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Preview: Warriors need more Curry, less help on Tatum in game 2
Over-helping on Tatum, and not enough to bolster Curry's big game doomed them in game one, Golden State knows what to do to fix all that.
The Golden State Warriors took a 12 point lead into the fourth quarter of game one of the NBA Finals, but ended up losing by 12 after one of the worst crumbles in recent memory. It wasn’t just that the team lost to a lucky barrage of thee pointers, there was an uncharacteristically lackadaisical vibe. Draymond Green of all people walking into half-hearted shows on open shooters.
But it’s a seven game series and the Warriors have survived pressure tests like this before. Coming into game two, it’s not exactly a must win game, not literally. But going down 0-2 would be a scary development for a team that was holding the homecourt advantage.
On the injury front, Golden State is still trying to get their trio of critical bench players healthy. Iguodala played in game one but would later say that he would not have played had it been the regular season, and Gary Payton didn’t make an appearance — he was still favoring his right (non-shooting) arm in practice yesterday.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics
WHEN: Sunday, June 5th, 2022 // 5pm
Celtics lead series 1-0
Bend but don’t break: two different schemes exposed the strategic battle
As the first contact between the Warriors and Celtics unfolded, it was clear that both sides had taken drastically different approached to stopping the opposing team’s best player. For Stephen Curry, this meant a shocking reliance on single coverage. They ignored the non-threats to help when needed, but it was far from the overload that are accustomed to seeing.
The Warriors took a different tact, sending a ton of doubles and attention at Tatum — who subsequently shredded the secondary rotations with sharp passes. The 40-16 fourth quarter was when it all turned, but the Celtics’ shooters found plenty to like around the forgiving edges of a Warriors defense that didn’t seem intent on closing out on shooters.
What’s weird is that the shooters that Golden State was so successfully challenging to shoot the ball have been on a tear. Al Horford, for example is shooting 46.3% from deep in the playoffs. Not being able to rotate in time is one thing, but it almost seemed like the Warriors’ scheme was to actively encourage Horford (and Smart and White) to shoot.
Presumably, the Warriors are going to adjust for game two. It’s not going to take much, the model was working fine for three quarters in that first game before the wheels fell off. The obvious adjustment is to stay home on shooters more, especially Horford and Smart.
For the Warriors, they’ve gotten used to working around the limitations. Playing two non-shooters in Looney and Green (or even Iguodala) is old hat — and an old hat that they’ve worn to three championship parades. But the Celitcs have certainly exposed the structural concerns that have been generating louder and louder calls of concern.
Here’s on play that perfectly exemplifies the strengths and challenges of these lineups. Curry beats his man, and dribble into the lane, chased by two players with another at the rim to help, this is the coveted gravity of Curry that warps defenses. Only this time, when the ball swings to the corner three spot, it’s Draymond Green standing there.
He had a tough game. One game after helping knock out the Dallas Mavericks with his season-high scoring output of 17 points (off 7 shot attempts) he laid an egg in game one against the Celtics: 2-of-12 from the field (including missing all four of his three-point attempts).
The question isn’t if Green can help the offense — years of data and big game moments can attest to that — but rather if he can do so reliably enough to convince the Celtics that they need to cover him.
Here’s another play. This time, when you watch it, pay attention to how the Celtics ability to sag off Looney and Green helps shore up their defensive rotation.
The presumption was that the Warriors’ revamped roster could help punish the Celtics (or whoever) by fleshing the surrounding the edges of the rotation out with guys that can either shoot well, or attack off cuts. But health has limited coach Steve Kerr’s options.
Iguodala and Payton are both pretty clearly banged up. Porter is attempting to play through some sort of lingering foot injury. It forces the rotational decisions down a few pegs, and against a team as dialed in as the Boston Celtics are, that’s all the edge they need.
One simple solution is to ride Curry harder. As elite as they come, and with the conditioning of a marathon runner, Curry is going to be called on to do more. He almost carried the Warriors to victory in game one, and they need as much out of him as they can get moving forward. From the excellent, Marcus Thompson:
When Curry played all 12 minutes of the first and third quarters, giving the Celtics no break, the Warriors scored 28 and 38 points, respectively. Curry took 17 shots in those two quarters, and the open looks abounded for the Warriors. Porter took advantage, making his first four 3s. In the third quarter, Wiggins capitalized, scoring 13 points as the Warriors built their 15-point lead.
Golden State only scored 22 points in the second quarter and 16 in the fourth quarter. It’s not a coincidence Curry took a total of eight shots in those two quarters.
It’s also fair to assume that Curry won’t need to carry as much of the load as he did in game one, all series. Jordan Poole has been one of the Warriors most potent weapons throughout the regular season and playoffs, but in game one he was held to just nine points (on 2-of-7 shooting) and four turnovers.
At some point, I’d expect the Warriors secondary weapons to come back on line. It seemed like Poole had the yips (nerves that hit players when they are too excited), and Klay could just decide to get hot at any time. There’s solutions lying within these problems.
The Warriors messed around and got too comfortable with a comfy lead. Stay focused, and stick to the plan that got them a 12-point advantage after three quarters and it will be alright. Warriors win this one, but it’s not going to be easy.