Warriors can win, but are operating on razor thin margins
Time to make it work
Draymond Green picked up three fouls in the first half of game, but it was his overall ineffectiveness that was the bigger issue - or more likely the two are linked. As Green and the Golden State Warriors have already shown the world, the regular season is meaningless, and dominant-looking teams can suddenly pivot and lose a series. With No defense is safe with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson prowling the perimeter, and the Warriors’ offense was humming in game one. The team fell short because the Lakers dominated the paint while Anthony Davis spent the night being the embodiment of Charles Barkley saying “they too small.” Too small in the paint. Too small (by just a bit) for the moment.
In a series as tightly contested as this one, there’s little margin for error on either side. Game one came down to random ending territory, and Golden State emerged on the wrong side but still knows that they’ve got a solid chance at beating this Lakers team. If they can be their best selves. Because that’s what this is going to take.
Warriors trail Lakers 0-1
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers
WHEN: Thursday, May 4th, 2023 // 6pm(ish) PST ← unusual start time
Back to the bag of miracles again, but just a minor one needed this time
Finding an answer for Anthony Davis is the number one priority when it comes to adjustments for game two. He destroyed the Warriors on both ends of the court. A massive 30 point, 23 rebound, five assist, and four block indictment of the Warriors thin frontcourt rotational choices. According to the NBA's matchup data, Davis shot 8/11 from the field when defended by Looney, and 3/5 from the field when defended by Green.
The fact that it was only a five point game at the final buzzer is a testament to how completely the Warriors were cooking the Lakers in pretty much every other way. Davis’ impact was multifaceted, but there are some key stats that highlight the asymmetric warfare that we saw conducted in the first game of this series.
Because there were some wildly uneven stats.
Can the Warriors replicate their performances from deep in game two - and over the course of this entire series? I’m done doubting the core until they prove me all the way wrong, but even within the context of history, shooting 40% as a team from deep isn’t all that far outside the norm for Golden State.
The points in the paint are a concern, but one that can hopefully be solved mostly via the liberal application of one engaged Draymond Green to the problem. Those early fouls messed him up, and without him out there to serve as a foil to Davis, there was an inertia that seemed to gather around the basket. A weightiness.
Curry mentioned in his postgame comments that the Lakers scheme was a factor, funneling towards a central defensive ace - and one that happens to be seven feet tall and super springy.
“They want to try to put pressure on the perimeter, funnel everything into the paint, and allow him to disrupt a lot—closing space pretty quick,” Stephen Curry said. “It’s kind of deceiving. You feel like you have a good look to get over the top, and he gets a fingertip on it.”
It’s not just Davis either, Jarred Vanderbilt is 6’8” with a 7'1" wingspan. LeBron James has studied Curry and the Warriors more than just about anyone on the planet and knows just when to use his size advantage. The Warriors were shook.
But Golden State can’t entirely cede the inside war. That can’t concede any part of this. If the lessons learned in game one were any indication, the Warriors have a kernel of hope that was within five points of popping them into a win at home to open the series.
Per the always excellent Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, you don’t have to dig that deep into the bag of miracles to see a path to winning this series over the Lakers.
They took 31 shots in the first quarter. They were on pace for 124 attempts (and finished with 106). That’s relentless. And it was mostly with two bigs on the court. They scored nearly half of their fast-break points in the opening 12 minutes. The toll it took was visible at the end, when the Lakers were gassed as the Warriors made their surge. But the Warriors lost one of their key pace ingredients with Green being in foul trouble and out of rhythm.
But the Warriors are going to have to dig a bit. So much of this series will be riding on Green and Looney just doing a better job of containing Davis. Sure there are some schematic help options available, but winning the individual matchups has been at the center of much of Golden State’s success before, and it will be of utmost importance here. There’s not enough help available if Green and Looney can’t do a better job of holding down the fort against Davis. They’ve done it before, time to reconjure the magic yet again.
No way the Warriors drop this game at home. Warriors win, maybe not easily, but they win.