Warriors get lesson in physicality in 128-97 loss to Lakers

Montrezl Harrell gave James Wiseman a crash course in big man tactics

Last night during the Los Angeles Lakers’ devastating 128-97 beating of the Golden State Warriors, my mind wandered to box scores of beatdowns past. As a lifelong Warriors supporter, I’ve suffered through plenty of smackdowns from the hands of the Laker Nation. Like this 111-91 stomping from 11-22-2000, smack dab in the middle of the Shaq-Kobe dynasty:

Talk about pain! Back then the playoffs were a pipe dream for Warriors fans. The team would miss the postseason from ‘94-’95 until the We Believe team rose up in the spring of ‘07. The morning after blowout losses I would scan through the box scores of the Oakland Tribune wondering if Antawn Jamison could score his way into an All-Star berth, or fantasizing about a day where Erick Dampier could become an elite center.

But the three championships between ‘15-’19 had a bit of a spoiling effect on me. Now when I look at the current Warriors being chokeslammed by the Lakers… I feel much more like an exasperated Chef Gordon Ramsey demanding to know why the kitchen is in disarray and why some poor cook’s chicken dish isn’t thoroughly cooked and omg ARE THOSE TOMATOES ROTTING OVER THERE?!

Thankfully, after a few deep breaths and several beers I’ve fallen back in love with patiently identifying positive play and fantasizing about potential. Except, I’m no longer the naive young kid who kept an autographed photo of center Carlos Rogers by my bedside for good luck. I now have mid 90s-fandom scars reminding that there are no guarantees in the NBA and Carlos is only gonna be with the team for one freakin’ season before leaving for Toronto *bursts into sobs*.

Let’s just get into last night’s game, shall we?

Wiseman and Warriors interior defense shredded by Lakers attack

The world champion Lakers have a mediocre 16th ranked offensive rating this season, with a large part of their struggles attributed to roster turnover and injuries, particularly to star big man Anthony Davis.

But against the Warriors this season they have looked like unstoppable, averaging 119 PPG. Last night, they scored 68 points in the paint and shot 62.8% from the field (40% from 3PT range). They also shot 19-of-25 from the free throw line. I was impressed/annoyed by their savvy court awareness: anytime a Warrior played them tight on the drive, the Lakers would seek out bumps and create either a ref’s whistle or open space.

The rookie James Wiseman got a very rough introduction to Physicality 101 last night. As our good friend Sleepy Freud mentioned last game, Wiseman is struggling with properly playing defensive gaps against opponents. He gets caught mistiming their footsteps on drives and lurches awkwardly into them trying to make up for his error. Several times he was too close to ball handers and fouled them or got blown by.

That’s pretty much what I’d expect from an inexperienced 19-year old center in the NBA so there’s no real shame there for Wiseman. But he definitely got hunted by the Lakers offensive onslaught, something that reminded me just how far he has to go in order to be a defensive stud. Lakers center Montrezl Harrell had a career night, hitting Wiseman with every single move he had in the bag (including this acting job here).

To Wiseman’s credit, he didn’t shy away from the punishment, and was one of the more entertaining Dubs on the floor with his 7 points and 8 rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out.

Did anybody else’s heart speed up everytime Wiseman was involved in a Stephen Curry screen-and-roll action?

I love Curry’s gravity drawing THREE defenders so far away from the basket while Wiseman rumbles in for something freakishly athletic. One day this combination is going to make people around the NBA very sorry the Warriors picked Wiseman at #2.

Wiggins and Oubre Jr. didn’t move the needle last night

The Lakers top ranked defense stuck to the Warriors like white on rice, forcing the Dubs into indecision and confusion. Golden State had 22 turnovers alongside their 24 assists, and couldn’t generate much offense beyond Curry’s pretty 27 points in 29 minutes.

Curry could only generate two assists against the Skynet-level defensive rotations from Los Angeles.

This was the kind of game that the Warriors needed Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. to slip through the thicket of defenders and create something. They combined to go 10-of-18 from the field with 7 turnovers (Oubre had 5 of them). Efficient enough shooting, but nothing scaring L.A. considering the two wings were a combined 3-of-7 from the free throw line.

These guys can score, but are inconsistent as primary on-ball initiators. How can the Warriors get more out of them? Here’s Wiggins and Oubre’s combined shot chart for the game":

About that 2nd Unit…

Coach Steve Kerr put a Mannion-Poole-Oubre-Paschall-Wiseman line up to start the second quarter, trailing 29-26. Curry had scored 15 first quarter points and the video screen fans were rocking. After a sweet Nico Mannion three-pointer tied it up at 29-all, the Lakers systematically slow-cooked the young Dubs until Kerr put the starters back in with 5:13 in the half. By then score was 48-37 Lakers, and the Warriors never sniffed competitiveness after.

The Brad Wanamaker-less reserve backcourt showed some flashes:

  • Jordan Poole led the bench scorers with 14 points in 21 minutes. His game is looking more patient and refined in his sophomore season, although his shot selection from beyond the arc (1-of-5 from 3PT range) is aggressive. I like that he shares the floor with Mannion, a playmaker, so Poole can focus on scoring. Their defense has a long way to go, but that’s common for young guards.

Moving On

I mentioned before Curry had two assists and they happened to be historically significant ones: he’s now the greatest assister in Warriors’ history.

For Curry to become the Warriors all-time franchise assists leader on a night where he was the only dominant bucket getter says alot about the depth of his game. He’s known for scoring but he’s spent a career getting teammates involved and making them better with his passing and unselfishness.

Can he help elevate these young Dubs into the playoffs? Only time will tell in the ongoing saga that is his brilliant career. In the meantime, I hope I’ve given you all some good stuff to balance out that sour taste the loss left Dub Nation with. In all fairness, I can’t be too mad at these guys not being able to overcome the champs on the second game of a back-to-back after an emotional victory over the Utah Jazz.

Then again, nobody wants to get blown out by the Lakers.