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Revisiting Game 53: Warriors Drop Sixth Straight, Lose at Utah

Warriors coach Mark Jackson is a man of conviction. So you know when he’s getting fed up, things must be pretty bad.

And after Golden State’s sixth straight loss, a 115-101 loss at Utah on Tuesday, it sounded as if his patience was dental floss thin. He even talked about “shaking things up.”

STEPHEN CURRY: “It’s just frustrating. But somehow we’ve got to find a way to get out of it. We can’t talk our way out of it. We’ve said all the right things about how we could get out of it, but it’s just going to take some effort to do it.”

Golden State (30-23) has now lost five straight on the road and six straight to winning teams. The Warriors dropped to seven games over .500 for the first time since they were 15-8 and are now in a virtual tie with the Jazz for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.

The Warriors host Phoenix, owners of the worst record in the West, on Wednesday. That game has suddenly morphed from a should-win to a must-win.

JACKSON: “I’m not going to jump off this ship. I believe in my guys. But one thing that will take place is guys are going to play for their minutes. We’ve lost six in a row. We haven’t played good basketball. And I’ve been extremely patient. … We’ve got to find five guys on the floor that’s going to scratch, claw, compete. Because history tells me — I’ve been part of it — the only way out of a funk like this is working your way out of it.”

More on Friday’s defeat …

WRITER’S RANT: The Warriors defense is woeful, I got it. But this losing streak is six games because their offense is not much better. It gets lost because they can get hot and when the shots are falling it looks pretty. But the reality is, good defense can stop the Warriors offense. And they’re not a good enough defensive team for that to be the case.

The Warriors got a lot of breaks while becoming a defensive team. They caught teams without good players, they caught teams on back-to-backs. Yes, they D’d up, too. But all things were rarely equal. So, no, the Warriors weren’t as good of a defensive team as the stats showed.

They’re not THIS bad. But they weren’t a top-5 type of defense. Not without Brandon Rush.

So that puts pressure on their offense and it seems when they need buckets, they have a hard time getting them against good defense. Last night was a prime example. Say what you want, they were down six points with neatly 10 minutes left in the game. That is not a bad position. In fact, that’s how most games will be against good teams.

The Warriors are not going to shut down good teams. They can get timely stops, but this ain’t the Spurs or Grizzlies we’re talking about. Opponents will score.

Can the Warriors? During the losing streak, they rank 23rd in the league in second-half field goal percentage (41.9 percent). When the game gets tighter, they can’t seem to score consistently. Tuesday, they were 6 of 20 in the fourth quarter, managing just 22 points. So even if they’d held Utah to 22, instead of 28, they still would’ve lost.

You can’t go on scoring droughts in the fourth quarter and expect to win. A big part of the problem, to me, is Curry being moved off the ball too much. As it is now, he might be the only star in the league where the ball is taken OUT of his hands in crunch time.

Curry becomes a defendable one-dimensional player when he is off the ball, because all they do is look for an open jumper for him. (More below) The Warriors’ offense gets dumbed down to, primarily, three simple sets when they need a bucket:

  • Curl screens where Jack looks for Curry or Klay.
  • Post up of David Lee, and he usually spins to his left and try to hit it off the glass
  • Jack going one-on-one late in the shot clock after the other options fail

I agree Jack needs to be on the floor. But really, the Curry-off-the-ball approach is hurting him, too. Just about every time down, half the shot clock is wasted trying to get Curry or Thompson a shot. Then, when the pressure is on, Jack is forced to make something out of nothing. Because they see it so much, teams are playing to take away his pull-up, forcing him to drive in traffic. Last night, the result was three fourth-quarter turnovers. Jack’s great because he can make teams pay for focusing on Curry and Klay and Lee. When he becomes the focus, scoring is much harder for him.

No doubt, the Warriors will have to get better on defense. But they could’ve won at least a couple of the last six games if they were better, more creative on offense. They definitely could have won Tuesday.

Curry opened the quarter with a three-point play off a turnaround jumper. Then, after a Lee layup, Curry drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to six.

Barnes came up with the steal and Curry went for the heat check — should have taken it in, I think — but missed the transition 3. But still, the Warriors were knocking on the door of their first lead. Then their offense just disappeared.

Curry’s second missed 3 was at the 9:27 mark. Over the next 6:59, the Warriors totaled 7 points on 2 of 12 shooting with three turnovers.

The most disturbing part? Curry took one shot during that span. Lee took one shot. Thompson took one shot and got two free throws after another drive.

In a game you need, that’s there for the taking, your three best offensive players combined for three shot attempts and two free throws over a seven-minute stretch. Curry’s next shot came at the 3:24 mark (he did assist on a Lee layup between shots), more than six minutes after his last shot.

That is just not acceptable. And it partially explains why, during the losing streak, the Warriors rank 23rd in second-half field goal percentage (41.9).

