Warriors hoping they don't get burned - no Curry or Green against the Suns tonight.
Warriors got "Dame Timed," can they recover against Suns with Oubre back in mix?
It’s not easy being a mid-tier team.
Stephen Curry put up 35 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists last night but it wasn’t enough to withstand a late Dame Time dagger, as the Warriors got dropped 108-106 by the Portland Trail Blazers last night. Playing without third-leading scorer, and certified defensive pest, Kelly Oubre, the short-handed Warriors dropped their second consecutive loss. There’s no time for rest or reflection though as the Warriors are looking ahead to another tough game tonight against Oubre’s old team, the Phoenix Suns.
Tonight’s back-to-back game against the Suns was already going to be tough, with the team not slated to arrive at their Phoenix hotel until 4am this morning; but it looks like the Warriors are giving some targeted rest to their two most important players tonight.
Warriors fans, assume the brace position!
On the one hand, I don’t know how to expect anything but an extremely embarrassing loss at the hands of a playoff team tonight, but on the other hand, winning a game this season without Curry or Green would be very on brand for these unpredictable Warriors.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (19-17) at Phoenix Suns (23-11)
WHEN: Thursday, March 4th, 2021 // 7:00pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA; NBA League Pass
Okay, fine. Let’s point some fingers!
Personally, this team is about where I expected the Warriors to be. Hovering just north of .500, they’ve had more big losses than big wins; but a bit of both have mixed in together to create an exciting - if frustrating - squad. But I have a firm policy of not telling fans how to feel, so for those of you not swayed by the excuses for a team playing without their second-best scorer and third-best player (Klay Thompson), their starting center (Marquese Chriss), and heading into a game without Oubre, let’s point some fingers.
The most obvious and glaring explanation of how the Warriors lost this game is as unpleasant as it is straightforward: the Dubs got outplayed, and out-starred by Damian Lillard and the Blazers.
Step one: blow a couple of chances to seal the win. Of note: the Warriors were an abysmal 2 of 7 in the restricted area in the fourth quarter (and Portland doesn’t have any meaningful rim protection).
Step 2: turn the ball over on your last possession (not counting that end of game prayer from Damion Lee). This was an extremely tough call. Lillard jumps out of the restricted area while Green is starting his shot, doesn’t establish legal position, but still gets the charging call.
There’s a lot wrong with this team right now. A franchise that is still recovering from departed All World talents like Durant, veterans like Iguodala, and reeling from two straight seasons without Klay Thompson. Fans, especially the noisiest ones want results, not excuses. And to be fair, there’s some meat on the bones of discontent that dissatisfied fans are loudly chewing on.
“Uh. Um…Uhhhhhhhhhhh.” That was Draymond Green’s response last night, when Anthony Slater related coach Steve Kerr’s postgame quip about the need for “supplementary scoring and shot creation around Steph.
“That’s kind of the way our offense is set up… we work around Steph, and you get what you get. I don’t know.”
It’s a pertinent question.
In follow up to a LGW member comment last night, I looked up what percent of shots were assisted, and... it's not pretty in here. Here are all the players on the roster, sorted by who gets the least assists per shot (Curry), to the most (Mulder).
This is the flip side of leading the league in assists (the team averages 28 assist per game) - we have a dearth of players that can create their own shots. And importantly, it’s a salient feature of Kerr’s movement-based offensive schemes.
Now, none of this is to say that these players can’t create their own shot, but to date, it hasn’t been a priority. It hasn’t needed to be a priority. With Curry and Green around, there’s always a willing and capable passer - but since Kerr has modified the rotation to keep Green and Curry’s minutes mostly aligned, the second unit has been reliant on limited players like Brad Wanamaker to grease the wheels of the bench offense.
“But Duby, let’s just spam the iso or pick and roll for Paschall!”
Here’s the problem: the Warriors like to run an efficient offense. By prioritizing scoring efficiency, Kerr’s teams have been extremely successful. But this season, with a busted rotation impacted by high-value injuries, and bunch of developing players on the bench rather than wily veterans, it hasn’t been working - the Warriors rank 12th this season in team-wide effective field goal percentage. It’s not just about getting shots, you have to make them. And that’s where the proposed solution runs into problems.
That’s a busy graphic, but it shows is that only Curry can be considered high efficiency on a generally low assist rate. And that’s the conundrum the Warriors are facing. They are structured to run the best with Green and Curry on court, and it’s causing all sorts of headaches when those two sit.
Last trip to my spreadsheet, I promise, but there’s one more pertinent detail here. This (like all the source data above) is extracted from Cleaning the Glass. Here’s the team’s shooting percentages (right column), with that players percentile rank - as always, remember that blue is bad).
Notice anything about the low assisted players like Paschall, Wiggins, and Oubre? They’re all inefficient scoring options. These truths are at the heart of why the Warriors bench struggles, why the offense in general isn’t better, and why it’s going to take a miracle to beat the Suns tonight.
[drags soap box back into deep storage]
Fast and Furious Suns
Back in my day, Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Dan Majerle’s Suns were one of my favorites. With an NBA Jams ethos, and the pace to match, Phoenix was a good team that was a ton of fun to watch. Now, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton have brought that same vibe back, and it’s glorious.
Boasting top-ten ratings in both offense and defense (8th and 6th, respectively), they’re second in the standings and poised to stay in the top end of the West for the foreseeable future. With Booker (age 24) and 22 year-old Ayton, the Suns are beyond a “rising” team, they’ve arrived.
Phoenix shoots the ball well, and doesn’t turn it over a ton, and with no Green or Curry tonight, it’s going to take a Herculean effort to keep it close tonight.
I’ve made a personal choice to never predict a loss this season (mostly because I can’t figure this team out), but this feels like more of a stretch than ever before. I guess Oubre and Wiggins both go nuts, Wiseman and Bazemore somehow stay out of foul trouble, and the Warriors win a close one 112-113.