SACRAMENTO — Steve Kerr started with the basics and the elements because no one as smart as he is, and certainly no one as experienced as him, wants to get so tangled up in big strategic adjustments after one playoff defeat.
“Throw the charts out the window,” Kerr said at the Warriors Hotel after a photoshoot Sunday, the day after the Warriors lost Game 1 to the Kings. “Throwing strategy out the window. It’s about who gets the ball? Who gets the long rebounds and loose balls? And they did it a lot better than we did.”
The Warriors gave the Kings 17 offensive rebounds in Game 1, which led to several Kings field goal attempts against a scrambling Warriors defense and, ultimately, a final score of 126–123. These are structural things that the Warriors have to fix. Out of the box. stay strong. Don’t just stand there. They were fine with the defense they played and the effort that was on display for most of the game, but they froze and let the Kings beat them with combinations of rebounds, turning the game around.
None of this is entirely new to core Warriors players. They’ve taken a beating from many great teams and great players over the last decade in the playoffs. They always shot right back and, in fact, mostly countered with things more powerful than any opponent could take. So the Warriors skipped practice on Sunday and put all the focus on Monday’s crucial game two at the Golden 1 Center. This is the Zen of a Warriors game.
“You just keep your cool in the face of adversity,” Klay Thompson said Sunday. “Don’t panic when things don’t go your way. Just be yourself. Do these three things knowing we’re going to be great.”
But that didn’t mean that warriors could be reckless about anything right now. They have never gone 0-2 in the previous 27 Series of the Stephen Curry era. They probably won’t survive this series if they lose on Monday and go down 0-2 to a very talented Kings team. And as Curry noted on Saturday night, every Game 1 is a feel-good process. You strike somewhere and see what the opponent does to counter it. You get stabbed and your opponent gets stabbed too.
So, there are tweaks for Warriors to make for Game 2. I think there are tweaks that Kerr and crew were already planning ahead of this series, waiting for the right moment. Let’s say the current time is a very good moment. Here are some potential Warriors mods for Game 2 and beyond.
In Game 2, Curry likely played 37 more minutes as well as he did in Game 1
The Warriors were plus 11 in Curry’s minutes on Saturday. They were 14-at 10:35 it was far from Earth. Want something basic about warriors? The simplest way to fix their biggest problem is to just play Curry as much as possible when he needs it most. It may be now.
All of this was especially evident in the last 2:18 of the third quarter on Saturday, when Curry came out and the Kings promptly converted the Warriors’ eight-point lead to the Kings’ one-point lead by the end of the period. The Kings then added three more points to take their lead in the first few minutes of the fourth before Curry stormed back again with 9:20 remaining in the game. Warriors was a plus 1 from there. That wasn’t enough.
Is there any guarantee that the Warriors would win this game if Curry played, say, two or three more minutes? never. You can also imagine that he would have been exhausted if he had played more. He’s 35, not 25, of course. But the Warriors have pushed Curry’s totals to a whopping 40 minutes before, most recently last year, in Game 4 of the Finals against Boston and Game 6 of the second-round series against Memphis. And Curry didn’t look particularly tired at the end of either huge victory.
Warriors won’t want to do this all the time. They should publish these extra minutes curry games. It would be reckless to play him 40 minutes a game for the entire postseason. They need to play better in the 10 minutes or so that they usually rest. But they also don’t want to be kicked out of the postseason because they kept resting Curry when he could have played a little more.
“We played it the way we were going to play it last night,” Kerr said. “48 hours between Games 1 and 2. … We haven’t done a very good job while he’s out. I don’t regret resting him. I think he’s a player who has to work hard at both ends, ball in his hands and also defensively. I think Steph’s playing 40- plus minutes is not the answer. The answer is to handle the minutes other than Steph’s better.”
OK, but there are 72 hours between Game 2 and Game 3 on Thursday. Could this overtime mean more Curry in Game 2? “Maybe,” Kerr said. “we will see.”
As a side note, the Warriors should probably never take out Curry and Drymond at the same time, but lately it’s happening because Kerr takes out Curry during the last few minutes of the first and third quarters and Draymond has to rest after that too, because he’s a key part of the second unit, which starts The second and fourth quarters as Curry finishes his back up.
“Sure, sure, we look at all of that stuff,” Kerr said of tweaking the spin to make sure Carey and Draymond don’t rest at the same time. “We actually talked about that this morning as an employee. Those are possible adjustments. But then you watch the tape and go like, you miss a couple of free throws and a foul on the go, it’s a five-point swing and then a few missed points. And he’s like, well, was that Rotational? Not real. It’s, ‘We have to come out better. We have to come back better.'”
