Now that the Golden State Warriors have lost three games, we have a little bit of a sample size to work with, so that we can get a blueprint together for the rest of the NBA to follow.
1) Get them on the road
All three of the Warriors’ losses have come away from Oracle Arena, where they have won a million straight games (okay, 36). Brooklyn and Denver took them to overtime at home, but were unable to close the deal.
2) Make sure at least one starter is out
This might be one of the most amazing facts in the Warriors’ incredible run this season. Harrison Barnes missed the team’s first loss, Barnes and Stephen Curry missed the second, and Draymond Green missed the third. The Warriors missed Barnes, but it’s clear that without Curry and Green doing their thing together on the court, they are just a very good team, not a transcendent team. There will be other opportunities for the NBA to take advantage of this, as Curry and Green, as well as other starters, will be rested periodically. This might be the single thing that keeps Golden State from breaking the NBA wins record, but the Warriors will trade that for a second championship.
3) Have a great shooting night
Dallas shot 51% from the field and 51% from the 3-point line when the Mavericks beat the Warriors in December. Milwaukee shot almost 49% for the game in its win over Golden State, hitting 12 of 19 shots in the game-deciding fourth quarter. Denver shot only 42% for the game on Wednesday night, but the Nuggets were 10-of-18 in the fourth quarter, including three consecutive jump shots in the late going that answered Warriors baskets.
4) Get to the line, and make them
This is where Denver really shone in its win over Golden State. The Nuggets were 33-of-37 from the line, led by Danilo Gallinari’s 17-of-19. Dallas was 16-for 20 in its win, while Milwaukee was 14-of-18.
5) Catch them on an off shooting night
This is obviously a little harder to control, and the fact that the Warriors’ lineup has missed pieces in each of these three games certainly is a factor. Golden State shot 40% in the losses to Dallas and Milwaukee, and while they put up decent numbers for the game against Denver, the Warriors shot just 8-for-21 in the third quarter, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range. They shot 2-for-8 over the last few minutes of the quarter, and went from being up four to down 10 heading into the final period.
With me so far? These are the common threads in the three Warriors’ losses this season. Now here are a few things that showed up in individual game that might come in handy for opponents to study:
1) Catch them on the second night of a back-to-back after a double-overtime game a three-hour plane flight away
This was instrumental in Milwaukee’s victory in December. Again, tough to plan on, but certainly something to take advantage of should it come up.
2) Play them at altitude when they have a short roster
Understandably difficult to manage unless you play in Salt Lake City or Denver, but it’s something to keep in mind.
3) Have Steph Curry be mortal that night
Curry was absent against Dallas, shot only 2-for-9 from 3-point-range against Milwaukee, and entered the fourth quarter against Denver with a +/- of -12. He almost pulled off the victory anyway, but his “averageness” through three quarters certainly helped put the Dubs in a hole from which he could not extricate them.
So there they are, my tips to NBA teams hoping to put that GSW notch on their victory belt this season. Good luck!