The Golden State Warriors have managed to tie up the NBA Finals at 1-1 defeating the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 without its superstar, scoring-machine Kevin Durant. However, the Warriors have not played up to their potential on defense or in late-game execution at Scotia Bank Arena in Toronto.
Photo Courtesy: TheScore
Specifically, as it pertains to this post, the porous late-game execution very well might keep Golden State away from a championship if it does not get corrected heading back to the Bay Area on Wednesday night. Within the last two minutes, the Warriors have struggled in multiple games and in multiple series versus the Clippers, Rockets, and Raptors. Let’s take a look at each of these scenarios:
Warriors vs. Clippers — Game 2: 1st Round
This play by Draymond is just irreprehensible. All you need to do is take a look at Steve Kerr as the errant pass flies into the hands of Landry Shamet of the visiting team. Draymond simply loses his head on this play and commits an atrocious turnover with under 2-minutes in a one-possession playoff game. Situations like these have been commonplace throughout the postseason.
Warriors @ Clippers — Game 3: 1st Round
This play, which occurs with 90 seconds of the game clock, is not technically a turnover, but it serves as one in actuality. The possession starts with Durant dribbling the ball at the top to run clock without much off-ball movement. The pass goes to Draymond Green and Durant backs out to the same area he passed from as the ball ends up in the hands of Iguodala with little to no time left to do much. Iguodala is forced to take a horrible shot with under a minute left. Although this wasn’t a high-pressure moment it is indicative of the Golden State’s lack of late-game execution.
Warriors @ Clippers — Game 3: 1st Round
On simple inbounds play with 31.7 seconds left, Stephen Curry commits an offensive foul on Patrick Beverley. Now, I understand that most of you reading this will argue that the final score has been decided at this point, it is these sort of plays which can prevent a team like Golden State from winning a title in more high-pressure scenarios.
The biggest issue I have here is the fact that Curry receives the inbound pass and no one cuts around him to help him out. Durant, who passes in the ball, hardly moves one iota in either direction to make himself available.
Warriors vs Rockets — Game 1: West Semifinals
Durant is not exempt from criticism for his late-game instincts and play. The Warriors have the ball with 21.3 seconds in a single possession against the vaunted Houston Rockets. Durant catches the ball guarded by Chris Paul and allows the double team from Danuel House Jr. to come his way and be stripped of the basketball.
Think about the magnitude of this moment in which the Rockets are running full-speed in transition with the ball in their possession with a chance to tie the game back up on the road. Durant should have easily delivered the ball to a wide open Iguodala underneath the basket but missed the opportunity due to the swarming pressure by his primary defender Chris Paul.
Warriors @ Raptors — Game 2: NBA Finals
Now, we fast forward to Game 2 of the NBA Finals where the Warriors have a 106-104 lead with 24-plus seconds left on the clock. Stephen Curry who is bringing up the basketball is met by both #23 Fred VanFleet and #43 Pascal Siakam. The ball is swung to Draymond Green to Shaun Livingston and eventually back to Green. As Curry releases from VanFleet to get another catch he is surrounded and trapped by both Raptors defenders.
Curry is panicked and forces up a lucky pass to Livingston, which was almost stolen by the NBA’s premier defender #2 Kawhi Leonard. Somehow the ball winds up in Andre Iguodala’s hands and he buries a clutch 3-point shot to put the Warriors up 5 with just 5.9 seconds left.
This scenario is a microcosm of all the previous poor showings late in these playoff games. When the Warriors feel the pressure in both ball pressure and on the clock they’ve shown a tendency to be sped up.
Plays like these must be managed better by the Warriors players, especially the superstars and leaders of the team if they hope to hold off the voracious efforts of the Raptors the rest of these NBA Finals.