After a 114-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Monday night, the Golden State Warriors now face a 0-2 deficit in a playoff series for the first time in Stephen Curry’s illustrious career.
While there’s still plenty to play out, and the reigning champions should feel optimistic about their chances of defending home court themselves, they’re now put in a perilous position where their season is well and truly on a knife’s edge.
Steve Kerr’s rotations are a major talking point of the Golden State Warriors’ Game 2 loss, and looking ahead to Game 3 and beyond.
Andrew Wiggins was back in the starting lineup on Monday, with the returning 28-year-old being one of the better Warrior players with 22 points and five rebounds. His re-insertion did completely jumble Steve Kerr’s rotation though, having been the first time three guards — Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo and Gary Payton II — had been coming off the bench together.
There’s a number of layers to this. It almost starts with Kerr’s somewhat strange reduction in trusting Jonathan Kuminga, with the second-year forward playing less than four minutes in Game 2. The absence of a big, athletic forward puts greater pressure on the top eight in the rotation, five of which are guards.
Monday saw the largest diet of four-guard lineups that we’ve seen from the Warriors this season, a ploy that simply isn’t sustainable for any significant period. It’s become clear that any three or four-guard lineups, in a playoff setting, has to at least try and mitigate the defensive issues that come with the lack of size.
As a result, Jordan Poole plays less than 16 minutes in Game 2, Donte DiVincenzo goes from starting to playing less than 13, and Gary Payton II plays nearly 27. Lineups involving Poole need to have size and defense around him, and if he doesn’t have that, then he’s borderline unplayable unless his offense is absolutely elite (which it certainly hasn’t been through two games). His clear ankle issue don’t help matters, but the issues are still there regardless.
The lineup issues exacerbate further when one of the bigs get into foul trouble. Both Kevon Looney and Draymond Green suffered that fate in Game 2 — the latter picked up his fourth early in the second-half, and Looney his fifth shortly after. Green was then ejected from the ball game in the fourth-quarter after a controversial play with Domantas Sabonis.
The pressure on Green and Sabonis can’t be understated, but it’s something they and the team have been dealing with all season. This is the bed Golden State made and they now have to lie in it. It doesn’t mean the Warriors can’t come back and win this series, or even push further into the postseason, but having five guards as part of your top eight players is a clear indication of a flawed roster that’s hard to overcome.