Warriors learn that size and length still matter in a loss to Cavaliers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The notion that the Warriors are “too small” is widespread among the fan base and grows in popularity each time the team falls against a bigger and taller opponent, as was the case Sunday in Cleveland.
Against a brigade of defenders with wingspans ranging from 6-foot-10 (Donovan Mitchell, Georges Niang, Caris LeVert, Dean Wade) to 7-foot-6 (Jarrett Allen), the Warriors shot 36.2 percent from the field a 115-104 loss to the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Perhaps the only statistic more discouraging for Golden State than the fact that it shot 18 of 53 (34.0 percent) from inside the arc is its failure to shoot 20 of 32 (37.5 percent). in the paint against a team that is certainly a brutal duel.
So did Golden State’s 10 missed free throws and inability to make more than three fast-break field goals, as well as a 15-point second quarter – its lowest of the season – in which the Warriors scored an incredible 18, Shot 5 percent from the field.
But Cleveland’s combination of impressive length and defensive activity was clearly crucial.
Golden State’s roster is such that there will be matchups where the relative lack of size/length poses a risk. This was one of them.
“We weren’t aggressive in the first half,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Ohio. “They only had one blocked shot, but we were nervous at the rim. There are good reasons for it. They have two great shot blockers, were the No. 1 defense in the league last year and suffered a few losses.”
The Warriors had a 47-46 lead in field goal attempts in the first half. All too often, however, they seemed to sneak through the forest, looking for good views at the edge. They rarely found them.
The Cavaliers only blocked two shots, one from Evan Mobley (7-foot-4 wingspan) and the other from Tristan Thompson (7-foot-1), but they converted many others and outscored the Warriors 58-24 in the game.
“We have to attack the paint more,” Klay Thompson said.
“They always say styles cause fights,” said Stephen Curry, who led Golden State with 28 points. “From OKC to Cleveland, that’s a big difference in the way they approach the game. And their game plan won.
“It’s a good lesson for us in terms of understanding the details of how to beat certain teams and making those adjustments. We just couldn’t do it.”
Here, Curry and Thompson express their confidence in the team’s coaches on the bench and veterans on the field. They’re not the only ones on the payroll who think being smarter, more aggressive, and having a stronger “attack mentality” would be beneficial.
And maybe it would. It shouldn’t hurt.
But size matters. The length is really important. The agile length is game-changing and the Warriors only have so much to offer.
Kerr made a plea of sorts to three players Friday night after the narrow win over the Thunder. He said the team’s next step requires Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Gary Payton II to “be the athletes they are” and bring speed and athleticism on both ends.
Kerr knows this squad needs all of that – no one taller than 6 feet, no wingspan larger than Wiggs’ 7 feet – three is enough. Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, was good on Sunday and can be part of a solution.
Since Kevin Durant’s departure ended the “death lineup” periods, Dub Nation has been concerned about Golden State’s lack of size. The team’s overall reaction is a reminder that it was no bigger in 2021-22, when it finished as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and won the NBA Finals.
It’s a different league now. Yes, it happened so quickly.
The Warriors were edged out in the 2023 postseason by the Los Angeles Lakers, whose frontcourt includes Anthony Davis (7-foot-6 wingspan), Rui Hachimura (7-foot-2), Jarred Vanderbilt (7-foot-1) and LeBron James (7-foot).
Golden State’s road to the 2022 Finals last season began with the first-round exit of the Nuggets, who did not have Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With these three starters last season ably supporting all-world center Nikola Jokić, Denver won the Finals.
The Warriors experienced a tough matchup on Sunday. They will adapt. But if this roster holds up, there may be more games like this than adjustments need to be made.