I think they’ll adjust things up in Game 2 by having Curry play the first and third quarters, which he’s been rotating in the first and middle parts of the breed, and limiting his rest to three or four minutes to start the second and fourth. This will increase the total minutes to 40 or more and limit the non-curry minutes to eight or fewer. Just for this one game. Then the main one.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors aren’t panicking yet: ‘This is what we live for’
Andrew Wiggins will probably start from now on
He wasn’t perfect in his 28-minute return from the bench after missing two months of NBA play, but Wiggins was certainly one of the Warriors’ five best players on Saturday. He remains one of the two or three most important cutbacks, because he’s big enough to fight for rebounds and rim protection and fast enough to chase down great scorers and cut into the basket. They’ve won titles with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant in the role, and now it’s Wiggins.
So it’s time for Leggins to return to the starting lineup, switching places with Donte Divincenzo, who has done a very good job in Wiggins’ place in the starting unit but is best suited to a bench role with this team. And Wiggins might have been the Warriors’ best defenseman against D’Aaron Fox in Game 1, anyway. They can also start the game with Wiggins there and set him up for 30+ minutes a night.
“Andrew looks amazing,” Clay said. “Cutting the ball, shooting it, playing over the rim, doing what he’s doing after not playing for two months in an NBA game is a testament to his ability and work ethic. He stayed ready the whole time. … He lifts us to another level.”
On Sunday, Kerr didn’t commit to transferring Wiggins back as a starter for Game 2. It’s clear that Director of Sports Medicine and Performance Rick Celebrini will have to green light Wiggins back to full playability. But this series is inevitable at some point. It might also happen on Monday.
Jonathan Cuminga must get rebounds or someone else will get some minutes
Kuminga has done some great things in his first two seasons in the NBA and he did some good stuff in two periods totaling 10 minutes on Saturday. But he didn’t put up consistent rebounding numbers, and scoring a Game 1 donut in that category wasn’t a good start to this postseason.
“I’d like to see him bounce back,” Kerr said. “He didn’t have a rebound last night and that has to be a focal point for him and the whole team. We keep talking about everything, but it still comes down to rebounds. I thought JK did a really great job in a lot of ways. He can improve.”
Kuminga is one of the few warriors who can attack the edge in traffic. He is a top level athlete who can guard good perimeter players. He can run on the ground. As Kerr says, Kuminga is on a huge upward trajectory. But on a team dying for rebounds right now that can now post Wiggins and Gary Payton II in similar roles, Cumminga has to catch the ball. Or someone else might get their minutes. Maybe Musa Modi?
The Warriors lost Game 1 but fell back into the playoff against Andrew Wiggins
Gary Payton II can be deployed as a master defender in Malik Monk
Fox was great in Game 1 and will likely be very good throughout the series. He hit 3 seconds more than the Warriors expected and deftly smashed down the lane for a series of massive baskets on his way to a 38-point score. But the Warriors aren’t rethinking everything they did against Fox. They can live with the way they defended Fox in the first game. But they can’t let Monk get 32 points off the bench again. And I think that means Kerr will use GP2 as his stopper.
Of course, GP2 will get time on Fox. But that may mostly be Wiggins’ job now. Kuminga will turn on both. Draymond will want to protect both of them. But GP2 is probably Monk’s best match, his better play in Game 1, and I think Kerr will probably try to match GP2 minutes to Monk’s time on the field.
This probably means some minutes less for DiVincenzo, who was already down to 20 in Game 1. And that could mean a little less time for Clay unless he’s super hot. Kerr will always ride with Clay in the big games, but not necessarily keep Clay out for the 37 minutes he played in Game 1, especially against a team that offers as many defensive headaches as the Kings do.
If the Kings are going to play Alex Lane, the Warriors should attack him
The Warriors have made several weight centers unplayable in a few series over the years. Do you remember Clint Capella in 2018? Timofey Mozgov in 2015? They usually love seeing these guys on the field, and they usually roast them. But feint Mike Brown, who knows the Warriors well, got them stumped by playing Lane for 13 minutes rested by Domantas Sabonis. And Lin was active, had 7 rebounds, blocked a shot and was plus-10 in those minutes. That was really amazing to watch.
If the Browns are going to put Lin up there, the Warriors have to win in those minutes. They have to put Lane on a mismatch and attack him the way they attacked Kevin Huerter so effectively in the perimeter in Game 1. Cuminga did some of that in Game 1, but that was just a few possessions. he’s there. Warriors see it. They know that. They have gone through many similar series.
And that’s the bigger point: They don’t need to reconfigure themselves just because they’re 0-1 behind. They just need to make a few adjustments, the way they famously did in the series by switching defensive duties in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinal series against Memphis, putting Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen and taking Allen out of the game. They won a title by moving Iguodala into Bogut’s starting lineup midway through the Finals against Cleveland in the same postseason. They took Kevon Looney out of the starting lineup in last year’s Memphis series, and at the request of Draymond Green and Curry, then came back to shut it down.
“We’ve been through everything with this team in the last decade,” Kerr said.
Over the years, the Warriors have been particularly good at smoothing things out in the middle of a tough series. They don’t always like to talk about it in advance, but they do like to plan it out and pull it off. They are set to try more on Monday. It’s not despair. It’s the playoffs.
(Photo: Loren Elliott/Getty Images)
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