As the Warriors head toward the All-Star break, it’s apparent they’re not playing their best ball of the season. Despite an incredible 41-9 record, Golden State’s play has slipped a little in recent weeks, and coach Steve Kerr points his finger at fatigue, which makes sense.
Their cornerstone players — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — have played 16 consecutive months of basketball when you factor in Team USA and that’s going to take a toll. Anyway, there are a variety of reasons why the Warriors have slowed down a tad (again, we’re nitpicking here with a 41-9 team), but I’ll tell you what hasn’t been a reason: Officiating.
When the Warriors lose or struggle or are involved in a physical game, there’s often a chorus of complaints from the fans — and they usually center on the fact that the Warriors don’t get to the line enough. Well, they don’t. And they’re probably not going to.
The reality is that most of the time the Warriors should take fewer free throws than their opponents, and that’s the way it should be. Golden State currently ranks 23rd in free throws attempted per game, at 21.7 attempts per game.
There are several reasons Golden State often gets out-attempted from the line, and here are a few:
First, make no mistake, the Warriors are a 3-point shooting team. It is the foundation of their game. And rightfully so. They’ve got truly special shooters. But when you take 27 3-pointers per game (which they do), you’re not going to get fouled as much. That just stands to reason.
Second, for the most part, their penetrators — Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Barnes — are finesse finishers and not contact finishers. There are players in the NBA who, when they go to the bucket, seek contact. Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose come to mind.
Curry and Thompson aren’t like that. Curry’s arsenal includes runners, teardrops and reverses, but it doesn’t really include the ability to take a hit and turn it into a three-point play. As for Thompson, nobody has improved their conversion rate on layups and drives like he has over the past couple of years.
But he gets to the rim by fitting through seems and using his length to outstretch defenses at the rim. Like Curry, he’s not the sturdiest of players, body-wise, so why would he want to be physical near the basket? And, really, Warriors fans — do you want Curry and Thompson taking hard fouls at the rim?
Thirdly, and pretty obvious, is the Warriors lack a back-to-the-basket scorer, someone you can dump it into in the halfcourt and let go to work. That’s not how they’re built. Thus, they seldom will have one of their bigger players take a lot of foul shots.
Lastly, when you have two players who have little to no interest in going to the foul line, then you’re probably going to suffer in the attempts category. Think about it, Iguodala and Andrew Bogut really aren’t chomping at the bit to get to the stripe. In fact, both have shown a propensity to shy away from offensive contact rather than absorb it.
The Warriors have been the best team in the Western Conference in the first half of the season. They can beat you in tons of ways. But out-shooting opponents from the foul line isn’t going to be one of them, though, at least not on a consistent basis.
Get used to it.