The idea that the Warriors are “too small” is a widespread opinion among the fan base, and grows more popular every time the team falls short against an opponent of greater length and size, as was the case Sunday in Cleveland.
Facing a brigade of defenders with wingspans between 6-foot-10 (Donovan Mitchell, Georges Niang, Caris LeVert, Dean Wade) and 7-foot-6 (Jarrett Allen), the Warriors shot 36.2 percent from the field for a 115-104 advantage. Cavaliers loss at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Perhaps the only statistic more frustrating for Golden State than shooting 18-of-53 (34.0 percent) inside the arc was missing 20-of-32 (37.5 percent). In the paint Against a team that is certainly a brutal match.
So were Golden State’s 10 missed free throws, inability to make more than three quick field goals, and 15 points in the second quarter — the lowest of the season — in which the Warriors shot an astonishing 18.5 percent from the field.
But it is clear that Cleveland’s combination of tremendous length and defensive activity was decisive.
Golden State’s roster is one that is bound to be confrontational when its relative lack of size/length is a liability. This was one of them.
“We weren’t aggressive in the first half,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Ohio. “They only had one blocked shot, but we were scrappy around the rim. There’s a good reason for that. They had two of the best shot blockers, the No. 1 defense in the league last year, and they’re coming off two losses.”
The Warriors had a 47-46 advantage in field goal attempts in the first half. However, more often than not, they seemed to be wandering through the forest in search of the beautiful appearance at the edge. They rarely found them.
The Cavaliers blocked just two shots, one by Evan Mobley (7-foot-4 wingspan) and the other by Tristan Thompson (7-foot-1), but they converted several others while outscoring the Warriors 58-24 in the paint.
“We have to attack the paint more,” Klay Thompson said.
“They always say tactics make battles,” said Stephen Curry, who leads Golden State with 28 points. “From OKC to Cleveland, there’s a huge difference in the way they approach the game. Their game plan won.
“This is a good learning lesson for us in understanding the ins and outs of how to beat certain teams and making those adjustments. We just haven’t done that.”
This is Curry and Thompson expressing their confidence in the team’s coaches on the bench and the veterans on the floor. They’re not the only ones on the payroll who believe that more intelligence, more aggression, and more of an “attack” mentality would be beneficial.
And maybe it will be. It shouldn’t hurt.
But size matters. Length is really important. Agile length is a game-changer, and the Warriors only have so much to offer.
Kerr made a call to three players on Friday night, following the narrow win over the Thunder. He said the team’s next step requires Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Gary Payton II “to be the athletes they are” and bring speed and athleticism on both ends.
Kerr knows this roster needs all of them — none of them taller than 6-foot-7, none with a wingspan longer than 7 feet and none of them — three of whom can provide that. Trayce Jackson-Davis, who stands 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, was good on Sunday and could be part of the solution.
Ever since Kevin Durant’s departure ended the “Death Lineup” stages, Dub Nation has been concerned about Golden State’s lack of size. The team’s overall response is a reminder that it wasn’t any longer in the 2021-22 season, when it finished third in the Western Conference and won the NBA Finals.
This is a different league now. Yes, it happened so fast.
The Warriors were eliminated from the 2023 postseason by the Los Angeles Lakers, whose frontcourt includes Anthony Davis (7-foot-6 wing), Rui Hachimura (7-foot-2), Jared Vanderbilt (7-foot-1), and LeBron James. (7 feet).
Golden State’s path to the 2022 Finals began the previous season with a first-round elimination by the Nuggets, who did not have Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With those three who played last season, solidly backing up all-world center Nikola Jokic, Denver won the Finals.
The Warriors had a tough game on Sunday. They will adapt. But if this list continues, there may be more of these games than modifications to be made.
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