© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Another YMCA game? Another YMCA game.
It was an old school sort of NBA game. Nothing was hitting from behind the arc. There was stingy, effort-laden defense from start to finish. Nearly all of the scoring came from within the paint or from the line. It harkened back to a much more physical era, highlighted by stretches from Eric Paschall trying to be a bully against Domantas Sabonis and Sabonis responding in kind.
By its conclusion, the Warriors won 111-107, splitting the season series with the Indiana Pacers and improving to 18-15.
Who needs threes?
If you need a summary of this game, take this quote from commentator Mike Breen, who pointed out the three-point scoring from both teams at the end of the third quarter.
“Seven-of-39 from three-point range. Yikes.”
The last time the Warriors played the Pacers, it was also ugly. They were 34-of-89 from the field (38.2 percent), 13-of-38 from three (34.2 percent), and 14-of-22 from the free throw line (63.6 percent). The difference on Wednesday was that the Warriors, despite shooting 5-of-26 from deep, thrived in the paint and made their free throws (28-of-31).
Here’s what the shooting chart looked lead heading into that fourth:
Practice your layups, kids pic.twitter.com/QwUnPiRFoC
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) February 25, 2021
Another third quarter shooting stat by the conclusion of the third:
Wiggins, Curry and Oubre are a combined 1-for-15 from 3-point range. The Warriors are 3-for-20 from 3 as a whole.
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) February 25, 2021
And that shooting didn’t improve in the fourth quarter. The Warriors finished 5-of-26 from three (19.2 percent) and the Pacers finished 7-of-29 (24.1 percent). Ugly, but the job got done.
Curry was woefully off target, finishing with 24 points, but shooting 7-of-21 and 1-of-11 from three, and tallying 8 rebounds, 8 assists and a couple steals with 4 turnovers. Andrew Wiggins (15 points on 5-of-13 shooting) and Kelly Oubre (17 points on 7-of-15) combined to shoot just 1-of-8 from three. Kent Bazemore also went 1-for-4. It was ugly.
It was that defensive efficiency that won this war of attrition. Draymond Green, so often a bellwether for this team’s performance, was effective, thriving in a game that suits his style. He finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, a block and 3 turnovers with 5 fouls.
Wiseman productive before fouling out, then Paschall acts as bully in his stead
Wiseman is clearly still learning the NBA game, but his talent is absurd. In just 18 minutes, he continued to provide that interior defensive presence they have so sorely missed, and offered that athleticism and length in side they are desperate for, especially on inefficient nights like these.
Wiseman had 11 points (5-of-8, 1-of-1 from three), 5 rebounds and a steal before fouling out with roughly nine minutes remaining. With him out of the game, Eric Paschall got the opportunity to run that small-ball center role.
And Paschall loved it. He took the chance to challenge Domantas Sabonis on just about every possible possession. He still relies too much on his strength and feels hard done by when he’s called by the fouls that result from that, but Paschall’s in-your-face, aggressively physical style of play was a perfect match for this game.
He finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and one of just about everything else (rebound, assist, steal, block) with four turnovers and four fouls.
Turns out that defense-oriented talk wasn’t bluster
When this season began, the Warriors made it abundantly clear that they wanted to hang their hat on defense. You can’t really get Steve Kerr to stop talking about how much he prioritizes defense, pointing out recently that he has always expected this Warriors team to be one defined by getting stops, not by outscoring opponents by fantastic margins.
And that’s been obvious. This team switches efficiently, closes down space abruptly, and works for help defense when possible. Spark-plug, rangy wings like Draymond Green, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins and Juan Toscano-Anderson have been harnessing the vision of Warriors assistant coach and defensive mastermind Ron Adams.
That prioritization of defense will produce many more nights like Wednesday. Ugly, brutish, just grind-it-out basketball. But it’s where the Warriors have placed their pride and believe their long-term success this season remains.