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Revisiting Game 13: Golden State Looks Like Old Warriors in Loss at Denver

The Warriors certainly weren’t the gritty, hang-in-there, never give-up type road team they’d show for most of the year. They’ve often praised themselves for staying close instead of caving like the Warriors of the past.

But Friday, they caved.  The new Warriors looked like the Warriors of old, losing 102-91 at Denver. It wasn’t as close as the score suggested. It seems like Denveris just a bad match-up.

“Needless to say, especially after our last game against them, they’re not our favorite team,” forward David Lee said of the Nuggets after he finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

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More on Friday’s defeat…

WRITER’S RANT: (Clarification, this rant was generated by numerous fan complaints about the officials. Further proving my point, no player or coach blamed the officials after the game, on the record or off) Chill with the crying about fouls, already. It’s a terrible excuse for losing and it makes you look bad. Any team relying on the referees for victory is not a good team. Any team that requires a perfectly called game to win simply doesn’t have much hope.

Anyone who has watched basketball knows: 1) the calls generally wind up being about even or at least close; 2) the benefit goes to the aggressor; 3) the home team gets a little love. Just the way it is.

But there is a reason no champion has ever thanked the referees while hoisting the trophy. Because refs don’t determine games. They officiate them. And any good player knows how to adjust to the officiating.

Now, if the game comes down to the final play(s) and the ref makes a bad call that impacts the outcome, that’s one thing. Gripe away. But when you lose handily, when you’re categorically outplayed, crying foul becomes a diversion from the real issue.

To be sure, you should expect a disparity in foul calls/free throws every game from Golden State. It’s a style of play thing, though, and not referees hatin.

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The Warriors get a lot of foul calls because they play defense with their hands. They slap and swipe and shove. It is a steals-driven mentality, usually employed by those who can’t or don’t want to play defense.

When’s the last time a Warrior committed a flagrant foul? Or a borderline one? Had to be Matt Barnes. Maybe Vlad Radmanovic. Usually the hard foul happens when you’re beat, and you’re frustrated. The Warriors don’t get frustrated when they get beat. They’re programmed to reach. It’s why they give up so many three-point plays.

Granted, they have gotten better with positioning. When you’re in the right spot, you don’t have to reach. But it’s a habit that takes a long time to break. The Warriors are going to commit a lot of fouls until they do.

Then, on the flip side, the Warriors don’t have anyone other than Landry adept at creating fouls. Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, they all do everything they can to avoid fouls. They contort their body, alter the angle, switch hands — all to avoid contact and try to make the shot. That’s why when the shot stops falling, they struggle.

I was taught when you’re shots not falling, you need one of two things: a layup or a free throw. Those easy points is what gets your shot going again. That very thinking is the reason you start with a layup line during pre-game warm-ups.

When’s the last time you seen a Warrior other than Landry draw a foul? Not get fouled while shooting. But aggressively, and intentionally, draw a foul. Whether it be to pump fake and absorb contact, or lean into someone on purpose, even offensively flop by sticking their foot out? Drawing fouls is an art, one the Warriors lack in most of their top scorers.

So, a propensity for creating fouls and an inability to draw them is the reason for the foul discrepancy. Not referees.

MVP: Carl Landry

He had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. More than that, he was the sole reason Golden State didn’t lose by 25. When the going got tough, and Denver had mounted a 15-0 run, the rest of the Warriors went soft and settled for jumpers. Landry, meanwhile, went to work inside. He gave the Warriors three straight critical buckets in the third quarter.

The whole second half, even, he was physical, aggressive, visibly irritated and wanted to do something about it.

MDP: Stephen Curry

He didn’t take a shot in the first half, which foul trouble or no is borderline unacceptable. Then, in the second half, clearly eager to get going, he rushed his shots. The only real impact he had on the game was negative: touch fouls for three-point plays and turnovers (4). Just 3 assists, 1 rebound, 0 steals. Even with his mistakes, he just can’t be a non-factor like that.

