Warriors leave Curry, Thompson, Wiggins at home for makeup game against Nuggets
Golden State rolled the dice, and the messy plan feels messy
The Golden State Warriors slide continued on Saturday, and now coach Steve Kerr is leaving a bunch of talent in the Bay Area as the team flies into Denver for a makeup game. That schedule change has turned what was already going to be a tough week into a brutal slog. After tonight’s game in Denver, the Warriors will fly home for a back-to-back tomorrow against the Los Angeles Clippers, then back to Denver for a Thursday game, then flying back home for a Saturday matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kerr, rather than running everyone into the ground, is using today as a throw away game; leaving Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins at home as a form of not-so-silent protest.
On the injury front, we have a major Draymond Green update!
Reportedly, the team is targeting Green's return for 7-10 days. This is the major breakthrough the team is waiting for (though I certainly wouldn't mind if the Warriors figured it out before then).
WHO: Golden State Warriors (43-21) at Denver Nuggets (37-26)
WHEN: Monday, March 7th, 2022 // 6pm PDT
The sound of rolling dice - high stakes Warriors strategy has everyone on the edge of their seat
This is why this season has been interesting and it'll be riveting to see how it all shakes out in the post season. Everyone correctly identified the risk factors associated with the Warriors’ strategic approach this year. If it all works out then Daniel Hardee can do whatever the written equivalent is of Hulk Hogan shaking and ripping off his shirt before kicking ass all over the internet. If it doesn’t work out? Expect the internet to deliver an equally vociferous thundering voice of “I told you so. Hope isn’t a strategy!”
At this moment, the dice are tumbling down the craps table and everyone is watching with the same high anticipation; waiting to see if the outcome will earn collective cheers or groans. It’s fair to say that the tensions around the table are rising.
The Memphis Grizzlies have an easy stretch of games coming up next, all but ensuring the Warriors will need to step it up quickly in order to avoid falling in the standings. Not ideal, but how much of an emergency is it to be the 3rd or even 4th seed?
No one likes where the Warriors are right now — explainable though it may be. And while Green's return in a week or two will help, the Warriors on the floor need to pick it up.
It starts on the defensive end, where the Golden State has gone into a full skid since Draymond Green left the lineup. That skid has gone on long enough that it finally overcame the huge lead the Warriors had built up over the first half of the season; it was only after the Lakers loss that the team finally lost the NBA’s top defensive rank.
Even as Curry has finally pulled out of the deepest shooting slump of his career, the team hasn’t been able to find traction because of what the defense has been giving up.
After the last game, coach Kerr elucidated on what everyone that’s watching has been seeing: the Warriors are getting murdered at the point of attack. The sort of reliable softness that sets the help defense into nerve-jangling overreactions and failed rotations.
It’s the combination of bad individual defense and a lack of Green’s defensive marshalling that is growing into a concern. Not so much now — there’s plenty of wiggle room based off Golden State’s strong start — as it is about the patterns and habits; the concern that this is becoming an entrenched reality rather than a one-off issue that will be completely solved by the return of Green.
“It’s been an issue for us the last month, isolation defense,” Kerr said. “Isolation defense has not been good. Teams are coming right downhill at us. Some of it is technique. We’re not always closing out correctly, or in an intelligent manner, depending on whether a guy can shoot or not. When we are playing the driver well and he gets by us, we’re not always rotating over. When the rotation is there, we’re not always helping the rotator. It’s just all tied together.”
It is all tied together. From the front office to the coaching staff, to player development, there’s been a complicated math to get to the current state.
And yet, is the current state all that dire? If the Warriors do indeed drop another spot (or even two), it could help them avoid an undesirable matchup. For me, I’m pretty comfortable with the Warriors being where they are… but the unknown return of Green complicates matters a bit. Being sold as a salve that will heal a lot of wounds, it presumes a lot of sharpening all over the court. And that’s the part that has even Stephen Curry a little bit concerned:
“I could care less about seeding,” Curry said. “I just care about playing good basketball. … Right now, if the playoffs started tomorrow, we’d be in trouble.”
At some point, hope as a strategy becomes a moot point. While we can’t truly know if the team is establishing bad habits now that can’t be quickly turned back around with Green’s return; no one is enjoying this slide.
But this is all part of the big picture. The team has set themselves up with a bit of wiggle room, and (though not ideal) is now letting the slack reel out. The time where the slack runs out and the team either catches traction of goes bottom up is quickly approaching. There’s just 18 games of the regular season left.
Watch for some rotation changes
Though we won’t see it for tonight’s short-handed party in Denver, it sounds like there is going to be a new rotation for Stephen Curry — with percussive impacts all down the rest of the roster, to be sure.
Here’s Curry (with some excellent analysis from Marcus Thompson) talking about a return to his old rotation pattern:
…the experimentation with his minutes is over. He’s going back to the rotation pattern he’s used for years — playing all of the first and third quarters and resting to start the second and fourth. He’s sacrificed long enough.
“Something good came out of this game,” Curry said, smiling as he disappeared into the locker room.
To be clear, he wasn’t rebuking the pattern he’s used this season, which included planned rests in each quarter. This is Curry sounding the alarm.
That whole article is excellent, and it spells out a lot of the issues that we are so familiar with around here that they’re often left unsaid.
Wiggins is in a slump that rivals the one Curry just came out of. According to the article linked above, since Feb. 1, Wiggins is averaging 13.9 points on 41.4% shooting — and 39.1% from the free-throw line.
A little lineup shakeup doesn’t seem like a bad thing right now. With Curry’s rotation changing, it’s likely to push the edges around a bit as well.
Otto Porter jr. has seen his minutes limitation increased, and given his size, shooting, and rebounding, it feels like he’ll be pushed further towards the front of the depth chart. Remember that Porter himself has missed some time and is coming off a couple of injury-shortened seasons. Looking at his season statistics, my guess is that it went from 15-20 minutes to 20-25 minutes per game. It may not seem like much, but given Curry’s shift, Porter is likely going to be leaned on extra over the next few games as a stabilizing force.
Another rotation change (and one I dread to even mention) is the Poole/Thompson tandem. Thompson’s return has shown flashes of greatness, but also enough ugly scabs to fall in line with expectations. Klay isn’t all the way back, not yet.
So does it make sense to insert Poole back into the starting lineup? So far, Kerr remains adamant that the starting slot belongs to Thompson. The thinking is that getting Thompson back and comfortable for the post season is more important than regular season success. But as the timer runs down, and the offensive stagnation becomes closer to the norm than an exception, the argument for Poole’s return to the starting lineup (or at least closing lineup) becomes more compelling.
Don’t worry about any of this tonight. With Golden State leaving 3/5ths of their starting lineup at home, there’s not much to see in tonight’s chaos. But the team is treating this one as a chance to reset the main cogs, so keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow.
It’s a throw back night! Time for the punchy underdog Warriors to try and find a miracle against one of the league’s toughest teams. Coming in short-handed like this, with nothing to lose reminds me of rooting for Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette. If those guys could pull out some wins, then so can Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and the rest of the Warriors.