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Old guard Warriors will adjust... but only a little
Poole questionable (ankle)
There was a moment late in the game where it really felt like another miracle was in the cards for the Golden State Warriors. With the game in reach and the clock winding down, Stephen Curry broke down an overloaded Sacramento Kings defense and kicked it out to a wide open Andrew Wiggins. The plan was coming together right when they needed it to. Until it wasn’t.
As Daniel Hardee so eloquently put it, “…that plan was one more three away from working. Or one more great defensive stop. Or one better referee foul call. Or one less turnover.”
Curry and the Warriors had already pulled off a classic scoring flurry to wedge their way back into range after the Kings guards went nuts at the end of the 3rd and early 4th. But the magic couldn’t be conjured when it came down to the final possessions. That Wiggins three bricked out. There were no stops to be found when they needed them on defense. But it was real close.
So the Warriors will adjust a little. Not too much - these are still the ring-laden defending champs. The Warriors haven’t fallen behind 2-0 in a playoff series since the second round against Utah in 2007.
One late wrinkle to the story: Jordan Poole - who had a nasty ankle roll in game one but played through it - might not be able to keep playing through it.
Kings lead series 1-0
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings
WHEN: Monday, April 17th, 2023 // 7pm PST
WATCH: TNT (?)
Warriors will lean into who they are, but they’re old
Even though they certainly aren’t panicking after a single loss, there are some pretty basic adjustments that seem to make sense for the Warriors. In game one, Wiggins came off the bench for the first time in his career - it may not be his last, but I doubt tonight will be the second such occurrence. Getting Wiggins back in the starting lineup seems like a natural first adjustment.
The funny thing about the playoffs is that it is small sample size theatre. It doesn’t matter if De’Aaron Fox will shoot 50% from deep every night or not - as long as he does it a few times in this series, it’s a problem. Fox’s 38 points came (on 27 shots) and 4-of-8 shooting from deep represent a big night from him, but the best players are the ones that can put their imprint on a game. I’m not exactly sure what schematic adjustments will be called for but I am certain that he’ll be facing some additional defensive attention in game two.
Thankfully, the Warriors have some options.
Malik Monk hit up the Warriors for 32 off the bench - including a massive Harden-like effort at the charity stripe, where he nailed all fourteen of his free throws. Sure, some (not all) of those attempts were generously gifted, but no matter how you get there, it’s exactly the sort of marginal outlier than can swing an important playoff game. Another detail for the champs to clean up on.
The cleaning list isn’t just limited to defense. The Kings did a phenomenal job rebounding against Golden State. Check out the game stat summary showing the four factors, via Cleaning the Glass with an eye on the two columns on the right. The Kings pulled in 40.4% of their available offensive rebounds, and shot free throws on nearly a quarter of their shot attempts.
Finally, there’s some non-adjustment adjustments. By intentionally changing nothing and leaning back into the comforting arms of historical inertia, the Warriors hope to discover their well-rounded shooting prowess. Curry was amazing, but look at the shooting from his usual cast of supporting actors:
Klay Thompson: 21 points on 19 shots (5 of 14 from deep);
Andrew Wiggins: 17 points on 16 shots (1 of 8 from deep);
Jordan Poole: 17 points on 10 shots (only played 22 minutes).
Here at DNHQ, we have repeatedly pointed towards the “no project” alternative when it comes to adjustments. The core strategy and players are here to either make it work, or fail in the attempt. It sounds like there were some notes about adjustments yesterday, but don’t expect Kerr’s playoff rotation to get flipped upside down or anything crazy.
Warriors were set up to practice today at Golden 1 Center but at the last minute Kerr canceled it. Kerr, Klay Thompson and Gary Payton II spoke at the team hotel. Some interesting potential tweaks/rotation discussion with Kerr.
They aren’t going to come back into Sacramento and do exactly the same thing, but as close as the Warriors came to pulling off a victory in game one, I’m expecting minor tweaks over major changes.
And one decidedly different outcome, please.
Prediction (and some thoughts)
The Warriors will win this game, but it will be another nail biter.
But as I watch the atmosphere unfold in Sacramento, I can’t help but get a little misty eyed. The Warriors are old. Basketball dinosaurs with a lot of rings and plenty of miles on the tires. It’s such a beautiful, unique journey to watch your favorite team emerge from a long slumber and return to the playoffs.
Here’s hoping the Warriors can hang on to the magic for another few years at least. But no matter what, this is part of what makes rooting for a silly sport like basketball truly enjoyable. What a ride it has been - and continues to be.