CURRY: “I was kind of back-and-forth off the bench in the first half. But that’s no excuse. I’ve got to be more aggressive, whether I’m shooting or making plays.”

KEY MOMENT I: With 3:10 left in the second quarter, and the game tied at 44, the Warriors took control of the game on the back of David Lee.

He started the run with a layup. On defense, he picked off a Ty Lawson pass and on the ensuing offensive possession assisted on a Klay Thompson 3-pointer. After another stop, Lee got free inside for another layup, putting Golden State ahead 51-44.

Golden State closed the first half with a 9-3 run, exactly the surge they needed to finish a rather mediocre first half.

JACKSON: “I think ultimately we were fortunate to be up at halftime. To me it was fool’s gold. They outplayed us but we had the lead. And we didn’t respond in the third quarter, as simple as that.”

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “It’s a little extra sting when we don’t get back in transition. It’s a little extra sting when we don’t take care of the basketball. It’s a little extra sting when we’re not the most physical team on the floor. They earned the right to throw lobs and celebrate. Who am I to criticize? I’ve been part of the dance team. But it’s got to bother you to the point where you make adjustments, and we did not.” — Mark Jackson, when asked if the Nuggets’ dunkfest added a little extra sting to the loss.

COACH’S CORNER: At some point, Mark Jackson is going to see the pattern. Going small is not the way to beat a big lineup. You cannot give most of the minutes to defensively challenged offensive players and then get mad when your team doesn’t play defense well enough.

I like Landry. I really do. He was a great pick-up. But when he is playing with David Lee, the Warriors’ best hope is to survive on defense, not thrive as Jackson preaches. It is setting them up to fail, especially David Lee, making them defend and rebound against centers. Even mediocre ones, or centers that don’t have especially formidable post games.

I get the pairing in doses. But the steady diet thing just doesn’t work.

With guys like Faried and McGee, you need someone like Festus on the court. Someone who will bang with them. Someone who will make them feel something when they get in the lane. Even Biedrins, who sometimes has the energy and length to get in the way.

But 6-foot-9 limited athletes like Landry and Lee doesn’t scare them. And it makes Landry and Lee’s job harder. Sometimes, they do hold their own. Golden State actually won the rebounding battle last night, with Curry and Barnes combining for just 3 rebounds. But why add to their load unnecessarily?

Jackson had been choosing defense over offense lately. Certainly, it’s a good thing to see Draymond Green playing more (he’s basically the back up SF now). And you’d figure he would’ve stuck with those guns after the small lineup didn’t work last time against Denver.

Here is a solution: play Landry at small forward, Lee at power forward, Ezeli at center. Take your pick of Curry, Jack, Klay and Harrison Barnes at shooting guard. That way, you get the offense of Lee and Landry without sacrificing the presence of Ezeli.

Can Landry guard small forwards? Probably not. But he can’t guard centers either. At least small forwards like Danilo Gallinari (or Andre Kirilenko) are working form the perimeter. And if they beat him off the dribble, he’ll have Festus as a last line of defense. Is it ideal? No. But neither is getting dominated inside or playing defense with one hand behind your back.

It’s unanimous now that the third quarters are make-or-break for the Warriors. If that’s the case, that falls on the bench. Adjustments out of halftime are on the coach. If the team doesn’t respond, that’s on him. Same if he does.

But knowing he doesn’t have the Spurs’ experience, or the Thunder’s explosiveness, it seems Jackson should micromanage the third quarter. For instance, to start the third quarter, the Nuggets got an alley-oop (and the foul) to Faried and a tap in by Gallinari. The Warriors started with a Curry 20-footer and a post-up of Ezeli. Not ideal.

Still, no timeout.

Next, Jack misses a jumper. Then Iguodala gets a fast-break layup and the foul. The Warriors’ six-point halftime lead is gone, the game tied at 53 with 10:18 left in the third and Iggy is headed to the free throw line. Denver has all the momentum.

That would’ve been an ideal time to call a timeout. Regroup. Make an adjustment. If nothing else, give the Nuggets a moment to cool off.

Having come up empty on three straight possessions, knowing the game could slip away, that would’ve been the perfect time to bring Landry in. Get a high percentage shot, slow the game down.

Jackson doesn’t call a timeout, and the only sub before the free throw was bringing Thompson back in after his eye was cleared. The result was three straight 3-pointers by the Warriors. Jackson finally called a timeout after Iguodala nailed a wide-open 3-pointer. But the run was 10-0 and the Warriors were down 57-53 with 9:13 left in the third.

Needing a bucket badly, he brings in Andris Biedrins and Draymond Green. Still no Landry. He doesn’t come in until the 6:47 mark.

CURRY: “The third quarter has been our nemesis. When we play well in the third, we win. If we don’t, we put ourselves in too big of a hole and let the other team get too confident, too aggressive.”

Knowing that,Jackson needs to be much more hands-on and proactive. That letting them play through it stuff doesn’t work with a young team.

KEY MOMENT II: Curry, who hadn’t taken a shot in the first half, chucked the first jumper he saw to start the second half. On the other end, Faried dunked home a lob from center Kosta Koufos. It was the start of a pattern that would lead to a 15-0 run: the Warriors taking jumpers, the Nuggets attacking the inside.

Danilo Gallinari followed with a tip-in, then Andre Iguodala drove in for a layup and the foul. Lawson then drove into the lane and kicked it back out to Iguodala for an inside-out 3-pointer.

A 10-0 run, just like that, all a product of attacking the paint. During that span, the Warriors took 6 shots, five were jumpers, including three straight 3-pointers.

Recipe for disaster.

TELLING STAT:Denver outscored the Warriors 32-16 in the paint in the second half. The Nuggets scored 12 points off dunks, two each by McGee, Iguodala and Kenneth Faried.

SERIOUSLY?: This didn’t really hit me the flight home. … Ten seconds into the third quarter, Klay Thompson came out of the game after being poked in the eye by Iguodala. After the game, his right eye was swollen and to the right of his pupil was red from inner bleeding. I asked him if he could see. He said it was bothering him at first but eventually it was fine.

Later, I looked at the final book and was analyzing the final run. So, at 11:50, Thompson is poked in the eye. At 10:18 he checks back in. At 9:39, he misses a 26-footer. At 9:24, he misses another 3-pointer.

Um, were you seriously chucking threes with blurred vision from a bloodied eye?

KEY MOMENT III:  After Landry had settled things, the Warriors hung close for while, needing one more run to make a real game of it. The Warriors trailed 82-74 with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Festus Ezeli lost a jump ball with against Faried, which led to an Andre Miller jumper. The Warriors then committed back-to-back-to-back-to-back turnovers. Yes, four straight.

They survived the first one (Landry) when Iguodala missed a 3-pointer. But Curry’s turnover set up a fast-break layup by Iguodala. Then Lee’s bad pass led to an alley-oop from Corey Brewer to McGee. And the foul.

The game was practically over at that point. But, to be sure, Jack’s bad pass on the next possession led to a driving dunk by Iguodala. The Warriors trailed 91-74.

BEFORE YOU GO: Festus Ezeli had 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in 17 minutes, 33 seconds. There was one situation that illustrated how different things are when he’s in the game. On offense, Kenneth Faried backed aggressively into the paint, pushing Lee all the way under the basket, where he received the pass for an easy layup. Later, Faried did the same thing. Smelling an opportunity for a layup, he backed into the paint, trying to position himself for an entry pass. This time, he ran into a brick wall named Festus. He gained no ground and never got the pass.

Marcus Thompson

  • Don Nelson

    Tell MJ that he has no right using mall ball, until he knows how that group can score more points that what they give up.
    Going small and chanting the ‘defense’ mantra over and over, just doesnt work. Unless you have a playmaker who can do more than dribble aimlessly and chucking up bad shots.

