Coach Steve Kerr and Draymond Green, in particular, blame the Warriors’ road woes this season to a lack of defensive effort. But effort was no issue in their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
“That game felt right out there tonight,” Kerr said. “Doesn’t mean we always made the right play, but it’s a game of mistakes. I felt like we really competed and gave ourselves a chance. Clippers were too good tonight.”
The Warriors made fewer missed rotation and miscommunication blunders this day in LA than in their previous road losses — of which they now have 27 with a nine-game losing streak away from home.
But as the sample size grows, a more obvious trend has emerged.
“The biggest thing, when you look at the numbers, is 3-point defense at home is dramatically better than it is on the road,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ home win against Phoenix.
It’s true: Where opponents shoot 40.7% on 3-pointers on their home court — at Chase Center, the Warriors’ opponents shoot just 32.4% from distance. A substantial margin.
But is it freakish bad luck? Or is there blame to share? This loss to the Clippers shows it’s probably a little of both.
A Los Angeles team that shoots 41.9% at home this season went 16-for-34 (47%) from 3 on Wednesday. That’s not all luck — it’s clear the Warriors’ roster gaps contributed to their poor 3-point defense. They’re without their two best wing defenders in Andrew Wiggins (due to personal matters) and Gary Payton II (core injury) with their two-way, small-ball 4 Anthony Lamb on the bench having reached his 50-game limit.
With little length on the roster, the Warriors compensated by overloading the paint to try to limit superstar scorers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Golden State started to lose an inspired 50-point performance by Steph Curry once the Clippers started hitting the open 3-pointers primarily off the resulting kick-outs.
Russell Westbrook — who the Warriors defense egregiously ignores from beyond the arc — hit a wide open corner 3-pointer mid-way through the third-quarter to extend a Clippers’ two-point lead to five. Then Eric Gordon got in rhythm with a pair of transition 3-pointers that apparently was not enough for the Warriors to defend him from beyond the arc.
A Curry flurry had the Warriors just three points down late in the third quarter and needing a stop. Anxious, three defenders — JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo and Draymond Green — crowded Leonard with the ball a step into the paint. The defense prompted Leonard to look for the open man.
He found a hot-handed Gordon behind him, who drained a wide-open 3-pointer to extend the Clippers’ lead by six.
In the third quarter’s final 30 seconds, Jonathan Kuminga and JaMychal Green bull rushed Leonard at the top of the arc, leaving Gordon wide open again on the left wing for an open 3-pointer, drained despite a way-too-late DiVincenzo contest. The Clippers had a 99-91 lead to enter the final frame.
Golden State plays to the statistics, so leaving Gordon open made some sense. He’s a 35.7% 3-point shooter this year, making the odds of Gordon beating them from 3 slim compared to a prolific scorer like Leonard.
But that’s where where some bad luck creeps in.
The Warriors are banking that the house always wins, yet the bet they’re placing on opponents missing 3-pointers — especially wide-open 3s — is routinely losing on the road. Take a look at their last road trip.
The Memphis Grizzlies are shooting 34.5% at home this season and 36.6% on wide open 3s at home this season. In the Warriors’ loss at FedEx Forum last week, the Grizzlies shot 45% from 3 and 9-for-15 (60%) from wide-open range against GSW.
Oklahoma City is shooting 37% from 3 this season at home and 39.8% from wide open distance. They shot 46% from 3 overall and 12-of-22 (54.5%) from wide open to topple Golden State last week.
That win against the Phoenix Suns show reverse luck at home. While Phoenix shoots 36.9% from 3 on the road this season — good for seventh-best in the league — they shot 33.3% from 3 in a Warriors’ win at Chase Center on Monday.
But 3-point luck wasn’t a factor in their road loss to the Lakers. That’s because Anthony Davis torched them inside for 39 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers over Golden State at Crypto.com Arena last weekend. The Lakers shot 11-for-33 (33.3%) from 3 that game and 6-of-17 on wide open 3s (35.3%).
Green wouldn’t point to bad-luck 3s as the sole reason for their loss. He called out the Clippers’ 16 offensive rebounds to the Warriors’ seven and the Clippers’ resulting 27 second-chance points to the Warriors’ paltry 11 points. Kerr pointed to the Clippers’ 12 free-throws taken over the Warriors’ zero in the pivotal third quarter.
“We’re competing a little better on that end,” Green said. But sometimes games tell you different things.”