Learning from the Warriors’ Losses

Published: April 17, 2015

The Golden State Warriors finished the 2014-15 regular season with 67 wins and 15 losses, easily the best record in the NBA this year. That level of dominance certainly makes the Pelicans’ chances of victory appear bleak, as teams experiencing that level of success generally don’t possess many weaknesses. The beauty (pain?) of facing a team with so few losses is that it takes less time to look at each individual loss to see if there are any themes or reoccurring trends (though those trends are inherently less significant due to a smaller sample size). Below, you’ll find some notes about each of these losses, and afterwards, any conclusions that can be drawn and how the Pelicans can capitalize.


The Losses

Loss #1 – 11/9 at Phoenix, 107-95

  • Klay Thompson didn’t play due to a sprained right hand
  • 10 turnovers for Stephen Curry (26 team turnovers, five more than the Suns)
  • The Suns’ bench played massive role in a big 4th quarter, outscoring Golden State 36-16
    • Thomas: +16 in 27 minutes (Bledsoe & Dragic were -6 & -4), 13-14 at the FT line, 22 points on 13 shots
    • Green: 19 points on 12 shots, 4-7 from the 3-point line, +16
    • Tucker: 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, +24
  • Bogut spent most of the game with fouls being a concern (2 fouls in Q1, 3rd in Q2, 4th in Q3)
  • Outscored 14-4 in second chance points (only 3 offensive rebounds)

Loss #2 – 11/11 vs. San Antonio, 113-100

  • The Spurs had everyone healthy minus Splitter & Belinelli
  • Curry missed all 7 of his 3-point attempts
  • 19 turnovers for Golden State; only 8 for San Antonio
  • Outscored 48-28 in the paint, & 10-0 in second chance points (only 1 offensive rebound)

Loss #3 – 12/16 at Memphis, 105-98

  • Andrew Bogut did not play
  • Curry made just one of his 10 3-point attempts
  • Worth noting that Tony Allen & Mike Conley may possibly be the best defensive back court duo to throw at Steph/Klay
  • -2 in turnover margin

Loss #4 – 12/23 at Los Angeles Lakers, 115-105

  • Andrew Bogut did not play
  • Second game of a back-to-back after a 20-point win at home against Sacramento
  • No Warriors player saw more than 30 minutes of action
  • Curry committed 7 turnovers, & team 19 turnovers for Golden State (16 for Los Angeles)
  • 52 points in the paint for the Lakers (10 more than the Warriors)

Loss #5 – 12/25 at Los Angeles Clippers, 100-86

  • Andrew Bogut did not play
  • Curry and Thompson shot a combined 3-15 from 3-point range
  • -3 in turnover margin
  • 12-22 at the free throw line
  • Only 8 fast break points

Loss #6 – 1/16 at Oklahoma City, 127-115

  • Andrew Bogut did not play
  • Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka all healthy (63 points on 36 shots for Durant & Ibaka combined)
  • 58-48 points in the paint advantage for OKC
  • Westbrook: 17 points, 15 rebounds, 17 assists
  • Basically, the Thunder were at full health and in championship form

Loss #7 – 1/27 vs. Chicago, 113-111 (OT)

  • Andrew Bogut did not play (but neither did Jimmy Butler)
  • 14 assists and 31 rebounds for Gasol/Noah (13 offensive); 24 total second chance points for the Bulls
  • Gasol, Noah, Gibson, & Mirotic: 58 points on 39 shots, 47 rebounds (I think the Warriors missed Bogut a little)
  • Curry missed 7 of his 9 three-point attempts
  • Golden state earned just 12 free throw attempts and made only half of them (Bulls went 21-23 from FT line)

Loss #8 – 1/30 at Utah, 110-100

  • 17 offensive rebounds for Utah, 20 second chance points
  • 11 offensive boards for Hayward & Gobert
  • Curry & Barbosa: 8-15 from 3-point range. Everyone else: 0-12
  • -2 turnover margin

