Golden State Warriors Breakdown: Circus Is Over But Clowns Remain

Erick BlascoSenior Writer IDecember 19, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Head coach Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the Orlando Magic during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on December 5, 2009 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Offensive talent throughout the roster? Speedy guards who can push the tempo? Talented isolation scorers? Quick-handed defenders who can generate steals?

The Golden State Warriors have the players tailored to executing Don Nelson’s run amok game plan. Therefore, after Golden State’s 118-109 home loss to the Washington Wizards, the problem isn’t with the players; it’s with the philosophy.

Less than five percent of Golden State’s shot attempts were taken after four or more passes were made in the half court. Instead, the Warriors were content to have the player bringing the ball up sprint into the frontcourt and jack up a shot, or make one pass to a player who then put up a shot attempt.

Specifically, the Warriors shot 10-22 for 20 points when the player who first caught or dribbled the ball in the frontcourt didn't make a pass. They shot 13-29 for 28 points when the player made one pass. That's 51 out of 83 shot attempts taken where no more than one pass was made on a possession, and that doesn't even take into account offensive putbacks (where the Warriors were 4-7 for 8 points).

Those 51 shot attempts led to 48 points for a ratio worse than one-to-one. Ususually an NBA team should average around 1.1 points per shot attempt, so Golden State's early offense philosophy was statistically ineffective, especially compared to how they did after making just one or two more passes.

When making two passes, the team's shot 9-16 for 21 points, an excellent ratio. On three passes, the team went 3-7 for 8 points. Golden State did misfire on a four-pass possession and a five-pass possession, but the numbers show that Golden State was more effective when they moved the ball.

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Defensively, the Warriors flashed quick hands attacking loose dribbles, swarmed to double team any poor ball handler, and gambled brazenly into passing lanes.

However, while the game plan did seduce the Wizards into abandoning their own discipline for stretches and while the Warriors did create open looks in transition and early offense, they were no match for Gilbert Arenas’ own dazzling offensive display.

Plus, whenever the Wizards attacked the Warriors in the paint, generating layups was a piece of cake.

Golden State’s interior and baseline rotations were completely ineffective. Sometimes, this was the case of Anthony Randolph not being aware of what was happening on the court, but mostly it was because the Warriors often entrusted pipsqueak Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, or C.J. Watson to be the player sliding along the baseline to meet penetrators.

Twice Anthony Randolph was so intent on stripping Brendan Haywood that the Wizards center put the ball on the floor from 18 feet out on the way to a dunk.

The Warriors decided to defend the struggling Caron Butler with Ellis, Watson, or Anthony Morrow. Butler just took his time in the post and either shot over or went through the overmatched Warriors on his way to a 13-for-22 shooting performance and 28 points.

Golden State also switched every screen not set by Haywood. As a result, guards were often stuck defending Butler and Jamison in the post.

The Warriors were habitually late in their transition defense and were also punished on the defensive backboard. While they only gave up 10 offensive rebounds, they knocked a number of missed shots out of bounds while getting shoved around under their basket.

The Warriors pathetic lack of size is best illustrated by the points in the paint they afforded the Wizards: 58. Plus another 21 from the free throw stripe.

And while Ellis scored 30 points with seven assists, he was destroyed by his counterpart Gilbert Arenas for 45 points and 13 dimes, the majority coming in head-to-head confrontations.

If Golden State’s defense was even somewhat competent, they might have had a chance to win the game. While Arenas, Haywood, and Butler decimated them inside, the softer, more impatient, and less talented Wizards were flustered by Golden State’s extreme pace.

Deshawn Stevenson shot 0-for-3, Nick Young 1-for-4 with two turnovers, Andray Blatche 4-for-12 with three turnovers, Antawn Jamison 4-for-14 with two turnovers, and Dominic McGuire didn’t attempt a shot while committing a turnover.

Plus, the Warriors pilfered 11 steals that they converted into 39 fast break points.

Anthony Randolph showed the electrifying talent, which excites every Warriors fan in existence, along with the maddeningly low basketball IQ that has him in Nelson’s permanent doghouse.

While Randolph can run and jump with any forward, and has guard-like handling and passing skills, he often passes into double teams or at the pass-target’s feet. Since Randolph’s rail thin, Haywood stole his lunch money in the post, and on an inbounds play, he dribbled the ball inbounds before making the pass, on a turnover Jeff Van Gundy labeled as “stupidity.”

Stephen Curry is an excellent shooter when unpreserved defensively, has good passing skills, above-average lateral quickness, and has a nice touch around the basket. He’s also physically puny and soft.

Corey Maggette is the only muscle man on the Warriors, and he put his guns to good use against the Wizards, barreling his way to the hoop on his way to 12 free throws (making 11) and a 6-for-10 day from the field.

Anthony Morrow is a shooter who shot too many blanks (2-for-8) and who played no defense.

Chris Hunter played effective interior defense, but he was abused when defending in early offense, and laid bricks when shooting his mid-range jumper (0-for-3).

C.J. Watson is small and quick, but he too is defenseless.

Vladimir Radmanovic looked to make the extra pass, finished on the break, but was absent in his defensive rotations.

Sadly, the way the Warriors are set up, the only way they can play is by forcing opponents to try to play a 200-mile per hour basketball game. Supposedly, against soft, undisciplined, opponents, the Warriors can force other teams to play at a pace they aren’t accustomed to and run them out of the building.

But if the Warriors can’t beat a Wizards team that isn’t high on discipline, nor as incredibly talented, whom can they beat?

At least when the Warriors had Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis, and Jason Richardson, they had three players who were incredibly strong for their position. Each of those players on select occasions also could play effective defense. That’s why the Warriors team from two seasons ago was almost affectionately known as a circus.

All that remains from those circus teams are the clowns, Don Nelson and Chris Cohan, whose power trips and incompetence make them the laughingstock of the league.