The Warriors’ 118-115 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was as frustrating as it was encouraging. The Lakers (13-14) at full strength are expected to be a title contender. Yet, Saturday, Golden State, still not at full strength, looked like the better team most of the game.
The nail-biting loss no doubt stings, as evident in the locker room after the game. But the performance lends credence to the Warriors’ contention they are a legit playoff contender.
In their mind, they didn’t get beat by the Lakers. They gave that game away.
JARRETT JACK: “We are definitely not a team into moral victories. We come out and feel like we can win every game when we step in between those lines. We just learned that if you mess around and allow a team like them, who has tremendous firepower … these are the type of results that can possibly happen.”
The Warriors’ next 12 games are against teams that are legitimate playoff caliber teams. Saturday’s loss not only verified the Warriors belong in that mix, it left them with a taste in their mouth that will almost assuredly keep them hungry.
No doubt, they will need that edge. They will need to maintain a certain focus and intensity against the better teams they’ll be facing. That lesson was driven home by the Lakers and it should harden Golden State’s resolve.
CURRY: “We’re ready. These kind of experiences are tough to deal with but they do make you better if you’re paying attention to what we wrong. I think we understand what went wrong in the fourth quarter. We could have games like these every single night, on the road or at home, and we’ll be able to battle.”
More on Saturday’s defeat …
WRITER’S RANT: It’s to the point where it looks like players are expecting Jackson to call a timeout. They stand where they are and start leaning towards the bench. Then he calls a play.
Jackson can point to the Warriors’ 18-10 record to justify it (for now), but his refusal to call timeouts, allowing his team to play through opponents’ runs, is befuddling. And you can’t help but wonder if it will bite the Warriors when they start playing better teams.
I know he trusts them. I know he wants to continue to promote an uptempo pace. I know he was at home in front of the greatest fans in the history of earth. But reeling is reeling. And the only way the Warriors’ common answer to stop the reeling is to shoot jumper (which if they don’t go in continues the reeling!). I understand if Carl Landry is in the game and everyone knows it’s time to go down low and let him go to work. But that’s not even happening.
He’s got to use his timeouts. It’s a tool for coaches to use.
The lead is 14 with 10:35 left after a Landry dunk. Meeks gets a layup. Landry follows with an offensive foul, then Howard hits a hook. Lee then misses a 17-footer, which leads to a Jordan Hill jumper. A 6-0 run in 1 minute, 28 seconds. Golden State’s lead is down to single digits early in the fourth.
Jackson doesn’t take a timeout.
And what happens? Draymond Green commits a turnover the next time down.
I know an official timeout was coming. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta stop the snowball. Immediately.
After an official timeout, the Lakers get three more baskets — after the Warriors’ miss a 3-pointer and turn it over twice. The lead is down to two. Still no timeout.
Oddly, Jack stops the reeling with a 19-footer. After the Lakers squander two offensive rebounds, Barnes hits a 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven. Mike D’Antoni jumps off the bench in frustration and calls a timeout.
If a veteran, respected coach — who has been to the West Finals and is coaching five experienced, players who have been All-NBA caliber at some point in their careers — can use the advantage of the timeout, couldn’t the young coach with young players benefit?
The Warriors have the seventh-youngest roster in the league (average age of 25.3). They start two rookies, a second-year shooting guard and a point guard who is in his first year as the undisputed team leader. They get caught up in the moment. They need breathers, reminders, adjustments. Call a timeout and tell them to calm down, stop shooting jumpers and take care of the ball — if not run a special play or change a defensive adjustment.
During a 6 minute, 24-second stretch in the fourth quarter, the Warriors were 2 for 6 shooting with three turnovers. Five of those six shots were jumpers, including three 3-pointers. During that’s same span, the Lakers were 9 of 16 from the field. Ten of their attempts were inside.
In that 6:24, the Lakers outscored the Warriors by 14.
Then in overtime, Los Angeles starts with an alley-oop. Curry misses a 3-pointer and it leads to a turn-around jumper for Bryant. A team that was leading most of the game, had the Lakers surge to tie it, is now down two baskets with four minutes left. No timeout.
Lee misses a runner on the next possession. The Lakers missed a chance to go up six on a Gasol turnover. Down to about three minutes left. The Warriors really need a basket. A timeout would’ve been good to make sure execution was pinpoint (or maybe get Carl Landry in the game).
