It was there for the taking, and the Warriors made a valiant run at it. They took it down to the final four minutes, had four 3-point tries that might have sealed the deal, but missed them all. It happens. Hence, they also missed out on what would have been some nice history — a franchise-tying 11-game win streak, a record eighth straight road win, and the first unbeaten road trip in NBA history.
Tough loss. Agonizing, in the end, considering how close the Warriors made it. But any Dubs fan that’s too hard on this team after putting forth this kind of effort on the second night of a back-to-back to close a long, tiring seven-game trip gets no respect from me. You’ve got a determined, commmitted, diverse, fun, winning basketball team to root for, and after so many horrible clubs over the past 35 years, you’re way too shortsighted if you’re pouting or whining right now.
Without a doubt, the Warriors are a very good team that has a glaring Achilles’ heel — its bench. It just isn’t good enough, and that was demonstrated on this night when the starters raced out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter and the bench promptly gave it all back against an experienced backup Brooklyn Nets crew. Toney Douglas was so ineffective, Mark Jackson never brought him back in the second half. Marreese Speights turned the ball over way too many times, continued to miss the shots a so-called “knockdown shooter” shouldn’t miss, and couldn’t handle Brooklyn big man Andray Blatche defensively. Draymond Green didn’t get it going until he could run with the first unit in the second half. And let’s face it, the Warriors are really missing the big, active, defensive-minded Festus Ezeli with Andrew Bogut only playing 25-30 minutes a game.
The Warriors will do something before the trade deadline, rest assured. They’re not stupid, and you can read Marcus Thompson’s excellent analysis piece here on the means it will get done: http://bit.ly/1eImN9r
The biggest question is determining what’s needed, and who fits. There are a lot of candidates. But something must and will be done or the fine work of these starters likely will go for naught in the first two rounds of the playoffs because of the bench inconsistency which, quite frankly, I don’t see fixing itself with the available talent. Getting Ezeli back will help, but scoring is needed. So is playmaking. Putting that together into one available player will be the goal of the next few weeks for general Bob Myers, hopefully taking sage advice from Jerry West and coach Mark Jackson.
Quite frankly, the best fitting player would be Jarrett Jack. That’s not going to happen, though, so the Warriors will evaluate cheaper alternatives. Andre Miller sounds good on the surface, but he might be too old to deliver what’s needed night in, night out. Like the Kirk Hinrich talk, and Kyle Lowry could work, too. Other candidates may surface. And perish the thought, but the Warriors really do need better Stephen Curry insurance. His ankles have held up so far, but one ill-timed twist could be very problematic without a reliable backup.
Take solace in the fact that it’s a minor, doable fix, one that will help this club immeasurably, and the sooner it’s made the better. Add Ezeli sometime in the next month (hopefully) and two problems could be solved. Eventually, maybe by March, Jermaine O’Neal can make it back and provide even more offense to the bench. But that may the last hurdle to the Warriors becoming a true title contender.
In the end, celebrate a 6-1 road trip, one that included a convincing win over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. It came an eyelash from 7-0, but against a Nets team that has now won four straight and seems to finally be finding its footing under Jason Kidd. Brooklyn really wanted this one, too, and they had a packed house in the beautiful Barclays Center to cheer them on (although it seemed I saw at least 500 Curry jerseys in the stands).
It had a sour end, but such a trip launched the Warriors last year, and it will again this season. They only have 18 road games to play the rest of the year, and still have more games to play against the weaker Eastern Conference than anybody else in the West. It’s all set up for them for the hard work they’ve done on the road so far, and they should start making home hay starting Friday night when they host Boston.
You’d have to be an idiot to jump off the bandwagon after this loss. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to catch back to the Bay. On Jan. 20, you’ll be getting an exciting new voice on the beat in Diamond Leung, and I can get back to my preferred role as the jack-of-all-trades man for our section — baseball, football, basketball, golf, tennis, whatever. Let’s just say at my age, I need the variety, and a lot less travel. It’s been a fun ride with the Warriors the past month, though, and you’ll be hearing from me throughout the rest of the season when an experienced backup is needed, and certainly in the playoffs. Thanks to Jimmy Durkin, too, who delivered good writing and five wins on his first extended road trip with a pro team, and allowed me to take a scheduled week of vacation. Jimmy gets another road run to OKC and New Orleans next week before Diamond comes aboard to see if he can maintain his unbeaten streak.
Keep rooting, keep ranting (in moderation), but most important of all, keep reading.