Game story for tomorrow’s paper
MEMPHIS– It seems whenever the Warriors are in a nail biter, the question is not whether they’ll lose, but how. Saturday, a failed block out and an offensive foul secured a 104-103 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies.
Golden State(11-17) has lost three straight. The Warriors now have nine losses after being within a point in the final 90 seconds. If they’d won four of those, they’d be right there in the race for a playoff spot instead of flailing at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has repeatedly said learning how to win is a process. But this process seems to be taking forever.
“We don’t have a timetable for it,” forward David Lee said, “but certainly that’s been the reason that our record isn’t as good as we want it to be. We’ve lost a lot of close ones. The positive is that we’re not far off. The negative is we’ve let a lot of them slip away and it’s put us in a tough spot.”
The Warriors’ unclutchness wasted an otherwise impressive performance. They fought back from 18 down – Memphis jumped out to a 9-0 lead and led 27-9 late in the first – and wound up controlling the game most of the second half.
Golden State got monster performances from their starting backcourt, as Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry combined for 69 points and 12 assists. Ellis and Curry totaled 61 points their previous three games.
Ellis had nine in the third quarter as Golden State built a 75-64 lead. But when it came time to seal the deal, the Warriors needed the Heimlich.
“It’s the little things,” coach Mark Jackson said. “The little things that either win or lose ball games. … That’s a tough loss.”
Arguably the biggest little thing that cost the Warriors the game came with 5.6 seconds left. With the Warriors up a point, reserve forward Dominic McGuire did a masterful job defending Grizzlies star Rudy Gay, who was forced into a difficult pull-up with McGuire’s hand in his face. Gay — who missed four straight free throws in the final 2:26 – clanked the 14-footer.
But nobody blocked out Grizzlies guard Tony Allen. In one motion, he rebound Gay’s miss and dropped it in with two hands before the Warriors knew what hit them.
“The last line of our defense is securing the basketball. And when it mattered most, we weren’t able to do it. Disappointing. … Tony Allen wanted it. That’s what winners do.”
Warriors forward Dorell Wright got out of position trying to help defend on Gay. That created the opening for the offensive rebound. Of course, both center Andris Biedrins and big man Ekpe Udoh were on the bench for the most critical defensive possession.
“Gay causes so much attention when he pulls up because he’s hit so many game-winners,” Allen said. “I looked at Gay as he shot it and just went around Wright and just got the tip. There wasn’t anything special about it. I was just at the right place at the right time.”
Golden State still had a chance to win. After trying to get the ball to Ellis — who was draped by Allen, forcing the Warriors to call a timeout – the Warriors decided to inbound it to Lee. He was to fake the hand-off to Ellis and drive to the basket, making the Grizzlies play for their defensive aggression on the perimeter.
But Lee was out of control. Though replays show he was added by a one-hand shove from Memphis center Marc Gasol, Lee was called for an offensive foul after crashing into Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. Ball game.
“When I turned, there was three guys waiting on me,” Lee said. “I had to put the ball in the referees hands. I felt like I was tripped from behind and nobody took a square charge on me. But surprise, surprise, that call didn’t go our way.”
All season, Jackson has been juggling and experimenting with lineups and play calling, trying desperately to figure out what works. Unfortunately for the Warriors, nothing has resulted in consistent success.
Is it inexperience? Is it poor strategy? Is it lacking desire or insufficient talent?
“We’ve just got to find a way to get the job done,” guard Nate Robinson said. “It won’t be perfect. … We’ve just got to find a way to win no matter what it is. We’ve just got to want it.”
* Curry broke out of his slump with a season-high tying 36 points on 13-for-31 shooting.
He caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 16 points and knocking down all four of his 3-point attempts.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Curry was in his worst offensive stretch of the season. In the last four games before Memphis, he’d totaled 32 points 15-for-47 shooting (31.9 percent).
Before that slump, Curry hadn’t gone more than two games without scoring at least 20 points. But during those four games, his high was 14.
* The Warriors were outrebounded by 14 and they were doubled-up in points in the paint (Memphis had 44 to the Warriors’ 22). A big reason was the presence of Gasol.
He finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. He was the reason Biedrins fouled out and Udoh flirted with foul trouble.
The Warriors had Tyson Chandler listed as their top priority this offseason, and they followed by going after restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan next. But perhaps the real apple of the Warriors’ eye, according to multiple team sources, was Gasol.
No doubt, Jackson is a big fan.
“He’s one of the top five smartest players in the league,”Jackson said of Gasol.
Golden State never made an offer because, according to one source, they had every reason to believe Memphis would match. So the Warriors never made an offer and Gasol signed a four-year, $58 million contract with Memphis.
The Warriors would have had to jump super high to getMemphisto let Gasol walk. But going that high would’ve required Golden State using the amnesty on Biedrins. One source said that was too risky because if Memphis matched the Warriors would have had no legitimate center on the roster at the time.