The Warriors’ Game 2 Defense

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After not being able to capitalize on their few advantages over the Golden State Warriors in game one on Saturday, the Spurs bounced back in the first half of game two. The Spurs didn’t play into the strengths of Golden State’s defense quite as much, limiting the time that non-shooters played. Kyle Anderson, who has shown growth this season and has been an important part of the Spurs’ success to this point, played only 10 minutes, down nearly 17 minutes from his season average of 26.7 minutes per game.

Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ sophomore starting point guard, played only 12 and a half minutes, down 9 minutes from his season average of 21.5 minutes per game. The Spurs replaced Murray and Anderson’s minutes with increased playing time for Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans.

The size and versatility that both players provided caused problems for the Warriors, particularly in the first half. Throughout much of the first two quarters, the Spurs ran most of their offense through LaMarcus Aldridge and Gay and the Warriors’ defense had little answer for the combo. Aldridge and Gay had 27 of the Spurs’ 53 first-half points and grabbed 8 of the Spurs’ 19 first-half rebounds.

Particularly, both players were hurting the Warriors in the paint, where the Spurs had little production in game one. In the second half, however, the Warriors were able to limit Gay to two points on five shot attempts. The Warriors excelled in the second half at denying touches and clean looks in the paint for Gay.

The Warriors game-planned the Spurs well. While the Spurs have historically been a team that shoots a low volume of three’s, they usually have a high accuracy on the three’s they do shoot.

That has not been the case this season, however, and the Warriors know it. The Warriors gave the Spurs 14 ‘wide open’ (the nearest defender being 6 or more feet away from the shooter) three-point attempts in game two and the Spurs made 2 of them. During the regular season, the Warriors allowed the 7th fewest three-point attempts by their opponent per 100 possessions at 26.1. Until the Spurs prove that they can hit wide open threes, the Warrior defense will give those attempts to the Spurs and focus on interior defense. In contrast, 18 of the Spurs’ 30  two-point attempts featured a Warriors’ defender within at least 4 feet.

The Warriors’ defense wasn’t perfect, however. It allowed the Spurs to grab a higher percentage of their own missed shots (the Spurs had an offensive rebounding percentage of 21.4% in game two compared to one of 6.8% in game one), didn’t force as many turnovers (the Spurs turned the ball over on 9.2% of possessions in game two compared to 12.9% in game one), and sent the Spurs to the line more often in game two than it did in game one.

That’s a good starting point for the Spurs, who have found lineups that can attack how the Warriors are defending them. It won’t be enough to make up for the difference in shooting, however. The Spurs have shot better at home all season, so returning to the AT&T Center for game three could help remedy the Spurs’ shooting issues. Despite the Spurs poor shooting, though, the Warriors had what they would probably consider an off night defensively, overall.

They will go to the film, see what they can improve, and tweak their defensive scheme. A stronger defensive game from the Warriors should be expected in game three, and if that’s the case, better shooting alone may not be enough for the Spurs to close the gap.

 

Minute information from basketball-reference, all other stats obtained from NBA.com/stats

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