Christmas Day Game Is A Good Test For Slower-Paced Warriors— December 25th 2017
The injury to Stephen Curry punctuated his affect on the Dub’s pace. Now as the Warriors learn to adjust to a slower pace they do so with a view to utilizing lessons learned in the half court dominate post season.
By: Carlos Murillo
Last June, the Cleveland Cavaliers played with fire and they got burned.
The 2016 champs tried to keep up with the new-look Golden State Warriors and it resulted in a “quickie,” as Draymond Green put it. The Warriors ran circles around LeBron James and co. and ended their third straight NBA Finals series in five games.
Since Steve Kerr’s hiring ahead of the 2014-15 season, the Warriors have consistently been in the top five in pace. Their small lineup–the dream-crushing Death Lineup that transformed into the Hamptons 5 with Kevin Durant’s arrival–turns defense into quick offense, landing Chun-Li-like blows before the opposing team even knows what hit them.
This year is no different for the Dubs. They are currently fifth in pace, per NBA.com, in the entire league at 102.54, three spots ahead of Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets.
That mark, however, represents a different Golden State team than the one that has been taking the floor over the last few weeks.
Throughout the season, the Warriors have been dealing with injuries, but they’ve been without their heart and soul as Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have been sidelined with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively.
Curry has not played since December 4th and Green has played in just three of the team’s last eight games. While the team has only lost one game since Curry’s injury, the Warriors just aren’t the same, specifically on the offensive end.
Over the first six Curry-less games, the Warriors were 16th in pace at 97.24. After Green’s return, their pace went up to 98.21, leaving them at 13th in the league. Over that eight game stretch, the Cavaliers are in 18th in pace at 97.12.
Barring a Curry clash with Kerr and the medical staff, he will probably be watching the Christmas Day matchup from the sideline.
The Warriors would prefer to play fast with every single star suiting up for them, but this will be a unique and valuable challenge for the team.
The Cavaliers are winning by letting James slow the game down and control the pace. Understanding that he has an older team around him and that no one can stop him from getting to the basket, they play in the half court.
Without Curry pushing the ball, the Warriors are much more methodical. Kerr becomes less D’Antoni and more vintage Gregg Popovich in which his team slows the ball down, they play out of the post, and they draw up plays for midrange jumpers.
In the Warriors’ home win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Dubs had just two fast break points and only 21 three-point attempts. In their home loss to the Denver Nuggets, Golden State made just three shots from long range.
While it’s not as fun watching Omri Casspi cut across the lane as it is watching Curry launch treys from the logo, they need to be prepared to play at that pace.They’ve been grinding out wins, some of which have been physical and even ugly.
The Cavaliers now know that they can’t beat the Warriors at their own game. So far, no one has been able to over the last three seasons. When Cleveland shocked the world with their series comeback in 2016, it was largely because James and Kyrie Irving slowed the game down to a halt with an iso-heavy style.
The game will slow down in the playoffs.
Every non-Houston Rockets team will try to wear the Warriors down with long, careful possessions. They will try to contain Golden State’s high-octane offense as much as possible by limiting the amount of times the team’s nuclear weapons can get out into space and run, shoot, and finish freely.
The Warriors will need Curry and Green to make it to the NBA Finals once again and they’ll definitely need the two stars if they want to defeat their Eastern Conference foe, which will, likely, be the Cavaliers.
Learning how to play a slower, more deliberate game right now is going to help them in the long run. Their strength will always be to play fast, but sometimes they’re not going to be able to control the pace, even at full strength.
Even though this is just another game, the Warriors can find ways to grow from this test.