For the last several weeks of the regular season, the Golden State Warriors were seemingly slipping. Some attributed this to the Warriors’ complacency after making three deep playoff runs in the same number of seasons. Others pointed to the injuries that the Warriors had suffered – Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson all missed time over the last month of the regular season and Curry is still out. Ultimately, the cause for their sub-par play down the stretch was probably some combination of the two, and the stats were reflecting these issues. From March 1st to the end of the regular season, NBA.com/stats notes that the Warriors had a net rating of -0.1 with an offensive rating of 106.3 and a defensive rating of 106.4.
Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr decided to address the defensive issues first, inserting JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup. Both of these adjustments worked from tip off. Much of the time that McGee was on the court, McGee was LaMarcus Aldridge‘s sole defender. According to the publicly available Second Spectrum tracking stats on NBA.com, McGee was Aldridge’s primary defender on 30 possessions in game one. In those 30 possessions, Aldridge scored 6 points. In Iguodala’s 48 defensive possessions, Spurs players he was the primary defender of scored 5 points.
Rebounding was an advantage for the Spurs all season long, and needs to be a key focus if they are to pull the upset in this series. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Spurs had an offensive rebounding percentage of 26.6% and a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.5% in the regular season. The Warriors on the other hand, had a offensive rebounding percentage of 22.9% in the regular season and a defensive rebounding percentage of 72.5%. The Spurs also did a better job of not committing turnovers in the regular season. The extra possessions that come from the increased rate in rebounding is the only way the Spurs can make up the gap in effective field goal percentage. In game one, however, the Warriors out-rebounded the Spurs 51 to 30. The Spurs only got 3 offensive rebounds the entire game, compared to the Warriors’ 10.
This is a recipe for disaster for the Spurs, who have a small number of advantages over the reigning champs. The Warriors played incredible defense against the Spurs in game one, and the Spurs will need to find a way to not only win the rebounding battle, but to get Aldridge going in game two to have a chance to steal one in Oracle Arena.
All stats from nba.com unless noted otherwise.