The Warriors had their chance to make a statement. They were 2-0 heading into a daunting back-to-back set at San Antonio and Memphis. This is what contenders do. They go into situations like these and find a way.
Golden State looked as if it were game for the challenge in a nail-biting loss to San Antonio. Certainly, the same effort would give them a chance to beat the host Grizzlies. Instead, Golden State laid a dud.
Certainly, there is no shame in losing those two games. But it was a message: the Warriors have not arrived.
They are not to the level where they can go into a playoff team’s arena, without sneaking up on them, and winning. In those experiences, the Warriors are 0-3 (Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies).
No doubt, they are fine. It’s early and they’re still trying to jell as a team. But it is still the reality of where they are.
More on back-to-back set.
ON A SIDE NOTE …
This trip was a beast. Missed a flight (from Philadelphia to Minnesota) which just destroyed an off day. I caught a cold (first trip in a while, it was bound to happen) after being underprepared for the “wet snow” in Minneapolis. Then, in Memphis, computer crashed. That’s why you’re getting the two-fer on the Game Rewind. I had plans of writing the Spurs rewind on the flight. My laptop was hating. I spent six hours in the Apple store in Germantown, only for the lone solution being an erase and install of new software. Wrote my game story off the Grizzlies loss from my cell phone. Ever try writing 800 words, transcribing interviews and looking up stats all from an iPhone? OK. Pity party is over. The violin is put away. On to the recaps.
Toney Douglas. While the Warriors’ stars struggled to pick up the slack without Steph Curry, Douglas went off on San Antonio. He was the one who was clutch, who was aggressive, who looked confident. He had a game-high 21 points, knocking down 5 3-pointers. He didn’t get much of a shot to impact the second game, totaling 6 minutes of action.
Klay Thompson. He was never the same after going off for 19 in the fourth quarter at Minnesota. Certainly, his defenders improved. The Spurs have given Thompson problems since he went off in Game 2 of the playoffs. With Curry out, the Warriors really needed a big game from Klay. He responded with 5 of 16 shooting, managing just 11 points. Then he went to Memphis and had to deal with Tony Allen. That produced 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting. That’s 23 points on 34.5 percent shooting in two games.
“I just missed shots. That simple,” Thompson said. “I’ve been shooting really well this seson, so it was going to end at some time.”
I think that is Klay’s way of saying he was due for an off night. He’s still shooting 51.4 percent, which is well on his way to a career-high if he can keep this up.
The Warriors averaged 82 points on 41.6 percent shooting in the two games. Not only did they fail to score 30 in either of the eight quarters, they failed to reach 20 in three of them (including two fourth quarters). The problem wasn’t necessarily shooting. Golden State shot 36 percent from 3 (18 of 50), which is pretty good (54 points on 50 shots). But the Warriors really struggled inside. They made just 23 of 53 in the paint those two games, a measly 43.4 percent.
AT LEAST WE LEARNED …
The Warriors struggle against good interior defenses.
Andrew Bogut had a dreadful offensive showing these two games. Not only was his unable to produce anything in the post, but his passing was suspect and he committed way too many offensive fouls on screens.
Lee, the Warriors’ best offensive option, still has problems when people play him physical. He took just 21 shots in the two games, when he should probably take 15-20 shots per game (especially if Curry is out). Unlike he did against Philadelphia and Minnesota, Lee did a lot of fading away and avoided powering through the contact.
Jackson is trying to generate some interior offense, but Jermaine O’Neal — despite his OG moves — can’t finish, and Marreese Speights is too content with taking jumpers. No matter how well they shoot from the outside, high-percentage offense is vital. Any good team has such options. The Warriors are going to need to develop that.
COACH’S CORNER …
*** The fact is the Spurs and Memphis both possess Golden State’s kryptonite. They are big and physical. They execute. They don’t make many mistakes. They attack the Warriors’ weaknesses. To beat them, it takes phenomenal performances by Golden State. Jackson has yet to find how to catch lightning in a bottle regularly against these teams.
The Warriors aren’t the best matchup for the Spurs. But the Spurs still out-execute the Warriors considerably, offsetting Golden State advantages. And Memphis, they just pound the Warriors into submission. It’s going to take some schematics and buttons-pushing from Jackson because they disadvantage his players face outweigh his advantage.