No timeout. The possession ends with a turnover by Ezeli.
Call me conservative, but I would’ve liked to see a 3-pointer with the Warriors up four with just over three minutes left. Bryant missed a 3-pointer and Ezeli secured the stop with a rebound. A timeout there gives Jackson the chance to choreograph a basket, which would really put the Lakers behind the eight ball.
Instead, the Warriors got a Stephen Jackson-esque dagger 3-point attempt from Jack (which you can’t really be mad at as hot as he was). He missed, and the Lakers responded by cutting it to two. But to me, that seemed like a good spot to focus on executing for a high-percentage shot.
I know, letting them play through it may work out in the end. Golden State may become a team that doesn’t get rattled, is tested by fire. Down the stretch, the Warriors may wind up such a machine that Jackson may not even need to stand up during the fourth quarter.
If that happens, I’ll eat my crow sandwich (like I did when I ranted about him playing Ezeli down the stretch). Until then, it just feels like the head coach is leaving assets on the table by not taking his timeouts. And with the schedule increasing in degree of difficulty, and no sign of an Andrew Bogut return, I’m not sure they can afford to hold back.
MVP: Jarrett Jack
His 29 points and 11 assists only begin to illustrate his impact. He carries the Warriors through the most critical stretches and made nearly every big shot they needed in regulation. He was, as he has been all year, a catalyst for Golden State’s grit and resilience.
JACKSON: “He’s been great all year long. He comes in and has a calming effect when he runs our offense. He’s a scoring threat and he makes plays. Been great all year long. Credit again to our ownership and front office by doing a great job of finding what we needed. He’s everything that we thought he would be when we traded for him.”
MDP: Stephen Curry
Festus Ezeli could be, and probably should be, the most disappointing player. But I hate to kick a man while he’s down — and he clearly was after the game. And though his mistakes down the stretch were back-breaking, he is a rookie and some of that is part of his learning.
Curry, however, you expected to be a more of a factor in the fourth quarter in overtime. He certainly stuffed the stat sheet, as normal: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 turnovers in 45 minutes. But the standard is different for Curry. This is one of those games the Warriors needed him to be their MVP-candidate. But he simply wasn’t the take-over player he had been.
His shot wasn’t falling. He got burned a few times on defense. He set the tone for poor ball security with a couple questionable passes. He wasn’t in command, like he was at Dallas, at Brooklyn, at Atlanta. It’s clear the Warriors need him to produce.
KEY MOMENT I: On the Warriors first possession of the second quarter, Jack banked in a turn-around jumper from 13 feet. The next possession, he dribbled to one of his comfort spots and nailed a pull-up 18 footer.
At that point, he was 3 of 3 in the game. It was clear he had it going. With his confidence high, and the Lakers putting small point guards on him, Jack started looking for his shot. And it was the best offense all night for Golden State.
He went on to score 15 points in the quarter, on 10 shots, as the Warriors turned a five-point deficit into an 8-point halftime lead.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “When a guy puts up 41 shots, he is going to make some of them. You can play the best defense possible but he’s going to hit tough shots. You’ve just got to live with that.” — Harrison Barnes said about Kobe Bryant
COACH’S CORNER: If I haven’t said this yet, it is now abundantly clear why Jackson likes Landry and Lee on the court together. Ezeli, who is still I think a good presence on the defensive end, isn’t quite ready for high-level, fourth-quarter NBA basketball. The Lakers’ games have a way of turning up the pressure, but it all looked to fast for Ezeli. I can definitely see how a coach would prefer the comfort of experience even if it means giving up size.
Landry sitting out the final 8:52 (save for the last possession) now seems borderline unconscionable.
As a feel coach, Jackson has felt a lot of things right. And being an inexperienced coach, you have to expect he’s going to push a wrong button here and there. I thought that happened in overtime when Barnes sat the entire way. Klay was not having a good game (anybody notice how I call him Thompson when he does well and Klay when he doesn’t? lol). He was jumper happy, and his shot selection was questionable, and Metta World Peace made him look every bit a second-year player on the defensive end. On the other hand, Barnes was game for the pressure and intensity. He seemed to play better as the game tightened.
Another questionable call was to not go after Kobe and Dwight Howard on offense. Both had five fouls. That would’ve been the perfect reason to run an iso, try to get them out of the game. However, I get Jackson’s explanation. He said he wasn’t going to chase fouls. Certainly, teams can get too far away from their offense by trying to draw fouls on a specific player.
