There was one resounding tone from the Warriors’ last two losses, one that burns coach Mark Jackson more than the losses themselves. Both opponents wanted the win more than Golden State.
Based on the eye test, that was the case in Friday’s 102-95 loss to the host Los Angeles Lakers and Saturday’s 113-101 loss to visiting Portland. The Warriors didn’t look like the hungry team bent on exerting their will. They looked like a comfortable team expecting the light bulb to go off any moment, like someone appeased their hunger with a few Snickers.
“We were just bad – just bad,” Jackson said. “I thought there were some times where we let our inability to make shots affect the way we defended. That’s not who we are. We didn’t give the same energy the same effort. The 50/50 balls, the long rebounds and loose balls – they got every single one of them. When we are on top of our game, those are ours and we turn them into transition baskets. That’s a team that scored 64 points in the second half — 48 points off turnovers and second chance opportunities. You can’t win, you can’t win that way.”
It’s Thanksgiving week, and the Warriors embark on a three-game road trip extremely thankful for the 8-3 start that has cushioned their fall.
Losers of three straight, the Warriors have the seventh-best record in the Western Conference. Not that long ago, they went to San Antonio with a chance to claim the best record in the west.
“The expectations inside our locker room are the same,” Stephen Curry said. “It’s healthy that we’ve gone on a three-game slide and being 8-6 this early in the season. Guys are frustrated figuring out how to turn it around. We’re in a good spot right now.”
More on the last two games …
Harrison Barnes. Against the Lakers, he was imposing on offense. He probably didn’t shoot enough based on the way he had it going and with Stephen Curry out. He had 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting against the Lakers in 44 minutes of action. Against Portland, he wasn’t as efficient with his shot, making just 4 of 12. But he had five assists and got to the free throw line. It’s becoming clear his role in the offense should be bigger, or at least intentional.
David Lee. This stretch is indicative of why David Lee critics are so adamant. His numbers looked good. He totaled 36 points and 25 rebounds in the two games. But if you watched the game, he got outplayed both times. Against the Lakers, both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill were effective against him. And LaMarcus Aldridge – who Lee usually outplays – just ate him up. Lee wasn’t alone, for sure. Nobody was great. But with Curry out the first game and Iguodala out the second, the Warriors needed him to be great. He wasn’t, on either end of the court.
The first 12 games of the season opponents were making, on average, 6 of 19 from 3-point range against the Warriors. That’s 31.4 percent.
The Lakers and Portland, however, combined to make 21 of 45. That’s 46.7 percent.
Both teams reached the double digits in 3-pointers made against the Warriors.
Conversely, the Warriors were 16 of 39 from 3-point range (41 percent), making 9 against the Lakers and 7 against Portland. Before those two games, the Warriors were shooting a league-best 44.8 percent and averaging 10.6 made 3-pointers per game.
It seems the Warriors are due for a drought each game. Granted, they have been without at least one key offensive player and are operating basically without a productive guard coming off the bench. But aren’t the Warriors’ supposed to be so loaded that offense isn’t a concern?
These scoring droughts are proving to be killer. Golden State had a 17-point quarter in each of the games. Both of them spelled doom for their chances at winning.
Against the Lakers, the Warriors failed to score the final 4:23 of the quarter. Los Angeles ripped off a 12-0 run and the Warriors never recovered. Against Portland, the game was tied at 90. Curry hit a floater at the 8:45 mark. The Warriors’ next points came at 2:49 on a layup by Lee. During Golden State’s drought, Portland ran off 14 straight to put the Warriors away.
Why are these droughts happening? …
***** I don’t think it is a coincidence. When teams go on a run, the Warriors’ get tight. Suddenly, they’re in need of a basket so their response is to try to milk an advantage. And their idea of milking advantages is giving the ball to the player with the smaller guy on him.
I like the logic. Some moments in the game, you need to go for a high-percentage shot. However, this is not a high-percentage option for the Warriors. Posting up David Lee and Klay Thompson is not playing to their strengths. Isolating Harrison Barnes is probably the best of those options, but it still isn’t ideal because that part of his game is developing.
The Warriors spend too much time at that ISO buffet. It just doesn’t fit their style. To be sure, it is good in spots. Barnes on a small, I’ll take that. Klay with a point guard behind him, I’ll even take that IF he has a rhythm going. But for the most part, ISOs and post-ups are against what the Warriors do best.
