Warriors Secure Split, Even Series at 2-2

The Warriors overcame poor shooting and an eight-point halftime deficit to even the series at two games apiece.  The Warriors held the Spurs to 35.5 percent shooting, only slightly worse than their 38.0 percent performance, and were especially effective defensively to end the game.  After injuring his ankle at the end of Game 3, Stephen Curry appeared slowed, and spent the majority of the game off the ball, often forgotten as the Warriors struggled offensively.

Why the Warriors Won:      

In classic Warriors fashion, the Warriors controlled the boards and dominated defensively.  Well, maybe it was not the typical Golden State victory, and maybe the Warriors’ defensive success was as much a result of poor shooting by San Antonio as it was due to the Warriors’ actions, but the Warriors grabbed several key offensive rebounds, made a few vital stops, and received just enough assistance from San Antonio to eek out a victory.

Key Stretch:  

With 4:18 left in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard pulled down an easy offensive and scored on an uncontested layup, putting the Spurs up 80 to 72.  Over the next three possessions, Jarrett Jack made three straight midrange jumpers, while the Spurs scored only once, decreasing the lead to four.  More importantly, the Jack had returned some semblance of offensive production to the Warriors’ offense while the Spurs’ struggles continued.


Today’s award goes to Jarrett Jack, almost by default.  Jack scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and though they eventually won, Jack led the Warriors through many offensive possessions that were nothing more than offensive.  Jack did not play well defensively, though he was not abused to the same degree as prior games, but someone has to take credit for the Warriors’ late game comeback.  Jack keyed the Warriors offense down the stretch, avoided any crippling turnovers, and was efficient enough for the Warriors to win.

Notable Performances:

Stephen Curry, despite appearing immobile for many stretches, scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.  Curry was a team high plus-23 in his 39 minutes, but was not able to be the offensive focus on whom the Warriors have come to rely.  Harrison Barnes attempted a career-high 26 field goals, but only made nine.  Barnes repeatedly attacked out of the mid-post and off wing isolations, often against the smaller Tony Parker and Gary Neal.

On a night when nearly every player struggled offensively, Manu Ginobli may have been the most dynamic.  Ginobli made 5-of-10 attempts from behind the arc, and converted 8-of-18 shots to score 21 points.  Ginobli missed several key attempts towards the end of the game, and though he created much of the Spurs’ offense, he often damaged it as well.

Warriors Lose Game One Despite Late Lead

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Everything was in place for the classic Warriors’ victory.  An efficient first half carried the Warriors to a four-point halftime lead, and in the third quarter, as has become custom during the playoffs, Stephen Curry exploded.  Curry scored 22 points in the third, leading the Warriors to a 12 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.  With 3:57 left, the Warriors had stretched the lead to 16.  Curry was in absolute control of the offense, Klay Thompson was shutting down Tony Parker, and the role players were playing perfectly.


Then, just as the Warriors looked set to steal a game in San Antonio, everything changed.  Tony Parker drove to the basket, and drew a bump from Klay Thompson, his sixth foul.  This was the first in a series of mistakes that significantly changed the outlook of the playoff series.  With Thompson no longer guarding him, Tony Parker began attacking offensively.  Assisted by the Warriors’ poor offensive execution, the Spurs came all the way back to send the game to overtime.  The overtime was itself a microcosm of the Warriors’ performance.  They jumped out to an early five-point lead, but could not close the game.


It was Manu Ginobli’s wing 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left that finished the Warriors, but the defeat was instigated by poor decisions and execution, by both players and coaches, over several minutes.  According to mysynergysports.com, the Warriors ran 15 isolation plays through the first three quarters, and 15 in the fourth quarter alone.  As effective as the offense was through the majority of the game, it stagnated in the fourth, forcing the Warriors into several contested shots, with few alterior options.


Though more dramatic, this Game 1 loss mirrored the defeat in the playoff-opener versus Denver, when Andre Miller and the Nuggets took advantage of Warriors’ mistakes to defend their home court.  In this exaggerated version of the prior loss, the Warriors find themselves in the same situation as round one, and hope to replicate the final result.