Loss #9 – 2/6 at Atlanta, 124-116

  • Free throw disparity: Hawks 33-37, Warriors 10-15
  • 3-point disparity: Hawks 15-27, Warriors 12-33
  • Two great teams, and the home team won the battle

Loss #10 – 2/22 at Indiana, 104-98

  • Stephen Curry did not play due to right foot soreness
  • Only 30 points in the paint (15 below season average)
  • “The Rodney Stuckey Game” – 30 points on 11-17 shooting
  • Draymond Green fouled out
  • Pacers’ bench ran over Warriors’ bench

Loss #11 – 2/26 at Cleveland, 110-99

  • Keys here were simple: free throws and LeBron James
    • Free throw disparity: Cavaliers 29-35, Warriors 10-19
    • LeBron – 42 points on 25 shots, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

Loss #12 – 3/2 at Brooklyn, 110-108

  • Second night of a back-to-back after a 5-point win at Boston
  • Warriors started slow, down 10 after 1 quarter, and couldn’t recover
  • Thompson missed 8 out of 9 three-point attempts
  • -2 turnover differential
  • 3-point disparity: Nets 10-21, Warriors 11-30

Loss #13 – 3/13 at Denver, 114-103

  • Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Bogut all did not play; nothing more to see here

Loss #14 – 4/5 at San Antonio, 107-92

  • Second night of a back-to-back after a 13-point win at Dallas
  • Spurs at full strength minus Splitter
  • Green, Leonard, Duncan: 62 points on 34 shots
  • Warriors: 5-10 from the free throw line
  • Klay Thompson: 3-11, 6 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists. Total non-factor

Loss #15 – 4/7 at New Orleans, 103-100

Main Takeaways

  1. Keep them out of the bonus. When the free throw disparity starts to tilt heavily against the Warriors, they are suddenly beatable. Obviously, making this happen is not easy, but the Pelicans were able to accomplish it less than two weeks ago. Just as it was on April 7th, Omer Asik’s interior defense will be key.
  2. Force an off-night from one of the Splash Brothers. In most of the Warriors’ losses, either Curry or Thompson struggled shooting the basketball. Asking for them both to struggle in the same game is practically impossible, but if you can’t slow one of them down, you’re asking for trouble. Jrue Holiday’s return should prove to be crucial in this regard, as should the mid-season acquisitions of Pondexter and Cole. Thanks for the great pick-ups, Dell!
  3. Keep them out of the transition game. The Warriors led the league in points off of turnovers and fast break points this season; if you cough it up, they’ll make you pay. The majority of Golden State’s losses saw them on the wrong end of the turnover margin, which makes sense, but the degree of importance is amplified due to how good the Warriors are at capitalizing on those turnovers.
  4. Allow only one shot per possession. The Warriors are good enough without giving them second chances. Because Golden State attempts so many three-pointers, the Pelicans will have to be ready to extend out past the restricted area for some of these rebound opportunities, so it will be especially important for everyone (even the guards) to contribute. Obviously, the Asik vs. Bogut battle will be incredibly huge. Oh, speaking of Bogut…
  5. Pray for Andrew Bogut to stub his toe really badly. I’m joking with this one, because I would never wish an injury upon anyone. But Bogut missed 15 games this season, and the Warriors went just 9-6 in those games (compared to 56-9 in the other 67 games). With Bogut, Curry, and Thompson all playing, Golden State lost just 7 games all season.  Not like it needs repeating, but this Warriors team when fully healthy is a total juggernaut.

Let’s be honest – a lot of this is pretty intuitive. “Don’t foul a lot, don’t commit turnovers, don’t give up offensive rebounds.” But the Warriors aren’t just a good basketball team. By average point margin and net rating, they’re a top-10 regular season basketball team of all-time. They’re so solid on both sides of the ball, and the only way for the Pelicans to have a legitimate chance at making this series a competitive one is to play mistake-free basketball and hope the Warriors’ big guns have an off-night or two. It’s not an insult to New Orleans by any stretch; it’s just a testament to how good Golden State has been this season. The Pelicans can make this series interesting, but they’ll have to play damn good basketball to do it.

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