For all the talk of coaching brilliance between Donovan and Kerr in this series, each game has essentially come down to a coin flip. It sounds almost silly to say considering that the average point disparity through five games has been 18.8, but it’s true.
It’s easy to condense a potentially effective game plan into coach-isms and clichés, throwing around statements like “we need to want it more than the other team,” or “if our guys buy in and play The Right Way…”
Donovan and Kerr are obviously way too qualified for coach-speak, and only employ it when they don’t want to spoil their game plan. The real X’s and O’s are already in order.
Here’s what the Thunder–or the Warriors–need to do to take Game 6:
Keep Andrew Bogut off the floor
In Games 3 and 4 in OKC, the Thunder were able to get Bogut into foul trouble early and keep the big man off the floor. In Game 5, Bogut had Steven Adamsian performance, providing 15 points, 14 boards (four on the offensive glass), two blocks, and two steals. He was everywhere. He was an irritant, frustrating the Thunder frontline all night. Because the Warriors were able to play Bogut, the more offensively skilled big man Mo Speights was also able to stay on the floor and carve up the Thunder’s lineup. Donovan must find a way to take Bogut out of the game early–either with foul trouble, or with a smaller lineup.
Although the two teams are arguably a match athletically (this homer would give the slight edge to OKC), a quicker pace benefits the Thunder more than the Warriors. It’s already apparent Westbrook, Durant, Waiters, and even Roberson (to a point) are highly effective in transition, but it’s the big men who make the difference. Steven Adams has more agility, quickness, and speed than just about any other center in the league. Serge Ibaka, despite his statistical decline this season, is still a world-class athlete. Enes Kanter is far behind the two athletically, but his nimble footwork enables him to be a factor against the relatively plodding big men of the Warriors in Bogut, Speights, and Ezeli.
Let me put it simply: if the Warriors come away even with the Thunder on the boards–like they did in Game 4–it’s a loss for the Thunder every time. Offensive rebounding has been the Thunder’s calling card all season to some degree, but especially so in the postseason. Enes Kanter was so highly effective on the offensive glass against the Spurs. Although he doesn’t match up as well against Draymond Green or Bogut, he may be able to feast on Speights or even Festus Ezeli.
The Warriors worst nightmare: Kevin and Russell running downhill in transition. There’s simply no one (save Draymond Green) who could even attempt to stop the two after they gain a full head of steam. Steph Curry, for all of his ball-handling wizardry, has turned the ball over 22 times. The Warriors have four major rotation players who have a turnover rate higher than 15% in the series: Bogut, Curry, Speights, and Green. Limiting easy transition points–and trying to keep the raucous Thunder crowd out of the game–is of paramount importance for the Dubs.
Andre Rob Probs
Much has been made of the Warriors defense (or lack thereof) on Andre Roberson this series. Kerr, content to leave him in the corner, instead throws two or even three different defenders on Westbrook or Durant every single possession. Donovan’s counter-strategy, effectively overusing Roberson on offense, has made the Warriors pay for leaving him alone. He’s doesn’t just want Andre standing in the corner: Donovan needs Roberson to be on the constant lookout for open lanes to the bucket.
What does this mean for the Warriors? Steve Kerr needs to make a tough decision: possibly allow Roberson to burn them on offense, or play him honestly and hope they can contain Westbrook and Durant.
Steph Curry was the MVP of the regular season, sure. I’ll give you one guess as to who else is just as valuable to the Warriors on a night-in, night-out basis.
(You’re so smart.)
Draymond Green is the lynchpin of the Warriors, both offensively and defensively. Yes, he postures, flexes, screams, scowls, barks, scoffs, and even kicks. Was that a low blow? Ask Draymond.
He sets the tone for his team physically, playing the way Kendrick Perkins wishes he still could. He is his teammates’ biggest critic when they blow an assignment, and their biggest fan when they execute perfectly. A combined -68 in Games 3, 4 and 5, the Warriors will need to have a plus night from Green to be able to win.