Key Stretch:

There were several turning points in this game.  Starting around the 4-minute mark, San Antonio began its original comeback.  In overtime, the Warriors missed back-to-back shots to allow the Spurs to take the lead, and in double overtime, the final stretch directly determined the victor.  Because so many different factors impacted the final result, and partly because assigning blame will help with this emotionally distraught fan’s recovery, we will look at the final play, and attempt to determine who is at fault for the Warriors’ blown coverage.


This is the Spurs’ initial set.  Ginobli is at the elbow, and is going to set a screen for Tony Parker, who is at the left short-corner.  Boris Diaw runs to the top of the key to set the second staggered screen for Parker.


Everything goes wrong quickly for the Warriors.  Kent Bazemore and Harrison Barnes did not switch the Ginobli screen for Parker, however, before Diaw even sets the screen, Jack is expecting to switch.  He is clearly in position to pick up Parker, however Barnes is trying to chase Parker above the screen.


The apparent miscommunication between Jack and Barnes leaves Kent Bazemore to guard both Ginobli and Diaw.  Diaw dives to the rim, forcing Bazemore to commit and deny the layup, leaving Ginobli wide open.  Bazemore does make an impressive effort to close out, but Ginobli hits the shot.


This failure may have been the result of a strategic flaw by the Warriors.  Mark Jackson may have told his players to “switch everything,” as Jack clearly intends to switch without regard to Diaw’s positioning.  However, the definition of “everything” may vary among players.  Diaw never makes contact with Barnes on the screen, so Barnes may have thought that he was not supposed to switch.  San Antonio’s positioning suggests that they intended to set a screen, and because Jack must anticipate the screen to properly switch, he leaves Diaw without knowing the screen will never occur.


Notable Performances: 


With 44 points on 35 shots, Stephen Curry had the highest scoring output of any player this postseason, but missed six-of-seven shots over a vital stretch of the game.  Harrison Barnes played 53 minutes, and scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.  Klay Thompson played impressive defense on Tony Parker, and remained relatively efficient offensively.


For the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and made many impactful plays to end the game.  Tony Parker only shot 11-of-26, but carried the Spurs’ offense down the stretch, and Danny Green made 6-of-9 three pointers.

Denver Avoids Elimination, Sends Series Back to Oakland

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Facing elimination, the Denver Nuggets jumped to an early lead in the first quarter, and dominated throughout the first half.  Denver held on to a 20-point halftime lead, beating the Golden State Warriors 107-to-100.

Denver’s renewed aggressiveness may have manifested itself in more than just their play.  In his post game press conference, Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson accused the Nuggets of trying to intentionally harm Stephen Curry.  “(Denver) tried to send hit men on Steph,” said Jackson, who claimed to have been warned by members of the Nugget’s organization about Denver’s plans.

The Nuggets were physical with Curry all night, but a few plays stood out as especially rough.  In the first quarter, Kenneth Faried elbowed Stephen Curry as he was coming off a screen, and appeared to try and trip him.  No foul was called, and Jackson erupted at the sideline official.

Denver’s physicality and the Warriors’ complaints may be the dominant post-game story, but there were many other factors that contributed to Golden State’s comeback and Denver’s eventual victory, including Curry’s abnormal ineffectiveness from three-point range.  Curry, 1-of-7, shot a lower percentage from behind the arc in only four games all season.

Why the Warriors Lost

The Warriors mounted an impressive comeback, outscoring Denver 31-21 in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome their struggles earlier in the game.  The first quarter was a microcosm of what could have been for the Denver Nuggets.  The Warriors struggled to score against Denver’s aggressive perimeter defenders, while the hyper-athletic Nuggets attacked the Warriors in transition, and pounded them in the half-court.  The Nuggets out rebounded Golden State 46-33, and held the Warriors to 35-of-81 shooting and a 50 percent adjusted field goal percentage.  Denver closed the game without a center, but did play Kosta Koufos and Javale McGee for a combined 35 minutes, contributing to the Warriors inability to convert opportunities near the basket.

