During the Warriors' four game losing streak, the Warriors offense sputtered. Kevin Durant was the one to blame, but it was Steve Kerr to help the team get back to its winning ways.
The past few games before the Warriors' victories against Portland and Sacramento at Oracle Arena were unfamiliar territory for the defending champs. It wasn't just that they lost, it was how they lost. Their offense looked discombobulated without the integral services of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Kevin Durant was blamed in part because of how he reverted back to his iso brand of basketball that has helped turn him into the elite player he is. Head coach Steve Kerr could be assigned blame for how the Warriors played a brand of basketball they rarely play — iso basketball.
The two victories the Warriors had against Portland and Sacramento has the defending champs getting back to their ball movement system. There was more sharing of the wealth that produced better looks at the basket and got contributions from Jonas Jerebko to Damion Lee. The extra pass is a concept that Steve Kerr preaches and it was on display in Saturday's win against the Kings. It is the idea to turn down a good shot for a great shot, as illustrated below.
Always the extra pass 👏 pic.twitter.com/rD1SnNzA7f
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 25, 2018
In this play, Quinn Cook drives past his man, which in this case is De'Aaron Fox, and kicks it to the corner to Andre Iguodala. Marvin Bagley has to run out to Iguodala, who makes the extra pass and gets Cook a wide-open three.
This was a play that would not have been made five games ago, as Kerr would often resort to a Durant or Klay Thompson iso to work on a mismatch. On a squad as talented as the Warriors, it would be easy to get seduced into going iso against a mismatch, but Kerr implemented a ball-sharing system three seasons ago and it helped them acquire a marquee player in Durant and in the process, win three titles in four years.
These were the types of shots the Warriors were getting during their past four-game losing streak and before their mini two-game winning streak.
No foul call leads to a tech for KD. pic.twitter.com/NOqPjAzKm8
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 19, 2018
The ball sticks with Durant in the post against a smaller player trying to exploit a mismatch. He dribbled to his spot and took a shot from the elbow. There is no movement from the ball or any other Warriors player, expecting Durant to pull a rabbit out of his hat as most great players do. The opposing defense's job got much easier, as they could stick to their man or bring secondary or more defenders to help the matchup on Durant. One of the issues that Kerr should have fixed was to have more man movement to keep the defense off balance, and hopefully tire in the end, where the Warriors would get an open look.
In the Warriors' four-game losing streak, they had games of 18, 24, 20, and 24 assist totals. Compare that to the Warriors' wins, they had games of 29 and 28 assist totals. Although the numbers are not at the high standard of 30 assists, the ball moved more, which contributed to everyone touching the ball and getting back to the Warriors' identity.
One of the staples Steve Kerr has implemented into the Warriors' offense over the years is the post-split action. In the video below, in a playoff game last season against the Pelicans, Durant gets a dunk off this action. However, the past couple of games, the Warriors would run this post-split action for Thompson, so he could get a three.
Warriors have used post ups as way to create action for years now. Post splits, had a lot of success last night with it. First play they went to KD in post and that's tough for a defense because you know the split is coming but you also have Durant *actually* posting up. pic.twitter.com/3KJdQv7Kms
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 29, 2018
Durant would be in the post, and a center or even guard who enters the ball into the post sets a screen for the player at the top of the key (in this case, it's Thompson) and he would get a three. If that option is negated, the screener can slip to the basket for a layup. If all else fails, Durant can work his mismatch.
Despite the team's two best playmakers out with injuries, the Warriors still lead the league in assists per game by a hair over the Milwaukee Bucks at 28.2 and are second in assist percentage behind the Philadelphia 76ers at 65.1.
As much as Durant and Thompson have to do with the Warriors' recent turnaround, Kerr deserves some credit for getting his players back on track to the style of basketball that has helped the team become one of the most successful franchises in the past half decade.
In addition to Kerr helping get the offense back on track, if all goes well, Curry could possibly return next week sometime during the team's five-game road trip.