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Revisiting Game 7: Poor Klay Thompson

Warriors guard Klay Thompson, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, left Oracle Arena with his uniform on. His jeans, his sweater, his shoes, all left behind in his locker. Not even a week after missing the potential game-winning shot at Sacramento, Thompson has been dealt another cruel lesson by the NBA.

In Saturday’s loss to Denver, Thompson emerged as the goat. He missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds of overtime, and making both would’ve probably sealed the game. To make matters worst, he allowed Denver forward Danilo Gallinari drive right by him for the game-tying WIDE OPEN dunk though the Warriors had a foul to give and all it took was for Thompson to grab him.

Then, in double-overtime, the Warriors were inbounding the ball with 35.9 seconds remaining down 103-101. As the play evolved, the ball wound up in Thompson’s hands. Despite only need a basket to tie the game, despite still having some 15 seconds on the shot clock, despite having missed nine of his previous 14 attempts, Thompson hoisted a 3-pointer. He missed, all but sealing the loss.

MARK JACKSON: “I wish I had an excuse to co-sign that it was his youth. But no. Not at all. I think there’s a part of him that let the missed free throws get to him, or a missed shot. But no, not youth. But he’s going to be fine. And this is not just him. We made mistakes across the board. And we’re going to get better.”

In many ways, Thompson embodies where the Warriors are in their development. Talented and full of promise but don’t yet know how to win. So inexperienced they manage to turn a strength into a weakness. The good things they do obscured by glaring limitations.

No doubt, Saturday’s performance by Thompson — 9 of 26 shooting, 3 turnovers — was devastating. The only question is whether this becomes a benchmark for his development, whether this creates a sense of urgency in him that leads to improvement.

Same goes for the Warriors.

JACKSON: “I understand it’s a process. In order to get there, you’ve got to go through times like this. But I’m not a guy that’s patient with process when it comes to that. There are mistakes that you can’t make. And we made some.”

More on Saturday’s loss …

WRITER’S RANT: This rant will start with an “I told you so” of sorts. Because what happened at the end of the game Saturday only proved what I was getting at on the last rant. Down two points with 35.9 seconds left. The sky is the limit as to what the Warriors can do to get a bucket. This is why it is so important to aptly identify a good shot from a bad shot. Because with 25.9 seconds left, Thompson took a 3-pointer. He was hurried, leaning forward a bit, no doubt thinking about his previous mistakes.

That was not a good shot.

But that leads to this new rant. Why go away from what was working? When the Warriors were most at need, and had a timeout to plan it, they came out and put the ball in David Lee’s hands in the post.

Of the 19,596 people in the attendance, no doubt Lee would rank about third, maybe fourth, of the guys who the offense should run through in that moment. Curry had it going and was under control (1 turnover after the third quarter). Landry was effective at getting to where he wanted on the floor. Even Jarrett Jack had shown he’s a worthy option. But Lee, he’d been getting bullied all night, clearly didn’t have his offense working, and was most effective as a finisher/clean-up guy.

Jackson says he’ll go to the hot guy. But the play started in the hands of struggling Lee and ended up in the hands of cold and frazzled Thompson.

When the Warriors had Monta Ellis, they used to go with the iso at the top. Clear out, let him make a play. I didn’t necessarily like that option (because it usually ended in a low-percentage shot). But what was right about it was that it was consistent. Everybody knew their role, what was coming, what to do, even the chances of it working. That’s the product of having a consistent go-to player or play. The Warriors need to develop that. Surely, they’ll be in more nail-biters.

What happened to the play that got Klay a free-throw jumper? What happened to the pick-and-roll with Curry and Landry that had been effective.

Sometimes, I believe, coaches get in their own way. Sometimes, it’s not based on the situation. The good teams know what they’re going to do (go to their strength) and they dare the opponent to stop them. Whether it’s a high pick-and-roll, a post option, an iso with a certain player, Golden State needs to develop a consistent plan for what they are going to do when they REALLY need a bucket.

Ideally, that plan would involve a good shot at the end.

MVP: Carl Landry.

He carried the Warriors in the fourth quarter and overtime. He finished with 22 points and 9 rebounds. At the end of the third quarter, he had 5 points and 1 rebound.

