It’s amazing how fast that swung. The Warriors were world beaters after their Game 2 win. Not only did they steal home court advantage, but many were expecting them to win the series. Experts, who didn’t pick the Warriors to get past Denver, were now saying Golden State was better than San Antonio and putting them in the Finals.
But after Friday’s 102-92 loss, the Warriors are now on the ropes. They’re in practically their first must-win game of these playoffs, as a loss in Game 4 puts them on the brink of elimination. They’ve gone from what should have been a 2-0 lead back to the underdog.
MARK JACKSON: “This is going to be a heavyweight championship fight. That’s a different animal that we’re going against. They have four future Hall of Famers. They’re not going to lie down.”
The Warriors learned that the hard way. Spurs guard Tony Parker showed championship resolve, bouncing back and dominating the Warriors. Gregg Popovich made some expected adjustments and one-upped his Warriors counterpart, taking control of the series.
Golden State needs a win to make this a series again.
CARL LANDRY: “I think we just didn’t have a good game. I heard coach say we didn’t match the intensity of the San Antonio Spurs. We didn’t do the little things it takes like getting the 50-50 balls an taking charges and weak side defense to win that game. We’ll get it right. Game 4 is (Sunday) and we’ll be ready to go.”
More on the Game 3 loss …
WRITER’S RANT: Chill on the Jarrett Jack hate. It’s become trendy to jump on Jack, who hasn’t played great in this series. But Jack hasn’t been horrible, for one. He hasn’t been good, but he’s been playing on par with Ginobili. Jack is not the reason the Warriors are down 2-1.
Blame the Warriors’ conservative approach to offense. Blame the coach that rides or die with his back-up point guard. Blame the Spurs defense, which is markedly better than Denver. But it’s not Jack’s fault.
He was bad in Game 3. But he’s going to have bad games. Draymond Green didn’t play well either. Harrison Barnes was aiiiight at best. Jack is in that category, albeit the most pivotal of all the “role” players. But his bad games aren’t like Stephen Curry’s bad games, or Klay Thompsons, or Andrew Boguts, or a healthy David Lee. And if they are, that’s because his role is questionably pronounced by Jackson.
Jack’s effectiveness is directly tied to the effectiveness of his stars. He’s the guy who makes opponents pay for giving all their attention to the key guys. He’s the guy who lives off the plethora of weapons the Warriors brag about. If he fails, it’s probably because the weapons are not effective or too much is being asked of him.
Jack is what he is. You liked him dribbling too much when he was reliving a turnover prone Curry. Same guy. You liked him looking for his shot when he was hitting numerous big shots in the fourth quarter. He’s the same guy.
The playoffs expose weaknesses and glorifies strengths. Jack has both. The same ones he’s had all year. The opponent preys on weaknesses, while his team seeks to magnify his strengths. It’s not his fault if the Spurs are doing their job better than the Warriors. He’s not the team’s dynamic star who should be able to perform against the best. He’s got to be put in the right position to take advantage of his well-honed skills and hide his weaknesses.
So far, the Warriors haven’t been able to do that against San Antonio like against Denver. That’s more about the Spurs being better than Jack being not good. He is what he is, and when he comes out balling in Game 4, it won’t be because he got better.
JACKSON: “Toughness. Edge. Competitor. Winner. Honest guy that knows when he plays great and knows when he plays bad. He owns it and his winning spirit and attacking spirit is contagious in our locker room. We went and got him for a reason. If called upon, whether it be to start or come off the bench, he will be ready and he will perform. … He’s a heck of a player and we wouldn’t be where we are today without Jarrett Jack. … He embodies everything that we are.”
MVP: Andrew Bogut
Bogut’s struggles maintaining a “live body” seem to be a thing of the past. He’s played Games 2 and 3 on one day rest (which proved to be a problem in the first round) but has maintained an aggressive, physical, energetic level of play. He had 11 points and 12 rebounds in Game 3 vs. San Antonio. He helped the Warriors win the battle of the boards again and, in key stretches, was involved in some way or another.
MARK JACKSON: “He’s playing great basketball. Protecting the paint, playing great defense on Tim, battling, making plays. I’m very pleased with what he’s giving us. You need that type of presence to continue to be playing.”
MDP: Stephen Curry
They needed him to be the All-Star snub, the rising superstar who everyone talks about as a top 5 point guard. They needed him to take over the game. He didn’t. Whether it be San Antonio’s scheme, or the Warriors’ insistence on playing him off the ball, or him just missing shots, he didn’t have an impact on the game. He gets an off game. He’s now had two straight. And we’re in that part of the season where that cannot happen without some level of criticism.
KLAY THOMPSON: “He had a monster first game. They’ve adjusted. Steph, he usually hits 50 percent of the shots he’s missing. They’re doing a good job on him, but I’m not worried that it’s them. I think it’s just Steph not making those shots. It happens. We’ve all been through it. I know he’ll bounce back. It’s a learning experience.”
TELLING STAT: 34.8 percent. That’s what the Warriors shot in the fourth quarter. They missed 15 of their 23 shots. Thompson missed six. Draymond Green 3. Jack and Curry two each. But guess who made all of his shots, but only took two: Carl Landry.
Say what you want about defense and rebounding, etc. The Warriors were down a point with 10 minutes left in the game. They’ve been here before, having played a bad first half and in a tight game late. Usually, they go on a run and put the other team away. San Antonio was asking for it. The Spurs shot 38.9 percent and turned it over three times. The Big Three for San Antonio was 4 of 13 in the fourth.
The Warriors just couldn’t score. They had 78 points after Green’s runner at the 10:06 mark. They managed one point, a Bogut free throw, over the next four minutes, 25 seconds until a pair of Curry free throws at the 5:31 mark.
It was their second big drought of the half. The Warriors went 4:59 without a point on the back end of the third quarter, allowing San Antonio to turn a tie game into an 11-point lead.
THAT ONE HURT: The entire Oracle crowd, which is known for getting as hype as they come, was silenced by the sight. Curry, trying to stop and change directions on a dime, rolled his right ankle and was limping badly out near half court. You could almost hear everyone thinking “Not again!”
Curry limped like a wounded bird down to the other end of the court, eventually committing a foul to stop play at the 4:40 mark.
CURRY: “It wasn’t as bad as the one I did in Denver, it just happened to be the same foot. Compounding the fact that it wasn’t all the way healed from last time and just a repeat turn. I’m pretty optimistic I’ll be able to play in whatever the capacity, I’ll be on the floor.”
He actually stayed on the floor the next four-plus minutes. He wasn’t much factor and the Warriors needed a miracle. Now, Golden State fans are waiting with fingers crossed to see if he plays.
Here is a bit of good news. Curry usually responds well. He sprained his ankle three times during the regular season and once during the playoffs. Here are his numbers for those
Jan. 19 at Hornets: 20 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 38+ minutes (3 days rest)
Feb. 2 vs. Suns: 29 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds, 42+ minutes (5 days rest)
March 25 vs. Lakers: 25 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 43 minutes (2 days rest)
April 26 vs. Nuggets: 29 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 38 minutes (3 days rest)
Here is a bit of bad news. Sunday will be the shortest rest he’s ever had off a sprained ankle. About 36 hours.
NEED MORE FROM: Jarrett Jack. It’s not that he was 5 of 12 from the field, or that he had 1 assist and 2 turnovers. It’s that he didn’t leave an imprint on the game. He didn’t going at Tony Parker. He didn’t push tempo. He didn’t scrapping on defense, scurrying for loose balls and coming up with steals. He looked like he was pressing. He didn’t look like the steely vet who Mark Jackson calls a gamer.
JACK: “I felt good about it (my performance). I had all the shots I wanted. Some of them rimmed in and out at times. Still want to definitely be aggressive. I think I’ve just got to find better ways to put my imprint on one of these games coming up.”
COACHES CORNER: You knew Gregg Popovich was coming with something. And Mark Jackson didn’t have an answer.
You knew the Spurs were going to come back with more energy and intensity.
JACKSON: “They out‑played us, out‑worked us. They were the aggressor. That being said, we’re still a confident basketball team. We talked about it. That team is very capable of coming into our building and beating us. They did that.”
As much credit is given to Jackson for having his guys ready to play, including from me, he gets the blame for the Warriors not showing up. But there were some other tactical issues.
* The Warriors stopped attacking Parker. Oddly enough, he spent a lot of time on Curry, a match-up that led to 44 points in Game 1. Save for a couple post ups by Harrison Barnes. In Games 1 & 2, Parker was EXHAUSTED after having to play defense as the Warriors went after him. In Game 3, he was fine. The Spurs brought a little help and the Warriors went away from it.
* There was very little inside-out action. Landry had it going but he took just eights shots. Bogut had just one assist as the play scarcely went through his hands. Barnes had just 10 touches. The Warriors got away from inside-out basketball. When you’re playing half-court action, it’s practically a must.
* It started back in Game 2 in the fourth quarter. The Warriors stopped running. Yes, a lot of it has to do with Jack. When he’s in, Golden State is looking for specific action. And, as well documented on Twitter, that usually means a lot of dribbling. Curry is better at passing the ball up court, but even he has been prone to walk it up when he’s been on the ball. Part of it is because the Spurs are getting back, but that isn’t all of it. Some of it is also the Warriors’ desire to take care of the ball. But the Warriors need to be more dogged about pushing it. Especially Jack, as he needs those cracks in the defense to slither through. They just aren’t there in the half court.
* Curry spent way too much time off the ball. Kawhi Leonard didn’t get on him until the second half. But whenever Curry did have Parker or Green on him, the Warriors went to pick-and-roll action. The Spurs have that snuffed out. If there was anything we learned the first two games, and in the Denver series, Curry can make a play one-on-one. Their offensive sets bring defense to him, giving him less space to make something happen. Plus, Curry off the ball as a threat is not as much of a threat as Curry with the ball in his hands. This feels like a broken record, but when he has the ball, he is a triple threat. He can shoot it. He drive it. He can pass it. And the Spurs are engaged trying to stop all three. When he’s off the ball, he can only shoot it if he gets open, and it takes fewer Spurs to be engaged in stopping.
With Jack, the Spurs sag back and clog the lane since his drive is what hurts. Jack likes to put his head down and bull through the paint. San Antonio seems to know that as you see three or four players reaching in for the swipe, hardly concerned about the kick out. And the Spurs rotation is ready to contest when he goes to that pull-up over Parker.
The Warriors’ offense is considerably less potent when the best player on the team goes for long stretches without meaningful touches.
* Jackson’s super small lineup killed him at the wrong times. Draymond Green on Boris Diaw is a layup drill. Same whenever Kawhi Leonard is matched up with Jack in the Warriors’ three-guard lineup. The Spurs’ small lineup is bigger than the Warriors’ small lineup, so the Warriors are vulnerable on defense.
The Warriors did a much better job defensively in the second half. They got more aggressive pressing up on San Antonio. Klay started fighting over screens and, with a center waiting, that took away the easy jumper and gave him time to recover. The bigs started pressing on Duncan, which opened his drive (I think that’s a mistake). But it was worth it because it brought out a different zeal in the Warriors’ defense.
WHAT HE SAID: “I would say Ali-Frasier. We would be Ali. I’m sure Pop would say something different. I would say we’re Ali, definitely, definitely.” — Mark Jackson who was asked which heavyweight fight this series is like.
FOR NEXT GAME: The bad thing about making bad shots is it tricks you into thinking you can make them all the time. Thompson was so hot in Game 2, he thought the same shots would drop in Game 3. It doesn’t work like that. He, and the Warriors’ staff, need to manufacture points for him. With Curry potentially hobbled, they can’t afford him to be cold and try to shoot his way out of a slump. He needs to get good shots, genuine high percentage shots. And if he’s not getting them, the Warriors need to figure out a way to get them for him.
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: Tony Parker let Oracle Arena limping after sustaining a left calf injury. The Spurs called it a bruise. It happened in the fourth quarter when he was inadvertently kicked by Andrew Bogut. Parker told the San Antonio Express-News it was the size of a baseball. He said late in the game he couldn’t elevate. It was bad enough to keep Parker out of the Spurs’ practice on Saturday. But Parker isn’t expect to miss Game 4.
PARKER: “I just can’t see myself not playing. I’ll definitely play.”