At the end of the day, Golden State walked out of Detroit with a win.
Yes, they nearly blew a 20-point fourth-quarter lead. Yes, they missed a valuable opportunity to rest their key players, who just began a seven-games-in-11-days road trip. But starting the road trip 1-0 outweighs any concerns their road to victory may have caused.
MARK JACKSON: “We had some breakdowns at the end but, ultimately, we left here with a victory. I would rather learn in winning than learn in losing.”
To be sure, the 104-97 victory did produce concerns. You could pass the end of the game off as every-team-makes-a-run, but that would be a disservice to Golden State’s developing squad.
Multiple reasons led a 17-point lead with just over five minutes left becoming a three-point lead with just over a minute left. The Warriors got too comfortable taking jumpers. Detroit got hot (and the Warriors’ frantic scrambling on defense played right into that). And Golden State went small, again, and had no protection.
The Warriors made just enough plays to hang on. But that was against a pretty bad Detroit squad. What happens when they play good teams, like Brooklyn on Friday, Miami next Wednesday, Atlanta on Saturday. Even Charlotte on Monday won’t be easy in their own building.
So, the question is how do you view the win. Is it a good thing that the Warriors were able to hang on and tough one out, something they’ll probably have to do on the road a lot? Or was the victory overshadowed that the Warriors needed to survive a game they led by 20 points in the fourth quarter?
JARRETT JACK: “We just did not do a good job of putting the final nail in the coffin. There are teams that are going to be able to come back when we let them linger around and give them confidence. So when you are able to put away a team, especially in their building, you have to end it however you can.”
More on Wednesday’s victory …
MVP: Stephen Curry
He almost single-handedly changed the tenor of the game. He came out of the locker room aggressive and determined, injecting some life into the Warriors. He was up to his stat-sheet stuffing self on Wednesday: 22 points on 7 of 15 shooting (4 of 6 from 3), 10 assists, four steals and one turnover in 37-plus minutes. But this was bigger than stats.
It was the way he took over the game.
The way he set the tone on defense. The way he manufactured the offense during the third quarter. The way he kept the team calm after Detroit went on their big run in the fourth quarter.
MARK JACKSON: “What I love right now is he’s in total control out there on the floor. When things get crazy, there is no need for me to call a timeout, because I feel confident and comfortable with his ability to run this basketball team. He’s playing at a whole different level, probably than he’s ever played at. I think it’s more to do with his health than anything else. This is what we expected from him.”
MDP: Carl Landry
It’s not too often you’ll see Landry going 2 of 7 from the field. But Wednesday, he just couldn’t get it going. Even his patented reverse layup, where he uses the rim as a shield, wasn’t dropping. He finished with 7 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes of action. He played 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, managing one basket (and it was a jumper) and committing three fouls.
KEY MOMENT I: A minute in to the second half, Klay Thompson rebounded Tayshaun Prince’s fade-away and pushed the ball ahead to force the tempo. He wound up getting all the way to the rim for a layup.
That might’ve been exactly what Thompson needed to see. He was just 1 of 3 in the second half and wasn’t able to get in the groove. But that layup, it seemed, triggered something. He went on to make five 3-pointers in the third quarter. Before Wednesday, he had never made 5 3-pointers in a game. He scored 19 of the Warriors’ 39 points in the quarter (a season-high for points in any quarter).
THOMPSON: “I was making a lot of shots before the game. My teammates found me and I just played catch and shoot.”
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “That’s criminal. That’s absolutely criminal for me to even attempt to compare (his outside shot to Klay’s). I tell you what, if I shot like Klay or Steph, I would’ve never made it because I would’ve been an absolute fool. I acted crazy without a shot. Imagine if I had a shot.” — Mark Jackson
COACH’S CORNER: Mark Jackson’s has limited the lineup movement that defined his rotation earlier in the season. Basically, he’s going seven deep, sprinkling in Andris Biedrins early and, lately, a little bit of Charles Jenkins. Until Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson come back, the minutes will go heavily to seven players. Really six, because Festus Ezeli’s minutes aren’t exactly heavy.
There are pros and cons to it. One thing he gets credit for is not killing his guys despite playing just seven deep. No one logged more than 38 minutes. He’s not forcing David Lee and Curry to play 42 to 45 minutes a night. And he’s saving Landry’s legs for the fourth quarter by giving Festus and Biedrins minutes on the front end. It’s a pretty good way to shorten the rotation without taxing the players.
But, until Bogut gets back, I will question Jackson’s refusal to play centers when the game matters most. It nearly cost the Warriors the game on Wednesday.
It’s no coincidence that the one quarter the Warriors don’t play a center, the Pistons shoot 60 percent for the quarter.
I know. I know. I know. Landry and Lee are the Warriors’ best healthy big men. I understand the logic they are better all around and Festus and Biedrins are just defensive presences. I do believe they can make up for some of the lack of size in the frontcourt by being aggressively defensively in the backcourt. But in the fourth quarter, that’s what you need, a defensive presence. That’s when opponents (especially the good ones) look for higher percentage shots, which are usually inside. And you just know their confidence increases on offense when they see two 6-foot-9 guys back there instead of a legit center back there.
KEY MOMENT II: The Warriors lead was down to 98-95 after a Villanueva and Prince nailed back-to-back 3-pointers. Golden State was in serious trouble.
Out of the timeout, though, they didn’t buckle. Jack nailed a pair of free throws. Then, after a timeout with 52.5 seconds left, the Warriors came up with a critical stop.
Prince’s layup rolled out and after a scramble, the ball ended up in Brandon Knight’s hands. Thompson came up with a steal with 42.5 seconds left that led to a pair of free throws by Curry. Golden State’s lead was back to seven, 102-95 and the collapse averted.
TELLING STAT: The Warriors logged 24 assists on Wednesday, just the fourth time they’ve reached that figure all season. And 10 of those assists came in the third quarter, when Golden State exploded for a season-high 39 points on 13 of 21 shooting.
Curry had six of those assists, pioneering the crisp ball movement that led to a fluid offense.
JACKSON: “We moved the basketball. We made plays. We were aggressive. But it started on the defensive end. We got stops and then pushed it in transition.”
SERIOUSLY?: The points in the paint tally for the fourth quarter:Detroit 16, Golden State 2. If there was ever a time to play Festus Ezeli in the fourth quarter, that was it. Even when teams go small, it is important to protect the rim, especially in crucial parts of the game. I’m starting to wonder what will makeJackson go big in the fourth quarter, outside of the return of Bogut.
BEFORE YOU GO: Rookie Harrison Barnes was only 2 of 7, but Wednesday was a good experience game for him. He got taught a few lessons by Tayshaun Prince. But he also showed he’s not going to force the issue. He was attacking aggressively when the time called for it (and he goes strong when he does go to the cup) which led to six free throws. It’s promising to see him bide his time and pick his spots. Hard to tell he has been a scorer all his life. But he’s out there rebounding, he’s focused on defense, he’s being physical. Still think the Warriors need to take advantage of that more