This Golden-State shot chart reveals their struggles in the paint:

Picture 3

Key Stretch

With two minutes left in the game, the Warriors had eroded Denver’s 20 point halftime lead down to five, when Jarret Jack rebounded a missed three-point jumper by Wilson Chandler.  The Warriors hurried in transition, opening Stephen Curry for a three pointer.  Curry, missed, and Klay Thompson got the offensive rebound.  Thompson passed out, the hustled to the right corner.  Denver botched their matchups after the offensive rebounding, leaving Thompson open from the corner, but Thompson rimmed out the jump shot.  Andre Igoudala rebounded, and the Nuggets eventually found Wilson Chandler for an open corner three, which he made.  After two relatively open attempts by their two best three-point shooters gave them hope of a two-point deficit, the Warriors found themselves down eight with 1:25 remaining.

Notable Performances

Kenneth Faried had his first impressive performance of the postseason.  Faried scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, and finished a clutch alley-oop off a beautiful pass from Andre Miller.

Harrison Barnes continued his streak of strong games.  Barnes was only 7-of-17, and experienced unexpected difficulties finishing around the rim, but made 5-of-10 attempts from behind the arc, a shooting performance that kept the Warriors within striking distance in the first half, and helped them close the gap in the second.


Andre Iguodala did his best LeBron James impersonation, carrying the Nuggets to victory with efficient scoring, lockdown defense, and creative passing.  Iguodala scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, recorded seven assists and twelve rebounds, and controlled the Nuggets offense through its best stretches of the game.

Andre MIller, Nuggets Down Warriors in Denver

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors

(Written for Blue Man Hoop)

Despite an impressive defensive effort, the Warriors were unable to overcome a playoff-career high 28 points from Andre Miller.  Known for his relative lack of athleticism, the crafty veteran was able to take advantage of Harrison Barnes inexperience in the post and Jarrett Jack’s lesser size, as well as the Warriors’ zone, which, contrary to the expected purpose of a zone, often left the middle unprotected.  In what could be a series altering incident, David Lee injured his right leg on a drive in fourth quarter.  The Warriors are reporting the injury as a “hip flexor strain,” and an MRI is scheduled for Sunday, according to CBS Sports.

Key Stretch

This game will be remembered for Andre Miller’s game winning layup, but the Warriors may have lost themselves the game at the end of the third quarter. With 2:25 left in the third quarter, following a Corey Brewer jump shot, a David Lee screen freed Jarrett Jack from Corey Brewer.  Jack beat the hedge, got into the lane, and elected to take his patented push floater over Javale McGee, rather than pass to the open Landry, whom McGee was helping off.  Jack, who finished the game 3 of 12, missed the floater, and on the following possession, missed a semi-contested deep three pointer after a poorly executed Warrior possession. Andre Miller then missed a baseline fade-away jumper off a post up of Klay Thompson.  The Warriors scored to pull within two at 64-66.  Down two and only 50 seconds from the fourth quarter, the Warriors appeared to be in good position.  A phrase common among NBA pundits is that, “Good teams finish quarters well,” and in this instance, the Nuggets did just that.  Andre Miler set up Corey Brewer for an open jumper, which Brewer made, and left the Nuggets time for a second possession before the end of the quarter.  Landry missed a pick and pop jumper, and Miller again found Brewer for a jumper, this time from an extra point warranting inch further back, and the Nuggets expanded their two point lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

Why The Warriors Lost

Andre Miller:  Miller, who averages 9.6 points per game for the season, was unexpectedly unstoppable to close the game.  The Warriors used an array of defenders, ranging from the athletic Harrison Barnes, the quicker Jarrett Jack, and, on the final possession, Draymond Green, but Miller scored regardless. Be it on a jerky up and under or an off-balance jumper, Miller was consistently able to prevent the Warriors from taking a commanding lead, following a Stephen Curry game-tying three, ended the game.

