The defending champion Golden State Warriors lost 106-114 to Sacramento Kings on Monday and fell two-games-to-nil behind in its first round series in the NBA Playoffs.
The two losses give clear indications that the Warrriors have not resolved their road-form woes that plagued the side during the regular season. The Warriors’ form away from home is now 11-32, including the two post-season losses.
The poor form on the road meant that the Warriors narrowly avoided the Play-In tournament but started their Playoffs away from the Chase Centre for just the fourth time in 25 series’ under coach Steve Kerr.
Coach Kerr, it seemed in Game 1, had finally found the cure when his side led by six points at half-time. The offence too looked locked-and-loaded and the side maintained a lead before the Kings sweeped in with consecutive three-point shots.
Another loss in Game 2 has left the 2022 champions needing a significant turnaround to make it to the Conference semifinals.
Sportstar takes a look at why the Warriors find themselves trailing as the series moves to San Francisco.
To start, the Warriors defense was far from ideal in the regular season. That was evident. But given the side’s pedigree in the Playoffs over the last decade, things were expected to improve. That has not happened.
Their defensive rating (points conceded per 100 possessions) on the road, during the regular season, was 118.3. This ranks them 28th out of the 30 teams in the league. In contrast, their home defensive rating in the regular season was 108.4 - the third best.
In the Playoffs, the Warriors has seen this rating improve marginally to 115.4. However, this is no where close to what they need to sustain in the post-season.
What is worse, the Warriors have a turnover rate of 17.7% in the Playoffs, the worst among the 16 teams.
Inefficiency from the arc
During the regular season, the Warriors compensated for the poor defense with a fair efficiency in three-point shooting. They averaged nearly 38% on the road.
In the two playoff games, the Warriors’ 3-point shooting efficiency has been 32% and 32.5%, respectively.
Warriors have Steph Curry - the best three-point shooter in the league’s history. Klay Thompson too is one the best from the three-point range. Wiggins and Jordan Poole are also effective beyond the arc.
Given this firepower, Warriors have always relied on shooting three-pointers. Hence, this misfire has compounded their troubles.
Andrew Wiggins in particular has gone one-off-eight and two-off-eight from downtown. While Curry was brilliant in the first game, and scored 28 in the second, his 3-point shooting at 23.1% on Monday did pinch his team.
Inability to close out games
Another major reason for the Warriors losing the two Playoff games has been the side’s lack of composure in clutch-time.
In Game 1, Warriors had a 10-point lead in the third quarter. However, they allowed the Kings a 15-4 run to close the quarter with a point’s deficit.
In the final quarter, Warriors stayed within one-possession. This paid dividends as a Curry three-pointer saw them take a two point lead at 114-112. That was the last cheer for the Dubs, though.
The Kings were able to penetrate from three-pointers, and made a 7-0 run. Curry and Wiggins missed three-point shots in the dying seconds and that was the end for their team.
Again, in Game 2, the Warriors were within four points with 4:11 left on the clock. They restored parity at 95 each only to suffer a blowout in the end. The Kings ended the game with a 12-5 run and extended their lead in the series.
No support for Looney
Kevon Looney - the Warriors centre - has been fairly good in defence in the two games.
It was Looney who kept one of Kings’ main players - Domantas Sabonis - in check in the first game. Sabonis scored only 12 points in the first game and shot five-off-17.
But the Warriors have failed to provide assistance to their centre. This has led to De’Aaron Fox running rings around their defence. Not only has Fox been clinical from three-pointers, but has also set up plays in the paint.
Draymond Green being ejected for a flagrant foul 2 in the second game did not help the Warriors either.
The next two games at home might come to the aid of Warriors and allow them to pull level but time is running out.
Trailing 0-2, they will return to the Golden 1 Centre for the fifth game. And if they hope to advance further, they need to find solutions to their recurring problem.
Factoring that the series started at Kings’ home, Warriors will need atleast one win on the road to win the best-of-seven round.
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