Pardon the coachspeak, but you always learn more from losses than you do from wins. Out of all the teams the NBA has to offer, losing to the Warriors may provide the biggest learning experience possible. Sunday night the Warriors play only eight guys in total, five of which were never even drafted. But it isn’t “who” does it, it’s “what” does it that truly matters.
Under Don Nelson the names and numbers change, but the game remains the same. The Warriors want to get out and run against you, they want you to take long quick shots, and they want to turn you over. No matter who they toss out on the floor, that’s the Warriors agenda.
Why does the Warriors’ scheme give the Clippers so much trouble? Let’s take a look.
- The Clippers own the third worst turnover rate in all the league, while the Warriors are the number one team in the league at causing turnovers. Obviously, this presents some issues. The Warriors are tricky because they allow you opportunities to get up and down the floor, but for the most part it’s fools gold. Running up and down with the Warriors is exactly what they want to happen. It’s hard for a lot of teams not to get sucked into this type of battle, and tonight the Clippers don’t really show much restraint. The Clippers get outscored 40-14 (!) in the second quarter and turn the ball over eight times during that period alone. The Warriors take advantage of the Clippers’ multiple mistakes in the first half by scoring 24 points off turnovers.
- On paper, the Clippers should absolutely punish the Warriors on the block. Chris Kaman is head and shoulders above his opponents in terms of both talent and height, but it’s rendered meaningless unless properly utilized. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the problem lies with Kaman’s mindset. The best example of Kaman’s lack of aggressiveness is witnessed through his free throw totals for the month of March. Kaman has shot just 33 free throws this month, compared to the 73 he shot in October or even the 52 he shot in November when he was playing his best basketball. It’s become routine for Kaman to face the basket immediately upon every post entry, regardless of who is defending him. Because he’s not fighting for deep position and rarely playing with his back to the basket, Kaman has been unable to take advantage of any size mismatch. Instead of punishing smaller defenders and drawing fouls, Kaman instead has tried to take guys off the dribble from 18-feet out or launch long jumpers. Only going to the line once against the Warriors tiny frontcourt is downright criminal. Smallball looks genius if no one is punishing you for going small, and tonight the Clippers have no legitimate back to the basket presence in reality, even if they do on paper. Despite their immense advantages down low, the Clippers get outscored in the paint 56-40.
- Since the trade deadline, the Clippers have posted the worst defensive efficiency number in the league. Some of it can be attributed to individual effort, but for the most part the problem lies in a general lack of continuity on the defensive end. No one exploits this better than Golden State. Outside of Corey Maggette, the Warriors suit up no one who can regularly penetrate and finish at the rim. A smart defensive club would recognize this and force a team without the services of Monta Ellis to beat them at the tin. Instead, the Clippers spend the night staring at jump shooters, giving space out on the perimeter, and practicing their patented zombie closeouts. Want to know how Reggie Williams goes for 25 points and Anthony Tolliver goes for 19? It’s almost exclusively on mid-range jumpers that weren’t contested well enough.
This was only the Warriors fifth road win of the season, and they’ve only defeated five playoff teams all year long. Clearly, the Golden State Warriors are not a good basketball team. But this game just goes to show that if you don’t make adjustments and at least attempt to knock teams off their track, they’ll run you right over.