No. 1, it eliminates their transition game. No. 2, it almost always becomes a one-shot situation, as no one is in position to rebound because of the isolation set up. One-and-done possessions are the last thing you need when you are cold. You don’t want fewer shots in a drought, you want MORE shots.
No. 3, they don’t have post players. Carl Landry isn’t walking through that door. Lee’s game is potent because of his versatility. His skill set is so high, you have to pick and choose what to take away, and he’s good enough to beat you with his counter. Play off him, he hits the midrange. Play on him, he can drive by you. Take away the right hand, he finishes with the left. As post-up player, he is just too limited. He knows what move he wants from the beginning. You don’t see him pulling off up-and-unders. You don’t see him driving middle and suddenly spinning back baseline. You don’t see him pump-faking to get his man in the air. You don’t see him throwing himself into the defender just to draw the foul.
That’s because posting is instinctual. It is not having a couple of moves, but having a feel. It’s going right three times to set up the fake-and-go-left. It’s feeling where the defender is leaning his strength and using it against him. It’s reading the help and finding the right counter. That’s Zach Randolph’s game. That’s LaMarcus Aldridge’s game. That’s not David Lee’s game. So putting him in that situation puts him at a disadvantage.
***** When the Warriors need a bucket, you know what they should do? Run a trap. Speed up the offense by pressuring the ball. You’ve got a rim presence as a backstop in Bogut. That’s in essence what the Muckers do. (I refuse to call them the Goon Squad because WarriorsWorld.net is trying to claim ownership over that cliche! lol) Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green, Toney Douglas, they get in the game and muck it up by playing defense aggressively. And it works. They just can’t capitalize on offense, and they foul too much sometimes, but they have a way of getting the opponent out of their rhythm with their aggressiveness defensively. The Warriors can take the same approach with the starters. Just have Curry pressure the ball, shading his man to a trap zone. Especially when you have Iguodala on the court. I bet he and Curry would make a great trap.
Some turnovers, stops could produce the transition game they need to jump start the offense. And they’d be doing it with defense.
Another thing they could do, and I know this sounds bad, leak out. Let Barnes or Thompson contest the perimeter and leak. Whether a miss or a made basket, push it. Curry is great at advancing the ball. Get it out quick and get it up the court. I’d much rather Thompson or Barnes going 1 on 2 in transition than them posting up with the defense waiting with the help.
Or, instead of having Curry get the ball near the basket on the inbounds, have him go to the half court area. Either pass up to there from the inbounds, or have someone else come get the inbounds, then turn and get it to Curry. That way, your best playmaker has it ahead of the defense with a head of steam. The inbounder becomes the trailer and if nothing is there, now you can get into your offense.
“We’re at our best when we’re pushing the basketball,” Jackson has said.
***** Mark Jackson keeps saying “we’ll be fine” … “we’ll be fine.” This is a smart approach. If the Warriors 13-7 or 12-8 over their first 20 games, which is still possible, that’s still a pretty good start. Panicking and losing perspective is not what they need. In the end, it’s a three-game losing streak in the first month of the season. More important than the losses is addressing the issues that has led to them. If the Warriors do that, they’ll be fine. But it’s harder to do that when the coach is overreacting. As much as we in the media present the doom, Jackson’s mild-mannered approach rubs off on his players. They’ll need all that belief as they carry on.
WHAT HE SAID
“We have built-in excuses to lose games because we have injuries. But every team goes through injuries, so we need to find a way to respond. … We’ve got to do what we can. No one will feel sorry for us and, like I said, we can’t use this as an excuse now because we have injuries.” — Andrew Bogut
AT LEAST WE LEARNED
Nemanja Nedovic might be a solid option as a third guard. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable with each appearance.
He is a comfortable ball-handler and he’s got good size for a point guard. He’s still relatively passive, but that seems to be dissipating as his confidence rises. Mark Jackson is putting him in the games while they are still in the balance and he’s not necessarily hurting the Warriors. If he can knock down an open shot and defend without fouling, he may work his way into the rotation a lot sooner than expected.
BEFORE YOU GO
Since drafting Curry, the Warriors are 16-41 when he is not in the lineup.