Over the past five seasons during this incredible Golden State Warriors run, viewers and basketball fans alike have become enamored with the armageddon offensive firepower the Warriors boast.
What happens when the team is missing shots and are getting off to horrid starts such as 15-0 to Houston and 11-0 to the Celtics on Tuesday night? Oh, and both of these goose egg starts came at home.
Well, you get an antsy Oracle Arena, perimeter shot clanks and a disrupted offensive flow.
In first quarters this season, the Warriors are averaging 30.3 points, the second most of any quarter, on 51.3 percent shooting from the field, the best among the four periods. However, in the first quarter of games after the all-star break, the Warriors are averaging 26.9 points on 43.6 percent from the field. The point is that the numbers do not even closely resemble the numbers for the season in the first quarter.
For example, in the aforementioned statement, the Rockets blazed to a quick 15-0 start on national television without MVP candidate, James Harden.
Most of the buckets shown in the clip above demonstrate the Warriors’ lack of awareness and focus on shooters, such as Klay Thompson stuck in no-man’s land, when he should have been guarding Eric Gordon, who hits a three. Several of these plays are off of miscommunication and poor defensive rotation to perimeter shooters.
Here is another clip of the opposing offense exploiting the Warriors’ defense and their switching concept. This came from part of the Celtics’ 11-0 start to the game on Tuesday night.
After Al Horford screens Jayson Tatum’s man, Alfonzo McKinnie, rolls to the basket and posts up, DeMarcus Cousins gets switched onto Tatum. Then Tatum throws it into the post and cuts to the basket, exploiting Cousins’ defensive deficiency and gets fouled for an and-1 opportunity in the process.
This was one of the many defensive breakdowns the Warriors had during their 33-point drubbing to the visiting Celtics on Tuesday. Coach Steve Kerr had this to say about the breakdowns on defense in Tuesday night’s loss.
“It starts with a passion and an anger and an intensity. It wasn’t there.”
Here is the full video from Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Steve Kerr: “It starts with a passion and an anger and an intensity. It wasn’t there.” pic.twitter.com/pSGw9a6B1O
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 6, 2019
Now, let’s discuss in depth to how the offense is playing after the all star break.
Since the all-star break, the Warriors have a 107.7 offensive rating compared to the explosive 116.0 offensive rating prior to the all star break. The Warriors have a -4.1 net rating, post all star break, compared to the 6.9 rating before the break. Golden State has a 116.2 offensive rating in the first quarter, second best rating out of the four quarters.
In addition to the lower offensive rating, the team has shot six more three-point attempts after the all-star break, but the percentage is lower to 34.1 percent. In a game against the Orlando Magic, a 103-96 loss, the Warriors shot 3-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, including 9-of-40 overall. In the game prior, a 126-125 heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat, the Warriors shot 2-of-12 from deep in the first quarter, but finished 15-of-36 in the rest of the three quarters.
The slow starts beyond the arc are a little bit concerning considering the volume of triples taken in the first quarter. The Warriors take on average 34 treys per game.
In the clip below is Stephen Curry making one of the two made triples in the first quarter against the Heat.
Even this three-point shot was difficult for Curry as he was almost undercut by the Heat’s Josh Richardson while taking the deep shot.
The Warriors defense has been worse post-all star break with a 111.8 defensive rating, which would rank in between Chicago and Houston at 24th and 25th in this category. In their last seven games since the all-star break, they rank second to last in the association in opponents points off turnovers at 19.0 per game.
Golden State is in the middle of the pack in defensive rating at 16th, 109.5 for the whole season. There is room for improvement on the defensive end, especially in first quarters and the defending champs will welcome back center Andrew Bogut back into the fold, which should help some.
How should the Warriors try to fix their sluggish starts and why is this a potential concern moving forward?
For the starters, the Warriors need to fix their slow beginnings to games with their defense. They have a 108.1 defensive rating in the first quarter this season, and more attention to detail and focus should help boost the level on that end. It takes all five players as a cohesive unit to make the correct defensive rotations, switches when necessary and required effort to turn this middle-of-the-pack defense to a championship-level defense.
In addition to the defense, the volume of three-point shots could be lowered in order to get the best shot, whether that be a three-pointer or not. The team could be attacking the basket more in the first quarter, instead of settling for 13 threes as they did in Orlando. Driving to the goal would allow the team to get fouled, get to the free throw line and establish a rhythm and flow that is necessary in a Kerr ball-movement, player-movement offense.
The snail-like starts could be a concern if it continues until the rest of the regular season. The rest of the league is searching for a leak in the Warriors’ powerful machine, and Golden State is giving them the sliver of hope with these uncharacteristic starts to games after the all-star break.
It will only be a matter of time before Golden State rediscovers their magic formula of offensive flow, defensive prowess and possibly, most importantly, their joy to strong starts and winning games at a high clip before their championship run.