Rare Occasion: How the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs Lose

Originally written on April 1, 2016

 

Warning: What follows is an attempt to glean meaning from a small sample size, because these teams are too damn good this year to lose a human number of games. Proceed with that in mind.

 

Losses aren’t all that common when we’re talking about the Spurs and Warriors in 2016, but it’s worth taking a look at how  those losses happen when they do. As it turns out, not only do these teams win differently, but they lose differently.

Assumptions here are that this late in the season, there won’t be major deviation that would change the conclusions found since all the stats are season-long averages. All pulled from stats.nba.com (Synergy Sports).

 

Here’s the stats for the Warriors and Spurs in losses, compared to their losses:

 

Team Golden State San Antonio
PPG In Wins 117.3 106.8
PPG in Losses 95.7 99.9
Differential -21.6 -6.9

 

Both had significant decreases in their FG% and in their 3PT%, but those weren’t as drastically different as the numbers above. The Warriors’ dropped about 9 and 11, and the Spurs’ dropped about 6 and 10, respectively.

 

No one’s surprised that there’s a significant drop off in points scored when the team loses, but this is a drastic drop. A couple of the Dubs’ losses have been pretty bad, like getting crushed by Portland and whooped by the Lakers. What I get from the Spurs’ more modest drop-off in losses is that these two teams lose in profoundly different ways.

 

Assertion: The Warriors’ losses are predicated on the failure of their offense, while the Spurs’ losses come from a defensive failure.

 

The Spurs’ points per game are more consistent between losses and wins because they beat teams by dragging them down to their pace level (23rd in the league, just over 95.). When they fail to do that, teams out-shoot their offensive capabilities. That’s not to say they can’t have offensive explosions too, but they’re far less volatile because of their style of play.

 

The Warriors, however, are a walking squad of heat-checks. Possibly the best ever, but the fire does go out on occasion (seven occasions, so far). That massive difference in PPG from wins to losses. Everyone knows the Warriors can bury you, but if you can catch them on a cold night or chase them out of their comfort zone, they become tangible.
Look at it this way: both teams drown you, but the Spurs do it by pushing your head below the surface, where the Warriors do it by running a hose to the top of the tank. If you can keep your head above water, you can knock them off.

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