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Revisiting Game 79: Warriors Take A Step Back in Blowout Loss to Oklahoma City

The Warriors took a step back in their bid to finish strong. There is no shame in losing to Oklahoma City, especially when they are determined. But the Warriors were throttled by the Thunder, 116-97, and hardly looked like a team with something to play for.

MARK JACKSON: “That was a team that is chasing the No. 1 one seed and was trying to send a message just in case I see you at some point down the road. We didn’t meet their intensity. Disappointing for us. They hit first, they hit hard and they were very consistent.”

The Warriors, who beat the Thunder earlier this season at Oracle, didn’t play like a team peaking at the right time. Lose by 5 to 10 points because Kevin Durant made some big plays down the stretch? All good. Tip your cap and move on. But to get blown out at home at this point in the season, by anybody, is not a good sign.

The Warriors played like a team searching. They played like a team in over their head. They played like a team good enough to handle the Minnesotas of the league, but not quite ready for playoff caliber hoop. They’ve only got three more games to get ready, then real playoff caliber hoops will be upon them.

STEPHEN CURRY: “They’re the team to beat. They proved it last year and they’re proving it again this year. So for us to have a performance like that on our home court, it’s tough to swallow. We’re a resilient team that will find a way to get it done. We have another opportunity tomorrow to keep that six spot against an L.A. team that needs to win. It’ll be a big game for both teams. It’ll be interesting to see how we come back from a tough loss like this tonight.”

More on Thursday’s loss …

WRITER’S RANT: Games like this last one, I think, is why David Lee had his reputation of being a stat stuffer. Such games have been few and far between this season. But they show up at the worst times. And the reality is they don’t have to happen.

He had 13 points on 6 of 13 shooting with 11 rebounds with 3 turnovers. He got destroyed by Serge Ibaka.

This is me playing amateur psychologist, and my only evidence is what I saw and my vast experience as a garbage hooper. But Lee psychs himself out too much. He gets in his own way with his thinking. It seems he lets his insecurities about his game get in his head.

Whenever he faces certain physical, athletic power forward, he plays with a hesitancy that is so frustrating to watch. Frustrating because it doesn’t have to be.

I knew he was going to have a bad night from the very first possession. He had Ibaka one-on-one. He barely even sized the dude up before he jacked a jumper. He settled. He took the easy way out. Because he knows Ibaka is a shot blocker, and why challenge him?

JACKSON: “They did not wait to see how the feeling out process was going to be. They hit hard and they hit early. We didn’t match it. We attempted to, and you can do it in spurts, but when you play against good teams it’s too late, too late.”

Jackson’s talking about Lee. He didn’t take it to the Thunder. He wasn’t alone in his early passivity, but it hurt the most from him. You never got to see Lee’s swag. Didn’t see him hype and clapping. Only saw him complaining to officials. That’s the David Lee who beats himself before the opponent has a chance to beat him. That’s not the David Lee who looks forward to playing against Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge.

Part of it seems to me because Lee isn’t as confident in his post-up game. For the life of me, I don’t understand why it’s not better. He has so much skill and touch, he can offset his lack of strength and crazy athleticism (he’s a better athlete than he gets credit for).

As someone who never had exceptional athleticism, I loved the post. It was  where my lack of speed didn’t matter. It was my wit against the defender’s size, athleticism. If you’re better than me and I know it, first thing I’m doing is going to the post. It shortens the court and it forces the defense to be reactionary.

Lee should love the post. He should be exploiting guys like Ibaka, who is salivating for the block, using his skill set. Lee can finish with any hand. He’s got a solid handle. He should have much more than that lefty hook in his repertoire.

But for Lee, it starts up stairs. He needs to adopt the mentality he has against Blake permanently. These games are only increasing in importance, and the Warriors need him to be a beast. But first, he’s got to know he is and play like it.

I’m not saying he isn’t going to have bad games. Or other guy are going to have good games. It’s the how I am concerned about. How is he approaching the game? How is he attacking? How determined is he?

Serge Ibaka is good. Really good. But no way is he THAT much better than Lee. There are better power forwards in the league. But Lee can still get the better of them because he’s got the talent. The faster Lee owns that in his head, the better he will be.

MVP: Jarrett Jack

Jack was pretty good. Beyond the 19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 29 minutes. The Warriors needed another player to step up and help Curry. It was him. In big games, he shows up. Not just in production, but in demeanor. He’s ready. Certainly, it has something to do with his experience. But you don’t have to worry how he’s going to play.

MDP: Klay Thompson

He edges out David Lee mostly because it was such a drastic decline from his previous performance. Klay was 2 of 10 shooting with 0 rebounds and 1 assist. He still hasn’t figured out how to bring something when his shot isn’t falling. And got lit up on defense.

KEY MOMENT I: The Warriors led 13-9 after an 18-footer by Lee. But Oklahoma City took control of the game with a 13-2 run.

Golden State squandered consecutive defensive stops with consecutive turnovers. Durant converted a layup and Ibaka, after blocking Bogut’s dunk (followed by the Mutombo finger wag), tipped in Durant’s miss to tie the game at 13.

Lee followed with a missed jumper and Ibaka drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. Curry stopped the 7-0 run with a jumper. But Durant answered with a 20-footer.

A minute later, Westbrook dropped in a layup and, after Ibaka blocked Lee’s hook, he put the Warriors down 22-15 with a dunk at the other end.

Just like that, the Warriors were playing from behind.

TELLING STAT: Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin combined for 40 points on 15 of 21 shooting, including 5 total 3-pointers. You know Durant (31 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists) and Westbrook (18 points, 9 assists) will get theirs. It’s the other guys you’ve got to keep from going off.  The Warriors let both happen. The Thunder an inconceivable amount of open looks and shot 50.6 percent from the field and knocked down 12 3-pointers.

CURRY: “They put the ball in KD’s hands and he was able to draw attention, make some shots himself and then hit a lot of threes. In the halfcourt and transition they got looks from all over the court.”

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “We have to be more physical. On Durant, myself, Harrison, Klay, whoever is on him, and as a team as well we have to be more physical. Be a force meeting force. Tonight they got whatever they wanted on the court, they stopped whatever they wanted on the defensive end, so we just didn’t respond. If we meet them in the first round of the playoffs, you have to play tough. You have to come out and play. The refs let you get away with a lot more in the postseason. You always hear ‘playoff basketball,’ it’s a game that’s a lot more physical. We’ve done a good job, we’re not going to overreact from one game, but we just have to respond from this. It’s a lesson learned.”

KEY MOMENT II: The Warriors had a chance to put the Thunder on their heels, and it looked as if they would do it.

A 3-pointer by Westbrook pushed OKC’s lead to 47-40. But Curry responded with a 3-pointer of his own. Playing free safety, Jack picked off Westbrook’s pass and turned it into a fast-break layup, trimming the lead to 2 and prompting a Thunder timeout.

When play resumed, Curry picked off Durant’s long pass and capped the play with a pretty dump-off to Harrison Barnes for a dunk. The game was tied at 47.

But then the Warriors’ flaws took over. They turned into a jump shooting team and the jumpers weren’t falling. The next eight Warriors possessions went like this: 12-foot runner, turnover, pull-up 20-footer, pull-up 20-footer, pull-up 19-footer, 5-foot runner, 19-foot jumper, pull-up 22-footer.

They made just two of those, including the last one, by Curry, which cut OKC’s lead to 55-51.

The Warriors had it down to 3 after Festus Ezeli’s thunderous dunk over with 6.5 seconds left. The bench and Oracle arena went crazy. But the fervor was short lived as the Thunder pushed it off the inbounds and Sefolosha ended up with a wide-open 3-pointer. He nailed it at the buzzer. Warriors trailed 60-54.

COACHES CORNER: The Warriors are productive defensively because of their scheme. It hides their weaknesses and plays up the weaknesses of most other teams. But against teams that share the ball well, teams that knock down open shots, teams with exceptional shot-makers, the Warriors can look quite defenseless.

Jackson chooses to win or lose with the scheme, which makes you wonder if and how the Warriors will adjust in a playoff series. Oklahoma City figured to be a good time to try a new look against. I personally like the make-Durant-score-80 strategy. But the Warriors stuck to the pack-the-paint philosophy, afraid Russell Westbrook and Durant would get into the lane at will. But that left guys wide open on the wing. The Thunder took full advantage. Every time the Warriors were caught in no man’s land, they paid a price.

* Offensively, the Warriors were not terrible, just predictable. They still don’t know how to get guys going. If they’re on, they’re on. If they’re not, they just keep doing what they’re doing and hope they get going at some point.

