Stephen Curry was the target of an aggressive defense for the second-straight game as the Warriors lost to the Indiana Pacers, 104-95, Tuesday night at Chase Center.
The Warriors (6-5) were without forward Eric Paschall, who was placed into the league’s health and safety protocol hours before tip off. Kelly Oubre Jr. emerged from a shooting slump, Andrew Wiggins stepped up and Damion Lee led the bench in scoring, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Pacers (7-4).
In a game with 12 lead changes and few sustained runs until the final moments, the Warriors clung to a three-point lead with 5:36 remaining. But the Pacers ultimately broke away for a decisive 12-0 run, capped by guard Aaron Holiday’s 3-pointer, to go up 100-90 with 1:33 remaining.
Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Pacers put bodies on Stephen Curry: Two nights after the Raptors limited Curry with an aggressive game plan designed to take the ball out of his hands, the Pacers used the same blueprint and held Curry to 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting (3-for-8 from 3-point range) and three assists.
“We call it the janky defense,” Curry said.
It’s really called the box-and-1. The Raptors on Sunday used it to hold Curry to his worst shooting performance of his career, and the Pacers deployed it Tuesday. On each Warriors possession, one of Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday or Edmond Sumner would pick up Curry at halfcourt and face-guard him as he tried to get open. They were instructed not to leave him for any reason.
When Curry tried to shake loose with a ball screen, Indiana would send help.
look how steph is guarded here pic.twitter.com/fgXrKiDotp
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) January 13, 2021
Against a box-and-1, there are opportunities for other players to get involved, but Golden State did not do a great job countering.
“Anytime you see a defense like that,” Kerr said, “it’s really important to make quick, sharp decisions. I did not think we did that, I thought we were indecisive with the ball, tried to dribble into traffic, try to make several strange interior passes — wraparound passes, bounce passes — to James (Wiseman) when we should be throwing lobs.”
After committing just four turnovers by the time they led 57-50 at halftime, the Warriors gave the ball away 12 times in the second half. Over these last two games, Curry is 9-for-33 from the field and 4-for-18 from beyond the arc. The Denver Nuggets on Thursday, and every team thereafter, will notice.
“People are going to throw everything at Steph,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “We’ve got to do a better job getting comfortable and attacking.”
Steph Curry explains what he has to do to solve the box-and-1, which he calls the “janky defense.” pic.twitter.com/arN9AGkLBB
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) January 13, 2021
2. Couldn’t keep the Pacers out of the paint: The Pacers out-scored the Warriors 56-34 in the paint. Myles Turner (22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks) and Domantas Sabonis (18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists) were the biggest factors in that.
Like Clippers center Serge Ibaka, Turner (3-of-5 from 3-point range) is a big man who spends a lot of time on the perimeter and tallies up blocks at the rim. Wiseman struggled to defend both during this homestand and on Tuesday was blocked by Turner four times, had difficulty defending in space and picked up five of his own fouls on a frustrating night.
On what he learned from defending those two, Wiseman said, “Making sure I stay down, stay on my feet, keep my hands up, use my length and my athleticism and don’t do dumb stuff.”
3. Golden State missed Eric Paschall: Without Paschall to anchor the second-unit as a small-ball center, Wiseman replaced Paschall to start the second quarter in a lineup alongside Wiggins, Kent Bazemore, Lee and Brad Wanamaker. Through the first 10 games, this had been a time when the Warriors would go on a run. Instead, they went 1-of-7 from the field and Aaron Holiday’s layup with 8:12 in the second quarter erased Golden State’s nine-point lead and tied the game at 32 as the Pacers opened the period with a 13-4 run. By the end of the game, the Warriors’ bench eked out only 21 points, about 19 fewer than their season average.
4. Oubre got going: Oubre entered the game having missed 44 of his 51 3-point attempts this season and shooting 33.6% overall. But a reversion to the mean was coming, and Oubre on Tuesday made his first four shots, including two 3-pointers, and scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-for-7 from 3-point range) to go along with five rebounds and a pair of assists.
The Warriors set up Oubre with catch-and-shoot or catch-and-drive opportunities that led to easier baskets against a bent defense. Those shots will be there this season, especially as more teams home in on Curry.
5. Tuesday’s loss concluded the Warriors’ seven-game homestand: The Warriors went 4-3 from Jan. 1-12 against the Trail Blazers, Kings, Clippers, Raptors and Pacers. During that stretch, the Warriors posted a plus-2.3 point differential, the league’s 10th-best defensive rating (108.1) and 16th-ranked offensive rating (110.0).
“I would say over the seven-game homestand,” Kerr said, “we made some big strides.”
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