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Preview, Pre-Game Notes, and Game Thread: After beatdown, can the Warriors do better with a second shot at the Blazers?
James Wiseman expected back; scary ankle injury "just a tweak"
Pre-Game Notes (update)
From Poor Man’s Commish, Pregame Kerr notes/quotes in case you are more the “reader” than the “watcher” (of videos, see below):
Wiseman good to go
Kerr reminds everyone to give Wiseman a break
Draymond: “We should be able to bump his minutes up... definitely over the 20-minute mark.”
Assists key indicator? “Small sample size... right now shots aren't going in...that number will come up, I'm very confident of that.”
Smailagic: “I feel so bad for Smiley. He's been a victim, like all the young players, of the pandemic...it's really a shame... we've got to get him some playing time, some action and we'll see what that means, going forward.”
Key to start game: “We gotta be much more aggressive. I thought we were a little bit soft on the ball...snowballed on us...do that without fouling...the key to any good defense...put a team on its heels...we're playing a team that's been together for a long time...that's the challenge.”
Pregame video of Kerr saying Draymond will get 20+ minutes:
For those that sat through the dark days of Golden State Warriors basketball, there’s an almost comforting feeling watching our team struggle. For most of my life, this was my Warriors experience - a plucky, marginal playoff hopeful looking for our young talent to develop while our top tier players do everything they can to squeeze enough wins out of a limited roster so they can maybe squeak into the playoffs.
Remember the We Believe Warriors?
They to started off slow, wobbling out to a 2-2 start to the season - though to be fair, they followed it up with a five-game winning streak that feels out of reach for the current Dubs. Everyone remembers their big push at the end of the season to make the playoffs right? But you know what the We Believe record was in the last month of the season? Nine wins, eight losses. Barely above .500 ball.
This is what a marginal playoff team looks like. Getting waxed by good teams, but scraping together wins over the truly hopeless. I know it’s tough - believe me, a guy that closely watched the slow demise of Andris Biedrins.
The question now for the Warriors is one of marginal improvement. They’ve got a second crack at the Portland Trailblazers tonight, and the only thing they need to do is play better than they did last time around. The bright side of getting beat so badly is that it leaves ample opportunity for improvement.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (2-3) vs. Portland Trailblazers (3-2)
WHEN: Sunday, January 3rd // 5:30 pm PST <— EARLY
WATCH: NBCSBA: NBA TV
An ugly, but explainable, bad start
You know when a kid falls, and there’s that loaded moment right after where you can’t tell if they’re fine, or about to roll over and cry? That’s where the Warriors are at this moment. Steve Kerr was talking about the defense in this quote (via the always excellent Patrick Murray), but it’s equally applicable to a wide range of issues plaguing the team right now:
“It's by far the biggest challenge that I've had, and that our staff has had” said coach Steve Kerr on a recent call with reporters. “Nine months without playing and then, boom, two-week training camp and play basketball. And your starting center hasn't taken part in that training camp. That's a lot to bite off.”
Opening the season against two of the best teams in the league handed the Warriors two of their three losses, and the Blazers - a team with a ton of roster continuity and simple scheme - the other. That’s not that bad. A team under the Warriors’ circumstances shouldn’t win any of those three games.
The central question is: “how bad is it?” Followed closely by: “will it get better?”
In regards to the first question, the answer is an unqualified “bad.” The Warriors have struggled mightily on both ends of the court, so far this season.
But for that second question, it seems more an issue of your outlook, than any objective truth. Because it is clear that there’s something extremely funky about the Warriors - especially on offense.
In the blowout loss to the Portland Trailblazers, the Warriors were outscored by 39 points on three-point shots, a harsh turn of the tables for a team that ushered in the new era of three-point fecundity.
In total, the Blazers took a eight more three-point attempts (43 to the Warriors’ 35), but the problem is a double-edged whammy: Portland shot 46% on those threes, Golden State his a measly 20% on 7-35 shooting.
“But, Duby, Kerr’s schemes aren’t…”
The Blazers, conversely, made 16 of their 34 wide open threes.
That’s not a scheme issue.
The Warriors are shooting a league-worst 30.5% from deep, and teams are shooting 44.7% against them - again, the worst such mark in the league.
To look at it another way, check out this comparison between the Warriors shot quality, and the team’s resultant shooting results. It’s weird.
Before we start calling for Kerr’s coaching head on a platter, fans should consider if maybe these early struggles are more directly related to players having a quirky start to the season.
Here are some interesting stats to look at: this is the team’s leading three-point shot attempts per game, sorted in descending order. Take a look at the shooting percentages (3P%)…
Stephen Curry is a career 43% shooter from behind the arc. Oubre, a career 32% shooter from deep, shot slightly over 35% last season. We often hear the term small sample size warning, but seldom head the caveat. So much of the Warriors offensive struggle can be explained with a very simple root cause: guys are just missing right now.
Chill. It’s been five games with an abbreviated training camp (or zero camp for Wiseman and Green), and a team wildly rewriting their source code.
Adjustments for the second crack at Portland
Golden State is struggling on defense, as they have since the departure of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and of course Kevin Durant; but in the previous game against the Trailblazers, it was especially glaring.
Without key wing stoppers, the Portland scoring duo did damage. Lillard led the way, with 34 points off of just 21 shot attempts. McCollum was close behind, with 28 points on 21 shots. Opposing players are absolutely roasting the Warriors defense, and it’s mostly off the dribble / point of attack. As much as this team wants to have a top defense, it’s been a whole lot closer to delusional than actual.
Our Eric Apricot broke down the break downs, and I strongly suggest spending eight minutes listening to the soothing dulcet tones of Eric’s ASMR post mortem.
With defense, there’s a series of quick hit and response reactions, so far, the Warriors personnel have not been making the best choices. That’s what makes a player a good defender: the innate ability to predict what an offense will attempt to do and then get in the way of it.
Right now, it looks like a combination of the Warriors getting caught flat-footed, as well as simply outplayed. In other words, once someone like Lillard blows by Wiggins (for example), the rotations are a mess and easily beaten by teams that are much too adept at hunting weaknesses.
I feel like Mark Jackson. “You’ve got to be better,” is trite, but unfortunately, the issues are looking more and more like an inherent short coming of Warriors personnel simply getting beat.
My heart says the Warriors will come out with a strong response led by Curry and Green; but my mind keeps reminding me how thoroughly the Blazers cooked the Warriors last time out.
I’ll split the difference and predict a moral victory in a close loss here.
It’s an interesting battle for identity. The Warriors simplified schemes are getting absolutely torched by opponents, but the squad isn’t cohesive enough yet to pull off a switch-heavy defense. But I rooted (hard) for Chris Gatling, I’ve got plenty of gold blood in my veins to root for this Warriors squad that has seen their share of early struggles.
These guys haven’t given up, so we shouldn’t give up on them just yet either.