If the Warriors’ best hope at offense is going to be creating transition, it seems they need to apply more pressure and trapping. You know, kind of how teams do them. A press type of defense sounds odd given the Warriors’ lack of speed and athleticism. But presses aren’t just about speed, but about spacing and anticipation. It’s nothing but a form of zone, which the Warriors have been known to play. I would love to see Barnes in with four starters and turn him loose. Let Curry and Klay pick up at halfcourt and try to force their man to trap areas.

The best strategy against Westbrook? Maybe not. If he gets by the front row, it might be trouble for Bogut. But Westbrook is turnover prone (he had 6). Why not turn up the heat, see what it does? The Warriors NEED to get out in transition. It’s where Barnes can flourish, it’s where Lee has the advantage, it’s where Curry and Klay get their best looks. Against high-octane offenses, it’s too much to ask to tie their ability to score to their ability to get stops. They’ve got to make stuff happen.

* Jackson turned to Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins. I thought that was a smart move. It’s looking more and more like he doesn’t have the horses to go seven deep. He’s got to milk every possible advantage he has on his roster. The trick is not perhaps to play only certain guys, but knowing when and how long to play the 13 guys on his roster. He’s got to know Biedrins plays well against Al Jefferson and take advantage of that. He’s got to know Barnes is going to have a tough night guarding Kevin Durant, so we need to get him some buckets so his confidence can be up. He’s got to know Westbrook is a gambler on defense so he needs to be iso’d.

SERIOUSLY?!: So Andrew Bogut plays 9 minutes, 5 seconds. Doesn’t look terrible. But suddenly, he’s done for the night. Huh?

The Warriors haven’t revealed many details (sounds familiar?), and I doubt Bogut wants too much information out there. But a Warriors official said he sprained his left ankle Tuesday against Minnesota. After the game, the informal explanation was downgraded to a tweak on Tuesday followed by another tweak on Thursday that nobody saw. Bogut was not available for comment after the game. He’s already been ruled out for Friday’s game and will be treated and evaluated before determining his status for Monday’s home finale against San Antonio.

JACKSON: “We don’t think it’s too much. We will find out. We’ll rest it, treat it and see how he responds. We are not too concerned about it.”

Jackson said the fact that no X-Ray was taken suggests it’s not serious. But in light of past issues regarding Bogut’s ankle, and the information given about it, impossible not to be skeptical.

KEY MOMENT III: The Warriors started the third quarter slowly, missing 6 of their first 9 shots. But still, the deficit was just 74-65 inside of 6 minutes left in the third. Still within striking distance.

But then they fell apart. Over the next three minutes, the Warriors turned it over 3 times and missed two jumpers. That led to an 8-0 Thunder run, four by Durant, that put the Warriors in serious trouble.

A steal by Jack led to a layup. And after a Durant jumper, Draymond green got a layup. The Warriors got another stop and Jack took Thunder guard Reggie Jackson to the rim for another layup. The lead was down to 12 with 1:48 left. A couple of buckets and it’s a single-digit game heading into the fourth.

But four free throws by total by Durant and Martin, followed by a Martin 3-pointer, pushed the lead to 19 and ended any Warriors hopes for making it a game.

BEFORE YOU GO: Stephen Curry knocked down three 3-pointers, giving him 252. He’s 17 back of Ray Allen’s single-season record with two games to play, so it’s going to take a ridiculous shooting performance the last two games to set the record. Still, Curry made a bit of history. His became only the fourth player in NBA history to hit 250 3-pointers in a season. The other three: Ray Allen, Dennis Scott and George McCloud. Curry, who turned 25 last month, is hte youngest to do it as Allen was 30, McCloud was 28 and Scott was 27.

Marcus Thompson

  • RNP

    Marcus: I get the impression that Bogut is temperamental and flies off when he’s not happy with the way his body is feeling during games. Did he just bolt from the arena in frustration?

  • Grey Warden

    Not really surprised Bogut’s injured again. Dude can never stay on court. He can play D and block up the lane, but what good is he if he can’t even stay healthy? $13m/year for a part time player….

  • Jaytee

    I’m glad MJax is starting to utilize a big man next to DLee or Landry, instead of using both DLee and Landry together. Still don’t know why he doesn’t light the fire under Klay or Barnes to take it to the hoop more often. As good as JJack is, is he really that much different than Nate Robinson was?

  • moto

    thanks for a well written, insightful, summary and analysis. props to you, M.Thornton II.

  • moto

    apologies, got your name wrong.