The Los Angeles Lakers caused one of the biggest regular season upsets in history by beating the Golden State Warriors, but as tempting as it is to try and find some new, secret weakness with this record breaking Warriors team, it’s probably more a case of being “one of those games”.
The Warriors shot 13.3% from beyond the arc in the 112-95 loss, which didn’t stop them from hurling 30 three-point attempts in this game. They didn’t change anything because shots weren’t dropping or the Lakers did a better job than most in staying with the Warriors on some of these usually open shots. This is how the Warriors play and win. But when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot just 1-of-18 from three-point range, it’s difficult getting anything done.
While the media tried to spin this game as some passing of the torch moment between Kobe Bryant and Curry, the torch hasn’t been in Bryant’s hand for a number of years, and he had very little to do with the win. He’s playing badly with a badly hurting shoulder. He shot just 4-of-14 from the field to score 12 points. The energy and scoring of the Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell backcourt, combining to score 46 points, while Russell also added 5 assists and 4 steals, had a lot more to do with the win.
The Warriors looked like a team that didn’t really lose any sleep about the Lakers and maybe approached this game a little bit carelessly. It’s happened to them before in this season, and it’s probably impossible to avoid when you win so much and it’s such a long season. The Warriors have gotten away with some close ones over the last two weeks, with officials also helping out a little bit, as it usually goes with championship bound teams. Is there some slippage in the focus and drive, which also helped them pick up 20 turnovers? We need to see consecutive losses before determining that.
But what can be learned from the Warriors losing? It’s usually big. If they lose, it often comes with falling apart. The shots don’t fall, and they keep on shooting. Bad shooting days for this team can turn into ugly losses, but it’s so rare to see them struggle to make open shots. Yes, the Lakers were aggressive in a way that might have slightly surprised the Warriors, but this isn’t a team that beats and bullies teams off the floor. While there’s always the need to dig deep and try to find one big reason for everything, sometimes it’s pretty simple: They didn’t make shots, and lost focus quickly. Maybe it says something about their seriousness and preparation when heading into certain games, but after every loss this season they came back firing on all cylinders.
This is a team that shoots 41.2% from beyond the arc. In their six losses this season, they’ve shot 40% from three just once. Their shooting in losses in 30.4%, but only in the loss to the Lakers (4-for-30 from beyond the arc) and one other loss did they shoot a really bad, sub 30% from three. Stephen Curry averages the same points in losses and wins, but his three point shooting falls from 46.8% in wins to 37.3% in losses. When you take nearly 12 three pointers a game, suddenly that kind of drop to still a very good number might mean something.
But trying to take a broad look at the few moments in which the Warriors were beaten this season, it’s hard to find a connection. The interesting thing is that none of these losses have come against their contending teams, which is quite different from the Chicago Bulls in 72-10, who usually lost their games (often in very close contests) to teams they were in direct competition with for the title or the Eastern crown. With just one single-digit loss this season, the one thing we can say with some certainty about Warriors losses, is that when it rains, it pours down on them, although it never seems to have a lasting effect.