  • J-RIDAH

    It was ALL on the bad officials and mystery calls. One foul on Barnes in the 3rd quarter was hilarious! Replays showed Barnes never got closer than 3 feet from his guy. No reaching nothing. Yet they give an and one foul. The officiating was a complete joke and cost the Dubs the game. Sorry Marcus if you do not watch the games closely enough to determine he real reason we lost.

  • Ewok

    I like your observations on Festus’ impact on the team. He does need to have his minutes, and his touches in the early going so he can be a threat… The more he becomes a threat, the more we gain more options…

    Coach Jackson is a good coach and i like what i see so far.. as he grows as a coach, the team grows with him… But he does need to create options sans Bogut and Rush in the sickbay.. I like how he developed Barnes.. Green is coming along.. but Festus is out of the question.. He has to develop the soonest possible time… The Lee-Landry tandem is effective, but it can only reach so far especially on the defensive end…

    Bottomline, Bogut needs to report back to duty! ASAP!

  • STEPHANIE#30

    Can we please now agree that Stephanie Curry is the softest point guard in the league

  • jsl

    Another great read, MT.

    And the “Coach’s Corner” is just perfect, tho I ‘spect at this point Jax either doesn’t get it or doesn’t/can’t read — because the Lee-Landry critiques have come long and loud. I DO think we should see more of a Landry-Lee-Ezeli front court; excellent idea against any team with even mediocre bigs.

  • zorro

    I agree MT. Festus impact on the court is clear to my eyes and I am still a student of the game. Getting dunked on is not fun in the NBA and MJackson has the same game plan. It is like clockwork; no surprises or get your opponents off balance. Has any reporter ever asked MJackson why is stays with the small ball?? just wondering.

  • Wfan

    I wonder how the team would change if every time someone played lazy defense, MJax would pull him and put in Bazemore, Ezeli or Green. I bet those 3 would lead the team in minutes.

  • bill

    Jackson played a long time. A lot of guys played a long time but they’re not equipped mentally to manage a game that moves so fast. He is handicapped by the players he doesn’t have who are on the injured list, but injuries, as they say, are a part of the game. He is riding Lee too long, Landry not enough, and his undying faith in Curry and Klay Thompson will only go on and on like the song from the sinking Titanic. Jack is a tough player and needs to take over the back court, letting Curry come off the bench to shoot. Green is a surprising discovery as a rookie, and so is Ezeli in some ways, but three rookies at crunch time? Come on, Jackson, get some counselling. You’ve got a great assistant in Malone. Obviously he mentors you.
    Stop standing there with that lost look on your face. And admirable as it might be in some quarters, the fact that you’re not a cusser or a histrionic will Not always cut the mustard. Players need some fire, and refs need their ears burned off. Drop an F bomb, it will not make you less noble, and might get us some borderline calls. The Denver game, officiating wise, was a joke. Three point plays all over the place. Bogut, Rush and Jefferson are sidelined (for my money, cut Jefferson tomorrow) but when we have to sit Curry and Barnes because of ticky tack fouls, well, it’s a done deal. Must have been some money going down in Vegas on the betting line and those zebras had a few uncles at the casino. That was ludicrous. Jackson’s responses to what happens on the floor are dreadfully slow and just dreadful.

  • young

    to jacksons credit, his team normally bounces back from a loss

  • Bimbo2

    I like the rebounding that this team is throwing together, that’s half of the old rebounding and defense requirement for a good team, but the defense aspect won’t come into play if the good defenders sit.
    Plasy Bazemoe a bit. That’s why you got him. Play Green, he seems willing to work at it.
    For heavens sake don’t wear out the starters by keeping them in forever with no breaks.
    To those of you that wonder about the Coach, yeah, I’m with you there.

  • thewarriorsrule

    does anyone else seem to notice that when ezeli goes out and the lee + landry combo comes in, the team is much worse? it’s plain black and white and i’m not sure why jackson can’t see it. i think jackson needs to go for just that reason alone.