The Clippers’ surprise defensive performance and the emergence of Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan has given them the edge in this 7-game series, leading the Dubs 2-1.
Of course, the front court’s emergence has been magnified due to the absence of Golden State’s defensive anchor, Andrew Bogut. Bogut was ruled out “indefinitely” due to a rib fracture that he suffered on the 14th day of April. Already known for his durability problems, Bogut was mostly relied on by the Warriors to patrol the paint and provide an intimidating presence down low. He led the team in total rebounds and total blocks during the regular season. He also led the team in Defensive Win Shares (16th in the league) while also contributing on the offensive end (5th on the team in Offensive Win Shares). Already without back-up Center Festus Ezeli, Bogut’s absence has dealt a huge blow in the Warriors’ title hunt. Bogut had averaged 7.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 1.8 BPG in 67 games.
Without Bogut, the athletic Clipper front court exploited the weakness in the Warriors’ defense and started to rack up huge numbers, combining for 39.7 PPG, 20.7 RPG and 5.7 BPG. With the addition of the playmaking skills of floor general, Chris Paul, the Clippers are expected to improve on their already impressive start to the series.
So how can the Warriors possibly survive? A few changes may change the tide of the series:
1. Let Curry look for his shots!
Stephen Curry has been a bit low on the aggression in the first 3 games, averaging 15 field-goal attempts and only making 44% of his shots, including a disastrous 29% from deep. Not taking anything away from the excellent back court pressure and traps of CP3 and Darren Collison, but I’ve observed that Curry has focused more on making plays for his teammates rather than himself. Although generally, that would be the right thing to do, the Warriors badly need Curry’s production of offense. Look for him to fight the pressure and drive to the lane because good things happen when Curry has the ball, whether it’s getting to the line or hitting floaters.
2. Cut down on the turnovers!
The Warriors have coughed up the ball an amazing 54 times in the first 3 games. That is unacceptable. Turning it over that much is a formula for losing. The Clippers are pretty much capable of converting points off turnovers, thus the ‘Lob City’ persona. Again, we have to credit this to the surprising defense of the Clippers. They have been playing the passing lanes effectively and suffocating Stephen Curry with intense ball pressure. However, the Warriors dug this deep hole on themselves, with sloppy ball-handling and lazy passes, turnovers are definitely bound to happen. Turnovers won’t help at all.
3. Stop risking players in foul trouble!
From what I’ve noticed in the first 3 games of the series, the Warriors have found themselves getting their star players in foul trouble. Whether it be Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have struggled in avoiding fould trouble early in the game. However, I’ve noticed that Mark Jackson chose to leave them in instead of taking them out of the game. Due to frustration, the players have tendencies to accumulate even more fouls. Thus, resulting to even worse foul trouble. We need those players during key runs, and not freely being able to manipulate the rotation because of foul trouble? That hurts.
4. The small line-up works!
Golden State’s small line-up of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Green and Lee has been a pleasant surprise in short stretches. A line-up that balances scoring and ball movement, it can exploit some lapses in the Clipper defense. I’ve been impressed with Draymond Green so far in this series, from his hustle plays, 3-pt shooting and rebounding (despite being undersized), he has been nothing but a positive influence for the Warriors. I want him to get more minutes because he definitely deserves it. Harrison Barnes has once again disappointed almost every Warriors fan, well except for that clutch 3-pointer late in Game 1. This small line-up works, so let’s stick with it!
5. Don’t rely too much on the 3’s!
Yes, they have the Splash Brothers and a lot more deadly shooters on the roster but like the saying goes, “You live by the 3, you die by the 3.”. They’ve never been shy in racking up the attempts, but they just aren’t falling for them. So why force it? Curry and Thompson NEED to get hot for them to win. They’re the heart of the offense, if they can’t provide it, then who will? I can never emphasize this enough, run more plays for the Splash Brothers. It’s just that simple.
Heading into a crucial Game 4, I’m hoping that the Warriors have made their adjustments.