MVP: Stephen Curry

He finished with 29 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. He did have 4 turnovers, but they weren’t detrimental and, with his usage, is only about one too many. Most important, he was their playmaker. For stretches, he and Jarrett Jack were the only playmakers. His shot selection was improved and he dominated his matchup with Jamal Tinsley, as he should.

MDP: Andrew Bogut

Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he wasn’t moving well, so he sat him out. But if you replaced the word “moving” with “playing,” you’d be dead on. Not only was he 0-for-4 with just 4 rebounds. He got destroyed by Utah big man Al Jefferson, who had his way with Bogut (and every other Warriors’ big) in the post. For the guy who was supposed to be a difference maker on the defensive end, and who was just talking about people needing to improve their 1 on 1 defense, it was not a good night.

BOGUT: “I had a bad night personally. I just played like s#@$. Festus and Biedrins didn’t do a bad job tonight.”

TELLING STAT: The Jazz made 10 of 21 attempts from behind the arc as the Warriors’ contended to get torched by the 3-pointer. And it wasn’t just one player getting hot. Utah had four players hit at least two, led by Randy Foye going 3 of 6. That’s a sign of Golden State’s dysfunction with their defensive rotations. It is also a product of the Warriors sticking to a pack-the-paint gameplan, which isn’t working well either. Utah was 19 of 30 in the paint and attempted 33 free throws.

LEE: “That’s what’s most frustrating. I don’t think you can point to one thing. It’s a little bit of everything and it’s a little bit of everybody. It seems each time down court, its just a minor mistake by one guy and another mistake by a different guy … then there are other times where guys just hit tough shots. So you Add that all together and you give up another 115 points and lose another game.”

During the six-game losing streak, the opponents have made 70 of 158 from 3-point range (44.3 percent). Before the losing streak, the Warriors were third best at defending the 3, holding opponents to 33 percent from deep.

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “We’ve got to play better. Energy. Effort. Commitment. Defending. The things that put us in position to be a very good basketball team. Were not doing that right now. And I’m getting tired of ‘my bad.’ So we’ve got to find a way to stop it.” — Warriors coach Mark Jackson

COACHES CORNER: Now that Mark Jackson seems to be fed up, I hope some adjustments are coming. Because Tuesday, his refusal to make adjustments were glaring and detrimental. He stuck with the zone for far too long. The Warriors’ 3-2 zone not only makes it harder to rebound (and Utah turned 8 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points) but it makes it nearly impossible to cover the corners because it requires big men to make it from the paint to the corner to contest 3s. It’s one thing if you’re applying ball pressure, which Curry was not doing at the head of the zone, and denying on the perimeter. At least making the perimeter pass is harder. But the Jazz were hardly impeded.

As my rant indicated, I am not a fan of running Curry exclusively off the ball in the fourth quarter. But if that’s going to be the case, the Warriors must, must, must get more creative with how they get him the ball. Opponents are making it very hard for him to score. They are putting bigger, longer athletic players on him. The size of players like Alec Burks (or whatever SG, SF they put on Curry) helps them be physical with Curry (holding, bodying him up) before the catch.  Their athleticism helps them stick close to him, requiring multiple jukes and fakes to create separation. And their length, and athleticism, helps them contest the shot better when he does get free.

But they often don’t have to even contest. He does so much before he gets the actual shot, it’s an impressive feat if he actually makes it. Why not “post him up” in essence?

Dallas runs a play where they get it to Dirk at the high post. It would take a well placed entry pass, but Jack can do it. Curry wouldn’t have to extend so much energy to get open and he’s gotten so much better at holding his ground and getting into triple threat. Or go with Nellie’s old inverted offense, where you pt

Why not run a two-man game from the deep wing? Let Jack get the Warriors into the offense, put Lee and Curry on the right or left side, far enough so the help has to commit early if it comes and travel further.

The goal is not to get Curry an open jumper, its to get Curry the ball. If you’re going to play him at shooting guard, then play him at shooting guard. Attack the defense multiple ways. Take advantage of all of his attributes.

SERIOUSLY?!: Gordon Hayward hadn’t played since late January, and he was still wearing a brace on his right shoulder. Yet Tuesday against the Warriors, he looked like an All-Star. He got where he wanted on the floor. He shot easily over whichever guard the Warriors had on him. He and Curry, along with Jefferson, really stood out. Yes, Gordon Hayward. He finished with 17 points, four assists and two blocks in just over 24 minutes.

BEFORE YOU GO: Festus Ezeli found his way back into the lineup after Jackson decided to end Bogut’s night early. Where has he been, you wonder? Talking to a couple of Warriors insiders, it appears the coaches feel like starting at center kinda went to Ezeli’s head. He started playing like he deserved to start and not like it was something he needed to earn. They liked him better when he was hungry and out to prove to everyone he deserved to be in the league. But they feel like recently he has lost his edge, so now Jackson is going to make him earn his minutes. … Well, unless Bogut “isn’t moving well” and Biedrins fouls out.

Marcus Thompson