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Warriors have been losing some huge battles in their two losses
At this point, I don’t really have any choice but to believe in these Golden State Warriors. The defending champions haven’t looked stellar all year, and after getting taken to seven games by the Sacramento Kings, are showing some of the same concerning cracks that they’ve shown all year.
Overly reliant on Stephen Curry being brilliant every single game. Carrying oversized contracts for players that are quite possibly on the downhill side of their career trajectory. And then there’s the boneheaded turnovers, the lack of execution. Heads hanging in frustration and arguing with calls instead of playing through the ups and the downs.
But these Warriors have been way closer to the precipice before. I refuse to believe that they can’t adjust. Less JaMychal Green, some added Jonathan Kuminga. Cleaner defense, less arguing. Smarter defensive rotations and adherence to what should be a fairly well known script. We’ll see. The Warriors aren’t calling this a must-win, but it’s close.
Warriors trail series 1-2
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
WHEN: Monday, May 8. 2023 // 7pm PDT
All the reasons that the Warriors are losing (non-ref)
Complaining about the refs is lame. It doesn’t help anything, and the line between legitimate gripe and tinfoil hat-wearing denial of reality is dangerously blurry. It has been a real factor in this series, so we’ll get to all of that in a bit, but first, let’s ignore the whistles and look at how things have gone wrong in the Warriors’ two losses.
The Warriors’ defense has been their secret sauce throughout the dynasty run. With Draymond Green and Kevon Looney manning the middle, the Warriors have thrived on an agile but stout defensive interior. In the two losses they’ve gotten dominated by the Lakers.
In game three, the Lakers shot the ball more effectively, rebounded well, and didn’t turn it over nearly as often as the Warriors did. Via Cleaning the Glass (which excludes garbage time) we can see pretty clearly how significantly Los Angeles outplayed the Warriors in pure basketball terms. Look at the shooting efficiency (eFG%), rebounds, and turnover rates.
It’s not very much fun as far as analysis, but the basic reality here is that Draymond Green and Kevon Looney have to be able to do a better job of containing the Lakers’ frontcourt. Green in particular has been taking some really odd choices when it comes to how he chooses to defend. As that battle goes, so too will go the series. Right now, Anthony Davis has absolutely roasted the Warriors in their two losses.
That frontcourt is woefully thin, by design. The Warriors leaned into the rest of their positions, relying heavily on Green and Looney to be up to the task of covering their opponents best big men. This has always been something of a worse case scenario for Golden State: running into a Lakers team that has built themselves around their two elite big men in James and Davis.
After getting lit up by Alex Len, the Warriors have begun to move their starting bigs around a bit; trying to spread out the elite coverage of Looney and Green while also minimizing the negative impact of their relatively moribund scoring output.
So coach Steve Kerr has turned to JMG, a player on a veteran’s minimum contract. Though a pretty good bargain, he’s far from the elite on-court presence you might want in a high pressure playoff environment. The main problem is that because JMG doesn’t really dribble, and neither does he pencil in as an especially dangerous threat on the roll, it immediately gums up the Warriors offense.
On the wings, the Warriors have a much bigger problem, though it’s not directly pointed at the Lakers’ strongest players. Jordan Poole has not been doing so hot in these playoffs. As pointed out by my illustrious colleague, Daniel Hardee, Poole could cause major headaches for Los Angeles - if he could just get it together.
If we think back to his electric performances in last year’s playoffs, it’s easy to have high expectations of this young 23-year old player…. So when he scuffled his way to a 5 point, 6 assist, 4 turnover performance in Game 3 with a chance to take a 2-1 lead in the series, it raised some more eyebrows in Dub Nation (and derision from Laker fans) about his shot selection and floor generalship.
Looking at the splits of Poole’s playoff numbers and comparing this year’s efforts to what was happening last season is staggering. Poole’s output is around the same when it comes to shooting attempts, but he’s seeing massive dips in efficiency.
This isn’t just limited to the current series against the Lakers, Poole is really struggling compared to last year.
There’s a lot to fix here. It’s not out of range for the Warriors - just look at game two.
The stupid referee stuff.
I always try to stuff these sentiments away. It’s not any fun to whine about the refs, and nobody cares. That said, it’s pretty evident that this series is going to massively swing upon the mercies of the refs whistle. Game two, a Warriors blowout, was the only game that had anywhere close to an equal number of free throws awarded to both teams.
And yet… you don’t need a tinfoil hat to wonder about this infographic that the NBA put out recently. Boy, that sure is a fun fact about the Lakers and Celtics - two major media markets on each coast with a ton of historical significance. I’m sure it’s probably nothing.
I can’t help myself. I kept seeing some iteration of “the Lakers drive more, of course they get more foul calls.”
So I looked it up. And would you guess what the actual numbers were in game three? Turns out the Warriors and Lakers took nearly identical attempts at the rim. Even more telling and significant, check out the “FT rate” below and note how much more frequently the Lakers ended up getting free throws from their shot attempts - 46.7% of them, compared to the Warriors 10.8% free throw rate.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be a conspiracy, but these numbers are nearly insurmountable one way or another.
If you were going to “fix the numbers” for a thing like this, it would look something like what we saw late in game three; where the refs massively changed their tune once the game was all the way out of reach.
In the end, it’s not really going to matter. The Warriors will win or lose this series, and only the losing team and their fan base will ever care that some people thought the referee whistles were weird.
Is it weird? I think it looks a little weird out there.
This is a wild statistic, especially considering that the NBA referee official twitter account sent out a strongly worded apology to LeBron James over a missed call earlier in the season. All a coincidence, I’m sure.
Draymond Green and Looney all the sudden can’t defend without fouling? And on the flip side, how are so many of the Lakers bench players so much better at drawing fouls than Steph Curry, who is clearly grabbed and held on basically every play?
It’s basketball. The refs are going to do whatever they do, and it’s on the teams on the court to play well enough to make it so that it is out of reach from any referee shenanigans.
Warriors must shake it off and play through it. Golden State needs a win, so will get a win tonight.