While David Lee was getting his shots swatted around like a shuttlecock, Landry’s cagey inside game proved effective against Denver’s active bigs, who seemed to block well more than nine the nine shots they were given credit for. Landry used the pump fake effectively, mixed up his moves to prevent predictability.

He didn’t rebound especially well, but he came with some clutch offensive rebounds to keep the Warriors in the game.

Stephen Curry showed up big late, but they had no shot without Landry.

MDP: No sense in piling on.

KEY MOMENT I: The Warriors were down three after a Faried layup when Curry came alive. Having checked in for the final 5 minutes, and playing with 5 fouls, he nailed two clutch 3-pointers give the Warriors the lead and inject some energy into the Warriors.

That set up Jarrett Jack’s game-tying drive down the stretch as Denver’s defense was paying special attention to Curry, which gave Jack a driving lane.

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “This is the worst I’ve felt after a game. To be quite honest with you, last year, we were not good enough, talent wise, to win a lot of ball games. That’s just flat out the truth. We’re good enough right now. We got outworked. They dominated us on the boards. We made critical mistakes down the stretch that are simple, basketball plays to make. To come out the huddle with a foul to give and they get a drive dunk. And we talked about it. Bottom line is you can’t make these mistakes. Good teams, the playoff teams, the elite teams, they don’t make these mistakes. We’ve got to be disappointed. It’s just a bad feeling.” — Mark Jackson

COACH’S CORNER: I’m not prepared to say Mark Jackson is costing the Warriors games. But the Warriors are already limited, which puts extra onus on the bench to have it together. And, Saturday, Jackson and his crew made some questionable decisions.

First off, it’s a disservice to Thompson to play him 55 minutes.

The second-year guard logged 33 minutes after halftime, some 5 minutes more than any other Warrior, and three minutes more than any Nugget. Lee played 29 minutes after halftime. Meanwhile, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins combined logged 22 minutes, 3 seconds.

The Warriors’ strength is supposed to be depth. And it’s not as if Lee and Thompson were playing lights out.

Secondly, Jackson abandoned the traditional lineup in crunch time in favor of the small ball. The only reason that was surprising was because Denver was so dominant inside. Biedrins was playing well and rookie center Festus Ezeli figured to fare better against the physicality of Faried.

One thing Jackson did good was his offense-defense substitutions down the stretch. At the end of the fourth quarter and the fourth overtime, he brought in Draymond Green and Charles Jenkins. Those three, with Richard Jefferson, gave the Warriors activity and strength, which was much needed. It was a great job of milking the talent on the bench.

TELLING STAT: The Nuggets had 113 shots on Friday, 11 more than Golden State. Why?Denver totaled 23 offensive rebounds. So even though they shot 38.1 percent like the Warriors, the Nuggets had an advantage.

KEY MOMENT II: After Ty Lawson missed a pull-up jumper, Curry skied for a rebound in the paint. The Warriors up 5 and appeared to get a key stop. A bucket probably could’ve ended the game. But as Curry gathered himself, Kenneth Faried reached in to try to take the ball. The officials called a jump ball.

It seemed to be a quick whistle, and replays showed Faried grabbed Curry’s arm. Nonetheless, Curry had to jump it up against the 6-foot-8 leaper.

After a long review, the ball was awarded to Denver. But Andre Miller split a pair of free throws. Minimal damage, right?

On the other end, after an offensive rebound by Landry led to a foul, Landry missed a pair of free throws. About 15 seconds later, Iguodala hit a 3-pointer.

The Warriors, who should have been up by at least six points with just over a minute left, was now up 1. The momentum hijacked by a relentless Denver squad.

After Landry missed a layup, Gallinari found himself wide-open for what turned out to be the game-winning 3-pointer.

BEFORE YOU GO: Oracle Arena went crazy. Sure, it was just the 6:09 mark of the second quarter. But the unimaginable had just happened.

Andris Biedrins made a pair of free throws.

Yes, both. And, yes, the same Biedrins who made just 15 of his previous 69 free throws (21.7 percent) over the last three-plus years.

One game after airballing a free throw terribly at the Lakers, Biedrins responded by drilling a couple of lasers from the charity stripe that banged off the back rim.

Marcus Thompson