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Warriors Drop Game 1; Can Golden State Even the Series?

After letting game one slip, game two is a must-win for Golden State. The Warriors have been on this stage numerous times – they’re not going to panic but there should be, and probably will be, some sense of desperation on their behalf in game two.

“We’ll go into Game 2 with more of a sense of desperation,” said head coach Steve Kerr.

Historically, teams who have gone down 2-0 in the Finals after having the first two games at home, are 0-5 in the series; the Warriors have every reason to be desperate.

But, what went wrong in game one and what adjustments might Golden State make?

A Taste of Their Own Medicine

The Warriors got beat at their own game in the second half. After a 38-24 turn of the tides in favor of Golden State in the third quarter – something opposing teams dread when facing the Dubs – Boston responded with a barrage of three-pointers in the final period.

Boston began the quarter hitting eight consecutive 3

-point attempts and a 12-point Warriors lead quickly dwindled; it became a one-possession game less than three minutes into the fourth quarter. Derrick White tied the game at 103 following his fifth long ball of the game and Boston never looked back from there.

Boston won the last 12 minutes of the game 40-16. That kind of run is something many, including myself, didn’t think Boston could put together. While Boston did shoot lights out in the fourth quarter (68% from the field), it’s not fair to say they won’t do that again, because if Golden State continues to just let Boston tee off wide-open shots throughout the game they’ll eventually find their rhythm. Maybe not to the tune of 68% from the floor on 9-12 from beyond the arc but they’ll start hitting shots at some point.

The Warriors’ offense won’t collapse in the way that it did in game one’s fourth quarter too often, but I do think the second half of that game revealed something of major importance – Boston appears to have a wider margin for error.

Defensive Adjustments

Golden State chose to switch pretty much everything in game one. They quite literally threw the regular season game plan against Boston into a paper shredder.

Their game plan on Thursday was to switch all screens and provide help off perceived non-shooters when mismatches or dribble penetration occurred.

Golden State dared White, Al Horford and Marcus Smart to beat them from distance and they did, as they combined for 15-23 on 3PA’s.

What was most surprising was the Warriors’ willingness to switch anybody onto Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Now, they weren’t just letting Tatum and Brown isolate versus Stephen Curry or Jordan Poole without providing help and it’s not necessarily a bad strategy to allow the switch and provide help but help without completely disregarding guys. You’re playing with fire handing Boston open shot after open shot.

The player matched up with Horford on any given possession, usually Draymond Green or Kevon Looney, was typically standing in or near the paint while Horford was setting screens and spotting up for catch and shoot 3PA’s. Horford shot just 33.6% from distance in 2021-22, but for his career, he’s a 36% 3-point shooter; he can beat you with the jumper. He shot 38.8% from three versus Milwaukee in the second round and shot 39.1% from three in the Eastern Conference Finals.

White and Smart on the other hand are a little less likely to keep hitting from distance all series long. Smart is a career 32.1% three-point shooter and has only had two seasons where he shot greater than 34% from deep. White shot just 31.2% from three this past season, however, he did shoot 34.6% in 2020-21 on 6.8 attempts per game but he hasn’t been efficient at all in this year’s playoffs.

Golden State won’t and shouldn’t overreact to one game or one quarter, but they need to be conscious of not letting those guys just be able to catch and shoot without giving much of a shot contest.

Green wasn’t budging on their game plan in his post-game interview on Thursday night but he seemed to be backing off that a little bit since then. “There are some things that we can clean up, and I know that we will clean up,” said Green.

We don’t know exactly what Green is referring to when he says they need to clean things up, but the change in tone should be encouraging for Warriors fans wanting to see something different from their team in game two.

Another adjustment Golden State should look to make is being more active in pressuring Boston’s ball-handlers. Oftentimes during game one, Boston’s ball-handlers didn’t even have to think about ball pressure because Golden State was playing so far off of them.

One weakness of Boston’s is their lack of an elite ball-handler and it bit them in the behind at times in previous series’ this postseason. While Tatum and Brown are going to be the most explosive athletes on the floor in this series, it’s difficult to make sense of Golden State not pressuring them. Boston only had 12 turnovers in game one and Golden State should look to bring that number up in game two. And even if you’re not forcing turnovers, ball-pressure still makes things more difficult on the offense.

The Warriors’ best on-ball defender is Gary Payton II but Kerr wasn’t comfortable playing him big minutes on Thursday night.

“The other night I would have put him in in special circumstances, maybe a late-game stop. I didn’t feel comfortable playing him significant minutes yet. I thought the training staff felt like he needed a little more time,” said Kerr who also went on to say he anticipates the defensive specialist will be more available in game two.

If Kerr can get just 10-15 minutes out of GPII on Sunday night, it could be enough to help sway things back in their favor.

Game Two Prediction

Golden State will be a little bit desperate but Boston will more than likely have a sense of urgency, too. Besides the fact that this is the NBA Finals, I’m sure Boston is aware that stealing both of the first two games of the series in San Francisco would put Golden State in a hole that nobody has ever climbed out of before.

Klay Thompson, Poole and Green all need to be better in game two. Statistically, Thompson played a decent game on Thursday night offensively, but he missed a handful of open looks and between him and Poole, they need to combine for more than just 24 points on 21 shots.

Green on the other hand shouldn’t be shooting a third of his shots from beyond the arc (granted, two of those were late in the shot clock) and he has to be better finishing inside. An aggressive Green is a good thing but he was playing out of his element in game one. Not to mention he has to be better on the other end of the floor as well.

Maybe Curry doesn’t play as well in game two and Otto Porter Jr might not go 4-5 from distance again all series long but if Thompson, Poole and Green bounce back, Golden State should be able to even it up.

We should get another tight game but I’ve got Golden State responding well and tying it up heading back to Boston.

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