This seven-game homestand was supposed to be the cure for what ails Golden State. But after Saturday’s 103-93 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, it seems not even the advantage of Oracle can fix the Warriors.
For the second time in two nights, Golden State lost a winnable game to a beatable team. The Warriors (35-29) are now 2-2 on the seven-game homestand, but they are 0-for-4 when it comes to putting together a game that makes you feel like they’re back. Now Golden State is forced to get well against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference (record-wise) when they host the New York Knicks.
STEPHEN CURRY: “We’re just not showing up right now. We’re not playing consistent basketball. … On our home court, we feel like we can beat any team in the league. That’s our expectation.”
More on Saturday’s defeat …
WRITER’S RANT: The Warriors’ fourth-quarter offense has gotten hard to watch. But this is the outcome of spending the first months of the season not formulating a solid late-game plan and going with the “hot hand” or match-ups. This is pre-playoff basketball. The intensity is ratcheting up. The possessions are that much more critical. And the Warriors are looking feeble in crunch time. Their best hope seems to be creating an open jumper. That is not winning basketball.
But this is the product of taking Curry off the ball so much in the first half of the season. This is the product of sitting Harrison Barnes for so many fourth-quarter minutes (though he is the one guy who attacks the rim hard). In fairness, this is also the product of not having center Andrew Bogut for most of the season. But playing with two power forwards most of the time down the stretch and having to switch to playing with a true center has forced everyone to adjust.
The Warriors are forced to make alterations at a time in the season they should be leaning on their bread and butter. But opponents have figured out their bread and butter. In the NBA, matchups work for the first 43 minutes of the game. The last five, it’s about your best against the other team’s best. Opponents are going to their best and succeeding. The Warriors are failing.
No, they don’t have a dominant one-on-one player. But they aren’t exactly mastering the use of their “weapons” either.
As I’ve said numerous times on this blog, you must have a high-percentage option for those times you really need a basket. The Warriors often end up with low-percentage options (Draymond Green jumpers, David Lee post-ups, Jarrett Jack contested pull-ups, 3-pointers by Curry and Thompson) because they have not developed any real options. At least not any that work against stout, half-court defense.
The book on Curry, as fashioned by Miami, is to blitz him on pick-and-rolls and be physical with him. He simply has to get better at dealing with that, but you have got to wonder if dealing with this back in December would have helped.
The Warriors should have been on David Lee about mixing in a few other post move and drawing a foul. Should have been mastered the play to get Harrison the rock in his wheelhouse. Golden State have a few ways to get Curry the ball in different areas, they just don’t use them. But it would help relieve the pressure if he caught at the elbows (away from trap areas). Instead, the Warriors have to rely on creating transition opportunities — their best bet at getting open looks — because they don’t have the offense to create in a half-court set against good defenses.
The Warriors don’t have a dominant player to lean on. So their schematics and execution have to be on point. Mark Jackson, who is working with limited parts, would have probably had to sacrifice some wins in favor of development, so it’s understandable why he went the direction he went. But now, they will have to figure this out on the fly. And they’d better hurry up.
MVP: Carl Landry
With David Lee on the shelf, Landry managed to provide similar production. He put up 18 points and 10 rebounds despite playing just 29 minutes. He gave the Warriors a much-needed inside presence.
MDP: Stephen Curry
He wasn’t the player the Warriors needed him to be. He missed a lot of shots the Warriors’ offense desperately needed him to make. And his two turnovers in the fourth quarter killed critical possessions and the Warriors’ momentum. He is Golden State’s go-to guy so the Warriors’ need him to produce.
CURRY: “I’ve just got to make plays, man.”
KEY MOMENT I: After what could be described as a successful first quarter (since the Warriors didn’t give up 30 points), the Warriors led 28-24 entering the second quarter. The Warriors opened the quarter with five straight defensive stops. Bucks center Samuel Dalembert missed a hook. Brandon Jennings turned it over. Mike Dunleavy missed a runner. Redick missed a 3-pointer and Jennings turned it over again. Each time, the Warriors secured the rebound.