David Lee InjuryLee, a staple of the Warriors’ end of game unit, was forced to the locker room with the previously mentioned injury.  Though Lee struggled throughout the game, he was missed as the high-post hub of the Warriors’ offense, which struggled over the course of the quarter.

Stephen Curry’s Shooting:  Credit the Nuggets for giving consistently giving Curry as little space as possible.  Though he did find a few open looks throughout the game, Curry was generally picked up by a defender, typically Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, or Corey Brewer, and harassed from the moment he came within five feet of the three point arc through the entire possession.  The Nuggets were clearly committed to hedging hard on every Curry pick and roll, and had the personal to do so effectively.  Curry started the game missing all of his first five shots, and never appeared to be in full offensive rhythm.  In a perhaps more impressive feat, the Nuggets defense did not allow Curry to attempt a field goal until the 5:58 mark of the first quarter.  Curry’s struggles prevented the Warriors from taking advantage of an impressive defensive performance that they may be lucky to repeat.

Warriors End Season With Win Over Blazers (4/17/13)

Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard

(Written for Fansided.com’s Blue Man Hoop)

On the final night of the regular season, the Warriors beat the previously 33 and 48 Portland Trailblazers 99-88, overcoming a 30 point 21 rebound effort from LaMarcus Aldridge to secure their 47th win, the sixth seed, and a first round series against the Denver Nuggets.  With 5 minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Stephen Curry hit his second of four three pointers on the night, his 270th of the season, breaking the record Ray Allen set with the Seattle Supersonics in the 2005-206 season.

Key Stretch

The Warriors began the second half with a 14-point lead, but only 16 points in the third quarter, allowing the Trailblazers to reduce the lead to 3 by the end of the quarter.  Portland had kept it close through the fourth quarter, when, with 7:18 left, Klay Thompson hit an open three off an impressive no-look over-the-head pass by a driving David Lee, putting the Warriors ahead 79-73.  Joel Freelend made an uncontested midrange jumper, and then Jarrett Jack turned the ball over.  Portland was in position to continue giving the Warriors unexpected trouble, when Steph Curry intercepted an Eric Maynor pass and got fouled while making the fast-break layup attempt.  Curry made the free throw, Portland followed with a turnover, Lee finished a layup over Meyers Leonard, and, up 84-75 with 5:41 left, the Warriors never looked back.

Why The Warriors Won

Klay Thompson: Though Thompson finished 9-19, he made 5 of his 7 attempts behind the arc, many of which silenced Blazer runs or capitalized Warriors ones.  Thompson followed an impressive offensive outing against San Antonio with an effective, but dissimilar performance.  The Warriors abandoned the Thompson post-ups, instead generally leaving him behind the arc.  Though he was less of a creative offensive force, Klay Thompson’s contributions were vital in a second straight Warriors win.

Harrison Barnes’ Defense on Damian Lillard:  In the latter half of the fourth quarter the Warriors switched Harrison Barnes onto Lillard.  Though Mark Jackson has recently favored using Klay Thompson on similar positional switches, the athletic Barnes was able to effectively pressure Lillard on the ball and deny positioning to Lillard on Meyers Leonard’s screens, disrupting a Trailblazer offense that often relies on perimeter penetration from Lillard both as a primary source of scoring and to set up secondary options.  Before he hit a three with 1:13 left in the effectively-over game, Lillard had not scored in the fourth quarter, largely due to Barnes’ successful pressure.

Shorthanded Trailblazers:  This season, Portland’s typical starting lineup, Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Hickson-Aldridge has been outscored by 2 points per 100 possessions, 2.2 points better than the team’s actual net rating, per nba.com. Though this may seem unimpressive, the Trailblazers recent commitment to improving their draft position has decreased the statistical reputation of the lineup.  Fortunately for the Warriors, the Trailblazer’s were without Batum or Matthews, two members of the starting group and the core of their perimeter defense.  Against a healthy Portland team, rather than exposing the shortcomings of rookie Will Barton, Klay Thompson would have been attempting to score on Batum or Matthews, two far above average defenders.

