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Aussies in NBA Playoffs: Bogut fights despite Warriors slump
No one expected the first-seeded Golden State Warriors to head into Game 4 on a 1-2 disadvantage, fresh off back-to-back losses. And it is a battle to square the series up, away from the comfort of the Roaracle, at the Grindhouse.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Splash Brothers have not looked their usual selves. Curry has shot 15 of 41 combined across Games 2 and 3. Despite being hounded mercilessly by Tony Allen, Klay Thompson bounced back from a Game 2 slump (1 of 6 from deep), ending Game 3 on a respectable 61.5% shooting clip (8 of 13). The team has not been making shots, even ones that would have normally fallen, and it's a worrying sign.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ndrew Bogut has continued to battle in the face of adversity. He played 21:49 minutes this game, and had two points, shot one of four from the field, had eight rebounds (four offensive), two assists and a block. He's shot poorly this night, but everything else has been in line with his playoffs average this season.
The big man had four personal fouls in the third quarter, which triggered Bogut's move to the bench at that point. Caution on fouls aside, he's doing what he does, but it's not enough to get the Warriors the edge they need.
Memphis' hulking front court lineup continues to be an issue for Golden State. Even with Bogut playing tough defense on either Gasol or Randolph, the Warriors' lean and dexterous lineup continues to struggle against whoever is left. The threat of double-teams have not fazed the Memphis duo either; Z-Bo and Gasol have at times battled through a sea of defenders and gotten to the line. They combined to shoot 13 of 14 free throws in Game 3.
The situation is worsened, when the Dubs' defense is repeatedly punctured by Mike Conley through a mix of three-pointers and pinpoint passes.
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This is by no means a knock on Bogut.
First off, the Warriors need to shoot better. That begins with better passing. Move the ball from side to side, have more people moving off-ball, involve everyone, get a good solid shot. It doesn't have to be a three-point shot. Harrison Barnes has shown some gorgeous moves in the paint in Game 3, unleash him. Bogut might not be the scorer he was in Milwaukee, but it's not unthinkable for him to score more, should he be given the ball in the right spot.
The team also needs to get smarter on defense as a whole. They have to anticipate the passes quicker, trap harder and create turnovers off the Grizzlies' mistakes. Generate fast break opportunities and more possessions, take open shots before the defense gets set, and the Warriors might be able to knock the Grizzlies out of their punishing, grinding pace.
The onus is on Bogut to shore the rebounding front, especially defensive rebounds. Snaring second-chance opportunities are great, but the team must secure the rebounds on their own territory, and deny Memphis extra opportunities to attack.
Should the team play small without Bogut?
The Warriors found some success using a smaller lineup in the fourth and double-teaming the Grizzlies' big men.
"I think if we play the way we did the last four minutes defending the paint, we're going to win this series," Thompson said. "We made the adjustment. It was just too late." - source
Changing to a smaller, speedier lineup with Green at the center spot might yield dividends, but Bogut's size and physicality allows him to deny one of the Grizzlies' key big men from the rebounding battle. Let's not even start on post defense and rim protection. Will Green and Barnes be enough to stifle the Memphis frontcourt?
It's been said too often that jumpshooting teams do not emerge champions, and the Warriors are certainly not at their scoring best now. They are however, been a top defensive team all season, and they need to regain that identity fast, before the situation worsens.