They didn’t get much offense during that first two-plus minutes, as that unit rarely does. But a pull-up jumper by Jarret Jack and a 17-footer from Richard Jefferson matched the Warriors’ biggest lead of the game, 32-24.
TELLING STAT: Milwaukee finished 13 of 28 from 3-point range.That’s 46.4 percent. No, the Bucks are not a great shooting team, though the addition J.J. Redick helped. But he only made two. Brandon Jennings did the most damage, knocking down 10. Golden State has now allowed 161 3-pointers over their last 17 games. By far a league-high during that span.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “We haven’t been putting out the performances necessary for us to be successful,” Warriors back-up guard Jarrett Jack said. “Obviously, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Rotations are shorter. Guys are healthy. Guys are in shape. Teams are starting to hit their stride and either they’re playing to push into the playoffs or playing for playoff position. We’ve got to understand that teams are better and we’ve got to raise our level accordingly.” Warriors guard Jarrett Jack
KEY MOMENT II: Golden State’s 8-point lead was down to one at halftime. Landry put the Warriors ahead 50-57 with a jump hook to start the second half. That came at the 11:49 mark. With 8:11 left in the third, the Warriors found themselves down 58-52 after a three-point play by Dunleavy.
The Warriors came out of the locker room sluggish and settling. Curry had two turnovers during the 8-2 Bucks run and the Warriors missed two jumpers and two layups. It was the beginning of an ugly quarter for the Warriors, who trailed by as much as nine and were outscored 30-22.
JACKSON: “We have to take care of the basketball. We are more than capable of doing that and it’s hurt us. If you keep doing what you have been doing, you are going to keep getting what you have been getting. I believe in my guys. We’ll be fine, but we have to respond. We did not tonight.”
SERIOUSLY?!: In the first half, Landry had 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting with 7 rebounds (including 3 offensive). So in the third quarter, with the Warriors getting outplayed and struggling to score, why did he play just 3:05? Mark Jackson said it was because the Bucks went small. He said having Landry chasing around a small forward is a bad idea. The Bucks’ played with a frontline of Larry Sanders, Luc Mbah a Moute and Mike Dunleavy during Landry’s stretch in the third quarter. He was taken out for Draymond Green. No doubt, Mbah a Moute is quick and athletic, a tough match for Landry. But he wasn’t killing the Warriors. He had a dunk and a couple of rebounds on Landry.
But taking Landry out hurt the Warriors. The Warriors shot 37.5 percent in the third and was 5 of 12 in the paint. What they needed was Landry, the Warrior most adept at getting to the line. Granted, Landry hasn’t been the same low-post specialist he proved to be earlier in the season. But he had it rolling Saturday. Why not milk it? Why let the opponent take your hot player out of the game?
KEY MOMENT III: Thompson scored five straight points to cut a once-10-point Warriors deficit to 86-85 with 5:39 left. After a stop, Jack missed an easy runner. Bucks guard J.J. Redick followed with a tear drop off the glass. And the foul.
A jumper by Landry made it 88-87 with four minutes left. But back-to-back Warriors turnovers fueled an 8-0 run by Milwaukee. Redick capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers, the last from deep curling off a screen, putting the Warriors down 96-87 with four minutes left.
A Curry 3-pointer at the 2:02 mark cut Golden State’s hole to 96-90. But Jennings answered with a pull-up jumper. Curry, trapped by a double-team, had his timid pass stolen with 1:10 left, leading to a pair of free throws that all but sealed the defeat.
BEFORE YOU GO: Remember that Monta Ellis guy? He looked pretty good in his return to Oracle. He had 26 points on 10 of 19 shooting, five assists, five rebounds, three turnovers and two steals. His constant attack mode was just too much for the Warriors’ guards to handle.
BUCKS COACH JIM BOYLAN: “But the thing is that Monta has been playing at this level for a while now. He’s really taken off. His intensity for the last two, maybe three weeks, has been as good as you can be. So I know he was probably up for this game because it has a little extra meaning for him, but it’s no different than I see just about every night.”