*** With that said, the Warriors had San Antonio, a sign they’re getting closer to conquering those demons. But they didn’t capitalize because of their own poor execution. And one of the most obvious lapses was not having Toney Douglas in the game on the final possession.
He came out at the 2:58 mark, after being part of the unit that cut San Antonio’s seven-point lead to two. But Jackson went with his best players, and Douglas watched. Even when it came down to one offensive possession, Jackson left Bogut in the game instead of bringing in the hot hand. Douglas was the only Warrior who had a rhythm offensively. He felt good against Tony Parker (another mistake: not attacking Parker) and that’s likely who would’ve been guarding Douglas had he been in the game.
As a result, the Warriors got Bogut trying to thread the needle in the paint, nearly turning it over. Then Iguodala (waiting too long) and settling for a difficult, fading, double-clutching fade-away. Not what you want down the stretch, Curry or no.
*** Jackson’s refusal to put Andre Iguodala on star point guards is puzzling. It made sense in Minnesota, as Kevin Martin is a guy who can light you up. But against San Antonio, he was guarding Danny Green while Thompson chased around Tony Parker. Against Memphis, Iguodala had Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller. In the Warriors’ first loss of the season, Chris Paul wore down Thompson, leaving him ineffective on offense. Considering Thompson’s importance to the offense, it seems Iguodala should get some of these assignments. Perhaps this is tops on list of questions to ask Jackson.
*** It is clear Jackson wants Bogut on the floor late in close games. Many expected Jackson to go small with Lee at center. It makes plenty sense as Bogut is Golden State’s rim protector extraordinaire and defensive quarterback. But offensively, if he is going to be in late, he has to give them something. To his credit, Jackson is trying. He’s giving Bogut his touches, running action through one of the league’s best passing big men. It’s a good idea to let Bogut work through this offensive struggles, at least early. You can’t sacrifice defense for offense, so the best idea is to keep your best defender on the court and figure out how to use him on offense. Bogut is struggling, but sitting him now could have long-term consequences. If he’s still a liability come December, January, then you’ve got real problems.
*** Looking forward to Barnes becoming a feature in the Warriors offense. As it stands now, Barnes gets off a shot every 2.6 minutes he’s on the court. Marreese Speights gets one every 2.4 minutes. For now, I’m going to chalk that up to Barnes needing to get adjusted. But if this pattern persists, it may be worth a rant.
WHAT HE SAID …
“Well they’re for real.They’re really good offensively, (and) obviously they’re very talented. They’ve got an inside and outside game, and they’re really capable of scoring. If that was just it, then you’d call them a dangerous team where on any given night they can do you in. But they’re beyond that, because (Warriors coach) Mark (Jackson) has done a hell of a job in giving them a mentality, an aggressive, physical mentality defensively. He’s been demanding in that regard, and fortunately he’s got a group of character guys who want to do it right and get to the next level, and that’s what it takes. He initiated that last year. That takes them from a dangerous team to a solid, competitive team that can play with anybody. That’s who they are. Now it’s just a matter of being persistent and consistent about that, and reducing mistakes and understanding that it’s a long season. They’re definitely on the right path.” — Gregg Popovich said of the Warriors
TRENDING TOPIC …
Rebounding was a strength for the Warriors last season. So far, Golden State isn’t dominating the boards. The Warriors are 18th in rebound percentage, grabbing 49.8 percent of the rebounds.
Perhaps the most concerning is defensive rebounding. Golden State gives up the eighth-most offensive rebounds per game (12.0). Conversely, the Warriors average the 29th fewest offensive rebounds (8.4) and second-chance points (9.0) in the league.
Golden State allows 3.4 offensive rebounds per fourth quarter, the fifth most in the league.
“Without putting blame on anybody,” Bogut said, “I think in late-game situations, we all need to crash the boards. Myself and D-Lee have to put a body on (opposing big men). When the ball goes over your head to the corner or over your head to the top of the key, you just gotta hope there is a guard there that hasn’t leaked out or taken off a little earlier.”
BEFORE YOU GO …
Andre Iguodala is shooting 47.8 percent from the free throw line. He is 11 of 23, meaning he’s missed more than he’s made.
Iguodala, Bogut and Draymond Green are all below .50 percent from the free throw line. That’s a big reason the Warriors are below 70 percent as a team.