Golden State in Dire Straits

Golden State in Dire Straits

The Warriors loss against the Phoenix Suns today was their sixth in their last ten games.

After two blowout losses against Portland a month ago and Boston just last week, the Warriors are not looking like themselves anymore despite still leading the Western Conference with a record of 45-21. The 33 point loss to Brad Stevens’ Celtics was the worst home defeat for Steve Kerr’s managerial era at the Dubs at the Oracle Arena.

Two things seem certain for the Warriors; the lack of defense and rotation depth.

Against Portland, their depth’s vulnerability was thoroughly revealed.

Image result for gsw portland
Credit: USA Today

The 129-107 loss was frankly more than it should have been, since there were technical fouls called in the last quarter. The Warriors went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, and finished with only 12 points. Notably, Steve Kerr was ejected after smashing his clipboard for disapproving a flagrant foul that was called on Draymond Green. What truly separated the teams were the bench points and Kerr’s resting of several key players – Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins. Kerr said before the game that Cousins and Livingston got the night off because of the back-to-back games, and Iguodala was additionally banged up. Kevon Looney in Cousins’ place.

As much as the reigning NBA Champions had five All-Stars on the starting roster, they had only the essential veterans or unproven rookies and the former are more important than most would think.

In this case, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinney, Jordan Bell and Damion Lee were left the bench. They combined for a total of 23 points.

Portland on the other hand, had a much more balanced squad with a commendable bench of role players. Guys like Rodney Hood, Evan Turner and Seth Curry could easily be starters on a mid-tier team. Portland’s bench put up 52 points, a monumental difference against the Warriors.

And most importantly, the Warriors only scored 12 points in the fourth.

This said, the over reliance on their starters could prove damaging during the playoffs. During their 2014-2015 season, there was no Kevin Durant but role players like Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights, David Lee, Leandro Barbosa and Andrew Bogut made the rotation easy for Kerr. Speights and Barnes averaged over 10 points per game and gave the starters some breathing room.

Their next loss came against the Houston Rockets, and this was just embarrassing.

Credit: Bay Area News Group

The Rockets went to Oracle without reigning MVP James Harden and still could easily dismantle the Warriors. They completely took over the game from the start, scoring the first 15 points before the Warriors could even react. It was only after four minutes before Klay Thompson drained a 3-pointer.

Chris Paul commanded his team like a true floor general in the absence of Harden, putting up 23 points and 17 assists while Eric Gordon took over the scoring with 25 points. Mike D’Antoni’s desperate forward signing of Kenneth Faried started the game and celebrated a monstrous double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Rockets only had eight players in total for the night and the bench of Nene, Austin Rivers, and Gerald Green still managed to outscore the six players that the Warriors had 24 to 21.

Perhaps it was the way they played offensively, the Warriors sag off numerous three point attempts by the Rockets which allowed them to convert 16 out of 43 attempts. When Cousins was off the floor, Faried and Capela took over the offensive rebounds, combining for a total of seven. The lack of big man on the Warriors leave their paint exposed. It is evident that both Looney and Bell are not experienced enough to be the second unit’s center.

Credit: AP

In spite of Dwayne Wade’s buzzer beating game-winner, the Warriors already started off on the back foot against Miami two weeks ago in the 126-125 loss. The Heat had a 15 point lead at the half and coincidentally, again the bench was the difference. Dwayne Wade and Goran Dragic whom nevertheless played extended minutes, 26 and 20 respectively, put up a combine total of 52 points while the starters put up 64.

What stood out here was instead their futile defense. Miami only averaged 106 points for the season but was allowed to score 126 on the Warriors. Their perimeter defense was again an issue, when they allowed Miami to score 43.9% (18/41) of their attempts from deep. Miami again averages just 35% of their threes for the season, and one might argue that it is because they are up against the NBA Champions, the Heat plays harder and with more motivation but this recurring problem is going to be a torment into the post-season.

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic have been playing the NBA’s best defense in the month of February with a rating of 100.7. They held the Warriors to only 96 points in their match up on the 1st of March. Kevin Durant was out of the line-up and McKinnie started at the small forward position only to put up 4 points in 24 minutes of action. Major depth issue here.

However, the Magic have recently built themselves a stage for upsetting conference table toppers with impressive victories over the Bucks, 76ers, Raptors, Rockets and even the Celtics in recent months.

For those who missed the game, Orlando shot a terrible 5-23 in the third quarter, only scoring 11 points to the Warrior’s 30. They had an eight point lead going into the half but limped into the fourth quarter down 11 points.

Now then, here comes the common issue – Orlando’s bench, a unit that usually struggled, outscored the Warriors bench 35-12. Terrence Ross scored 11 points in the last quarter to inspire the team and ironically, the Warriors were unable to put together a proper offense and only strung up 15 points for the last quarter, second lowest compared to the 12 against Portland.

Credit: AP

A stumble? No. This was a rout to clearly define who was the top dog in the league. Boston coach Brad Stevens did not let his foot off the pedal and sent his team into overdrive.

The Celtics has been struggling before this meeting, losing five of their last six. Against the Warriors, they were something else.

Thompson was out of action and McKinnie was called to replace him. He put up seven points.

Long story short, they lost all four quarters. Kerr withdrew his whole starting line-up from the game as they headed into the final 12 minutes down 29 points. Stevens let out a grin on camera and sent his hounds lashing, every bucket a chip away of the Warrior’s confidence and eventually, tearing down and silencing the Oracle Arena with a 128-95 win.

Boston’s star of the night was ironically from their bench – Gordon Hayward who put up 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Celtics shot 41.2% from deep and 51% from the field.

The Warriors have an obvious lack of depth and defensive liabilities on the team. They are helpless without the starting five and once playoffs come, the fatigue will start to show.

It is undeniable that they need to move some faces off the squad to make room for a more cohesive second unit if they were to maintain their dynasty. The departure of either Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, or Kevin Durant is imminent and Warrior fans, hang tight.

 

 

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