The Warriors lost to their own playbook Wednesday night.
Years ago, the Warriors popularized a way to stop the exact kind of offense the team is now trying to run.
They taught the NBA how to now beat them.
And while it was only a matter of time before someone used their old tricks against them, the Clippers’ win in San Francisco should be enough to send the Warriors back to the drawing board.
L.A. — playing like Wednesday’s game was a playoff contest — switched, blitz, and pestered the Warriors into a dud of an offensive performance, led by Steph Curry’s 5-of-17 shooting night.
The key was the switching.
The irony is heavy: The Warriors of the recent past are always given credit for ushering in the era of the 3-point shot, but they also changed the way the rest of the league plays defense.
Against a league where pick-and-roll and isolation were seemingly the only offenses, the Warriors switched every matchup with Draymond Green on the floor — especially when the forward was playing as a center. The kineticism neutralized direct offenses, namely those of the Rockets and Cavs.
And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Ty Lue — the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach — was is the man in charge in L.A.
Lue figured out that the way to beat the switch was to play offense like the Warriors during their dynastic run — constant player movement, off-ball screens, and a ball that moved so fast you couldn’t rotate.
The whole league followed suit on both sides of the ball, but by then, the Warriors had perfected their art and added Kevin Durant. When you have a player of that caliber amid a title-winning core, X’s and O’s don’t matter the much.
But X’s and O’s absolutely matter to the 2021 Warriors. And on Wednesday, facing a nemesis of their own creation, they smartly tried to revert back to their old 2015, 2016 ways when they had the ball. The motion offense, which brought so many struggles to the Warriors early this season, returned against the Clippers, and with it came all the same problems.
To name one: Kelly Oubre, whose ability to always shoot when he should pass and pass when he should shoot was overshadowed by the fact that he only made 30 percent of his shots and missed all six 3-point attempts.
The Warriors defense was sound enough on Wednesday night to beat a superior team in the Clippers, thanks to the ever-present Draymond Green and an engaged performance from Andrew Wiggins. The Dubs’ defense created enough transition opportunities to keep the game close.
It was the half-court offense that again let them down.
The good news is that there are few teams that can play defense as well as the Clippers. The Warriors should expect team after team to copy Lue’s tactics, but few will be able to execute the way L.A. did.
And while the playoffs are eons away — and the Warriors might not even make the postseason — the performance should have Steve Kerr asking big questions.
Is this new Dubs offense a few tweaks away from clicking, even against a strong LA defense, which the Warriors will face again Friday? Can they do better than their old adversaries in beating the switch?
Or are the Warriors facing the harsh truth of the o-ring theory — you’re only as strong as your weakest link — again five years after Harrison Barnes?
Contributed by local news sources