OAKLAND – After losing Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Monday night, the Warriors were left to nurse their wounds. Andre Iguodala described the 108-102 loss at Oracle Arena as being “hit in the mouth.”
Game 2 will show us how the Warriors, who have not lost back-to-back games at any time this season, respond to the sight of their own blood.
Here are three factors that will provide reveal the answer:
1. NEUTRALIZING THE BIG MEN:
The Warriors were at times hurt by Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but they were absolutely punished by Thunder center Steven Adams.
Adams produced 16 points (on 6-of-9 shooting from the field), a game-high 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. He played 37 minutes and was a game-best plus-19. The 7-foot New Zealander was the best big man on the floor, and it wasn’t close.
The traditional big men on the Warriors roster, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, both need bounce-back games. Bogut grabbed three rebounds in 17 minutes; he now has 15 in 80 minutes OKC this season. Ezeli committed four fouls in eight minutes.
If Bogut and Ezeli can offset Adams, the Warriors will take it and run. Otherwise, it could force Warriors coach Steve Kerr to rely on his small lineup more often.
The Warriors did a marvelous job of taking care of the ball in the first quarter, committing only one turnover while forcing six, off which they scored 11 points.
That allowed them to build an early lead, which may have provided a false sense of superiority. Why else would the defending champions become so reckless?
No one was a bigger culprit than Stephen Curry, who committed seven turnovers, some of which were in the open court, allowing the Thunder to fly in for dunks. Curry sometimes rides his immense bravado straight into disaster, and that’s what happened.
If the Warriors, particularly Curry, can treat the ball with care, they will find victory well within their reach.
3. SHARE THE BALL:
One of the first stats Kerr and his assistants direct their eyes to is the number of assists. They like to see the Warriors get to 30 or more. They had 26 in Game 1.
Don’t blame the first half. The Warriors scored 24 buckets, 18 of which were assisted. This was precisely the kind of rate the coaching staff desires.
The Warriors managed only 16 field goals after halftime, and only eight were assisted. They were overanxious, with Klay Thompson and Curry both launching shots without making the defense work.
If the Warriors can get to 30 assists – it won’t be easy – there is a very good chance they could break down the OKC defense and maybe even demoralize it. That would be enough to create another path to victory