Jarrett Jack:  Though 6 for 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from the line appears to be a relatively unimportant contribution, Jack, though he has been anything but consistent in recent months, was able to stable the Warriors’ offense when Curry struggled.  Though Jack has recently drawn the ire of Warriors fans for his often questionable shot selection, his contributions to begin the season were instrumental in many a Warrior victory.  Jack’s ability to replicate Curry’s creating and scoring production in the pick and roll has been vital to the Warriors all year, and in a fitting end to Jarrett Jack’s nationally under-appreciated season, the sixth man’s quiet contributions, in contrast with his often explosive performances, guided the Warriors to victory.

Warriors Handle Short-Handed Spurs (4/15/13)


(Written for Fansided.com’s Blue Man Hoop)

In their final home game of the season, the Warriors overcame an impressive effort by the depleted San Antonio Spurs, to, in combination with a Rocket’s loss, retake the sixth seed with a 116-106 victory.  Spurred by Gary Neal and poor Warrior defense, San Antonio scored their way to a 57-54 halftime lead over the Warriors.  Golden State rallied in the second half, outscoring San Antonio by 17 points in the first 7 minutes of the 4th quarter to secure the teams 46th victory, a feat previously achieved 12 times in franchise history.

Key Stretch

Though Steph Curry entered, in the words of Bob Fitzgerald, “human torch mode,” toward the end of the 4th quarter, the Warriors opened their lead several possessions before.  They were clinging to a three point lead, when at the 8:33 mark of the 4th quarter, Klay Thompson a midrange jumper off a Jarret Jack-David Lee pick and roll.  The Warriors forced Nando De Colo into a missed jumper, then caught a break when DeJuan Blair missed a putback.  The next possession, Festus Ezeli, a 51.9% free throw shooter, was fouled after rolling to the rim, and made both free throws. A Jarret Jack jumper followed another Warriors stop, and then the Steph Curry shooting exhibition began.

Why the Warriors Won

Spurs’ Offensive Inconsistency:  Though they began the game hot, the Spurs reserve squad suffered through spurts of offensive inefficiency, the last of which they were unable to overcome.  In terms of usage percentage, without Duncan, Parker, or Ginobli, the Spurs were missing their top 3 sources of offense.  Though Gary Neal, 10-15 and 4-5 from 3 for 25 points, attempted to compensate, the Spurs simply could not keep pace with the Warriors.

Offensive Contribution from Role Players:  While Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had dominant offensive outings, only one Warrior had a true-shooting percentage below 50%: Jarret Jack, who managed 12 assists.  Efficient offensive contributions from Carl Landry, Festus Ezeli, and David Lee helped to fill the gaps between Thompson and Curry’s scoring.

Klay Thomson’s Offense:  Tonight was one of Thompson’s more impressive offensive performances of the season.  Though he has had higher scoring outputs, Klay revealed a variety of offensive moves in isolation, out of the post, and off his usual pin-down plays.  Thompson was able to consistently take advantage of smaller defenders Gary Neal and Danny Green.  The mid-post game, a development only recently displayed, adds complexity to Thompson’s seemingly limited offensive game, and not only affected tonight’s result, but could be a key to future success.

Steph Curry’s Shooting: Steph Curry’s incredible shooting, one of the few near-constants of the Warrior’s season, was on full display versus the Spurs.  Curry’s shooting ability, combined with his quick release, force defenses to constantly adjust to his presence, and tonight was no exception.  Curry’s position on the opposite wing prevented San Antonio from fully extending their help on David Lee rolls, Klay Thompson post-ups, and most strong-side action.  Curry’s shooting did not only serve as a threat, but was on oft-used weapon in this game. Curry was 7/13 from 3 en route to a 35-point outing.


Steph Curry’s 7 made threes leave him within 1 of tying Reggie Miller’s single season record.

Though the Warriors put the game away late, two memorable highlights, a nifty-Steph Curry double-crossover and a Harrison Barnes dunk, occurred in the 1st quarter.

Though this was mentioned above, the Warriors use of Klay Thompson in the post, often derived from a 1-2 pick and roll, is a wrinkle to the offense worth watching for in the playoffs.