Warriors rebounding struggles cost them against Timberwolves

This isn't the first time Dub Nation has seen this Golden State team get killed on the glass.

Growing up in Oakland, I’ve had a lot of time to watch Golden State games over the years with family members, friends, and even romantic interests. My viewing companions have held varying levels of basketball knowledge, but over the years they’ve had one consistent critique about the Warriors:

“WHY AREN’T THEY GETTING THE REBOUNDS?”

  • If I close my eyes I can hear Grampa grumbling about it when he took me to my first GSW game at the Coliseum in 1993 against the Philadelphia 76ers (I was just maniacally screaming “TIMMY!” the entire time because Tim Hardaway was my hero).

  • When I left for college, my parents vented to me via speakerphone after the Jazz big-bodied the We Believe team out of the Western Conference playoffs, bemoaning that we coulda won that series if we just had somebody to clean up the boards.

  • And a recent tradition during the dynasty era was meeting up at Papa’s house for the Christmas Day games and hearing him bellow, “Stop playing small ball Kerr! Put your big people in so you can get the rebounds! This is that same ol’ Nellieball craziness!”.

Which brings us to last night’s 126-114 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a microcosm of this… transitional season.

Who will protect the boards?

Minnesota outrebounded Golden State 57 to 34 last night, with 16 offensive rebounds to the Warriors’ 4. This led to a devastating 18-8 Wolves advantage in second chance points and eradicated all the good vibes from the Dubs limiting their opponent to 45% shooting from the field. Golden State held Minnesota’s All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns to 22 points on 6-of-18 shooting while former Dub D’Angelo Russell scuffled to 7 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Not bad, right?

But the defensive possession isn’t complete until that ball is secured after the missed shot, and the Dubs’ poor rebounding forced them to stay on defense for extended amounts of time while Minnesota figured out how to eventually score. Funny enough, Big KAT didn’t have a monstrous rebounding game (he had a respectable 11). It was everybody else pitching in on the glass that doomed the Dubs: there were eight Timberwolves players with at least 5 rebounds!

I’m just gonna chalk it up to the Dubs being exhausted from playing smallball and — wait a second, Coach Steve Kerr’s about to say something:

Oops! Never mind, that’s just poor fundamental basketball, just like Papa always griped about. Golden State is ranked next-to-last in opponent offensive rebounds per game, and ranked 24th in opponent offensive rebound percentage.

Weaponized Screenshots: Poor fundamentals

Here we are at the 8:30 mark of the fourth quarter with the game knotted up at 99-99. Rookie of the Year candidate Anthony Edwards (25 points on 10-of-19 shooting) jacks up a triple. Keep an eye on the top of this picture, where Juan Toscano-Anderson is manning up on Jarred Vanderbilt.

Sweet, Minnesota has all five players outside of the paint and if Golden State gets the rebound they have an opportunity to take the lead on the other end. NOT SO FAST BUCKO. Check out this next frame as the shot lasers towards the rim: Our Guy Juanito (Apricot’s trademark pending) turns to watch the flight of the ball. Meanwhile his guy Vanderbilt is taking off like gazelle.

Did you also notice JTA’s teammate Mychal Mulder on the bottom left of the screen properly identifying his own man Willy Hernangomez, and stepping toward him to initiate a box out maneuver? Unfortunately JTA isn’t fundamentally sound here and attempts to leap up and snatch the board on raw athleticism and timing. That’s always a gamble in the NBA where some of the world’s best leapers ply their trade.

Mulder’s man = boxed out. JTA’s man = stealing an offensive rebound from Toscano-Anderson’s finger tips. Vanderbilt taps the rock to himself on the other side of the paint and sucks the life out of the road team. It’s so frustrating to be forced to defend multiple possessions.

This led to a Naz Reid layup, giving the Timberwolves back a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.

I’d assume that having the injured James Wiseman, Eric Paschall, Kelly Oubre Jr., and the injured + departed Marquese Chriss could have helped the Dubs rebound better last night. But there’s no excuse for not boxing out your man. It will be interesting to see if the Dubs can clean any of that up before the season ends.

(You know who was solid on the glass for Golden State? Kent Bazemore with 10 rebounds.)

Revenge SZN

As a staunch defender of Wiggins Island, I was happy to see Andrew Wiggins cooking his old franchise.

27 points on 11-of-20 shooting (3-of-6 from downtown) from Wiggins is just what Golden State was looking for when they added his hefty contract to their team by trading D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota last year. Russell struggled to score against the Warriors but dished out 8 assists on the team that called him a “questionable fit”. I’m sure that victory was sweet for him.

Speaking of sweet revenge, how about Ricky Rubio’s hot shooting last night? The guy most famous for being selected before Steph Curry in the 2009 draft did his best Curry impression, scoring 26 points on 5 made threes.

Curry struggled shooting early but bounced back to finish with 37 points on 11-of-27 shooting (6-of-17 from deep range). The numbers he puts up on a nightly basis probably still make Timberwolves fans cringe they didn’t select him when they had TWO chances to do so. But his points weren’t enough to take that road win last night in Minnesota, sigh.

Moving On

Tough loss against a team the Warriors definitely should have defeated if they consider themselves playoff material. But if you read Apricot’s recent piece on draft odds, perhaps this loss wasn’t so bad after all mwahahaha.