Andrew Bogut

Warriors need to stop avoiding the paint in Game 3

I went back and reviewed every second of Game 2, paying closer attention to the Warriors’ offensive possessions. Since the Warriors held the Cavs to under 33% shooting and were “horrible” on offense (according to Draymond Green), doing it that way seemed to make sense.

Almost immediately after Game 2 ended, a few things stood out. First, obviously, was Stephen Curry’s historically bad shooting night (for him). Second, the Warriors went 8-for-35 on threes, and that’s way too many threes for a team to attempt against a team as good as the Cavaliers at defending teams beyond the arc. Third, a stat that came from ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh.

It all added up to a single, important point: The Warriors took too many quick shots from the perimeter that didn’t go in. That’s part of it, but I wanted to go a little further, so I marked down whether the Warriors entered the paint on each possession and what came of it. Here’s what I found …

  • First Quarter: 12-of-24 possessions in the paint, leading to 15 of their 20 points
  • Second Quarter: 10-of-24 possessions, leading to 8 of their 25 points
  • Third Quarter: 9-of-24 possessions, leading to 7 of their 14 points
  • Fourth Quarter: 8-of-24 possessions, leading to 13 of their 24 points
  • Overtime: 6-of-13 possessions, leading to 4 of their 6 points
  • Total: 45-of-109 possessions (41%), 47 of their 93 points (51%)

Fear of the Gov

Timofey Mozgov (the Governator, now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of office) has been very, very impressive in this series. I think Andrew Bogut caught a little too much flak after Game 2, since Mozgov did a lot of his damage against the Warriors’ small lineup as well as Festus Ezeli. That’s not to say Bogut was particularly useful offensively, but the Warriors’ defensive struggles with Mozgov were a team-wide problem.

However, the Warriors are acting as if Mozgov is Bill Russell or Dikembe Mutombo. The Warriors never even challenged Mozgov in this game, avoiding the paint as if he smelled horribly. Mozgov is a good rim-protector, but he blocked no shots and committed ONE foul in Game 2. The Cavs as a team blocked three shots in 53 minutes. Not coincidentally, the Warriors attempted 15 fewer free throws than the Cavs, and a lot of those came off loose ball fouls on the other end and J.R. Smith ridiculousness.

The Warriors’ main advantage

It’s not shooting. It’s depth. The Warriors aren’t using that advantage, because they aren’t out-working the Cavs and they aren’t putting their frontcourt players in foul trouble.

LeBron James is a lost cause here. The officials would never foul him out of a game, let alone an NBA Finals game that millions are watching across the globe. But Tristan Thompson, who can’t make a shot from anywhere in this series but has done a great job on the glass and defensively (some of his work when switching onto Curry has been as good as any opposing power forward the Warriors have seen this year), had five fouls. Fouling out Tristan Thompson would’ve forced David Blatt to either play LeBron as the center or bring Mozgov back in off the bench, something he had no interest in doing in the fourth quarter or overtime.

It’s not a fail-safe plan, driving and drawing contact. Curry and Thompson are coming off nasty falls/injuries from the Rockets series, the Warriors aren’t the best free throw-shooting team in the world, and the officials were letting a lot of contact go in Game 2. But getting closer to the basket makes sense from a spacing sense — instead of spreading the floor to open up the lane, the Warriors are in a position where they need to get inside more often to open things up for their shooters. There were way too many dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot-a-three or one-pass-shoot-a-three possessions in Game 2. Cleveland’s defense is good. It may even be outstanding. But it’s unstoppable if the Warriors continue to play lazy, knockout punch offense.

A few other things …

— These games are ridiculously entertaining, even though neither team is shooting well.

— A lot of guys are hitting the floor, and it told a story to see who was on the ground most often in Game 2. For Cleveland, it was LeBron and Matthew Dellavedova. For the Warriors, it was Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson.

— Dellavedova is like glue on Curry off the ball. The Warriors have to do a much better job at setting screens when Curry is on the weak side, instead of only during pick-and-roll situations where Dellavedova is fighting through screens fairly well and Thompson is doing a good job switching (as mentioned earlier).

— Back to the depth thing — LeBron was pretty bad offensively in the second half and overtime. He couldn’t elevate, which was partly why he had his shot blocked numerous times.

— The answer is not “more David Lee.” He can’t help-defend on LeBron, and he hasn’t looked ready for primetime throughout the playoffs. Mo Speights could be a huge part of Game 3, but he also doesn’t appear to be fully healthy (that dunk attempt was probably a good clue that he isn’t).

— Whoever wins Game 3 is the better team in this series, period. The Warriors have been much better on the road in these playoffs, especially on offense. If they stop trying to lift the crowd’s spirits with risky three-point attempts (which won’t be a problem on the road) and stick to their offense and take advantage of their depth, they should take control of this series.

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