the last 14 games.

Prediction

Alec Burks has been on a tear recently, but the Pacers will likely key their game plan in one stopping him (as well as D’Angelo Russell, of course).

Watch out for the Pacers bigs. Domantas Sabonis leads their team in minutes, and his averages of 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 4.3 assists spell doom for the Warriors leaky defense.