Still, Howard picked up his fifth foul 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. Bryant picked up his fifth foul with 6:58 left in regulation. Seems like a couple attempts couldn’t have hurt. Landry got two touches in the fourth quarter. It wouldn’t kill your offensive rhythm if he got a few more to go at Howard.
(Of course, Klay had a good chance to get that sixth foul. But indicative of his play, he failed to even try to draw a foul. On a fast-break with 1:39 left and the Warriors down two, he was one-on-one with Howard, who was coming from behind, in transition. Klay went for the nifty reverse layup. But he missed. The smarter move would have been to jump into Howard’s body and try to draw the foul.)
I’ll move on with a kudos: thought it was a smart move to go positive after the game. Several Warriors’ took that loss hard. At Utah is tough, and the Warriors need to get ready for a rough sled. This is the wrong time to start losing confidence.
JACKSON: “I told the guys while I waiting to talk with them, they showed Steve Nash on NBA TV. He was asked ‘What do you guys need to do?’ Steve Nash said ‘We need to play with the spirit that the Warriors play with. Unselfish. They play for one another.’ I’m not going to lose sight of that. We are going to be fine. We will learn from our mistakes made tonight because that is a good team despite their record. I like where we are heading.”
KEY MOMENT II: The back-and-forth game had the Warriors with a 75-68 lead with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. Golden State put together a surge to end the quarter and carry all the momentum, instead of faltering and making it a tight game entering the fourth.
Of course, the game ended up tight anyway. But at the time, it felt like the Warriors were in complete control and were in position to put the game away.
Landry hit a step-back jumper, giving him back-to-back baskets. Then after a stop, Jack nailed a pull-up jumper in transition. To push the lead to 11. The Warriors held the Lakers scoreless for two more possessions, and Curry put Golden State ahead 81-68 with a driving layup. He closed the quarter with a floater, sending Golden State into the fourth quarter ahead 87-74. They were in primed position to pull off a rare win over the Lakers.
TELLING STAT: The Lakers had 56 points in the paint. What’s even more amazing is they took 58 shots inside. Of those, 33 inside attempts came in the second half as the Lakers were resolved to get to the rim. Golden State totaled 38 points in the paint on 19 of 32 shooting.
Los Angeles also dominated second-chance points 19-4. The real odd part about this stat is that Golden State had 15 offensive rebounds. Yes, 4 points of 15 offensive rebounds. The Warriors were 2 of 12 on extra possessions.
SERIOUSLY?: Andris Biedrins played 2 minutes, 25 seconds. After the way he’s been playing, considering he has good history defending Howard, that seems odd.
KEY MOMENT III: Inside of five minutes left, Bryant capped a 19-5 run with a 3-pointer over Barnes, tying the game at 95. The large contingent of Lakers fans went nuts at Oracle Arena.
The very next possession, the Warriors went to Barnes in the post against Bryant. Barnes took his time, got to a comfortable distance and dropped in a 9-foot turn-around jumper, giving the Warriors the lead right back. It was certainly illustrative of how the young, inexperienced Warriors were game for a toe-to-toe with the veteran, star-laden Lakers.
Jack answered a Jodie Meeks 3-pointer to put Golden State up 100-98. Then after a steal, Barnes put the Warriors up 102-98 with 3:09 left by throwing down a one-hand putback dunk. Even the matter-of-fact Barnes let out a yell after the emphatic dunk.
The Warriors next three possessions were ugly: a missed 3-pointer by Jack, a missed 17-foot baseline jumper by Barnes, a turnover by Ezeli. During that stretch, the Lakers got a pair of free throws from Howard and a Steve Nash 3-pointer to take a 103-102 lead.
But the Warriors responded with an alley-oop from Jack to Ezeli, giving the Warrior s a lead again.
After a steal by Barnes, he pushed it on the break. He didn’t have the numbers, as three Lakers defenders waited for him. But instead of pulling it out for a smart shot (another opportune time for a timeout), Barnes tried to make something happen and wound up missing the fast-break layup with 1:17 left. Bryant answered with a 20-footer to give the Lakers the lead.
BEFORE YOU GO: Forward David Lee finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. But this was more of the old Lee, who put up numbers but didn’t seem to be much of a factor late. He totaled 2 points and 2 rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime.