Game 38 Rewind: Missed shot at 7-0 reinforces fact that the bench needs reinforcement

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.

Carl Steward

  • Commish

    Great post! You nailed it. Come on Bob!

  • Commish

    Carl the “link” to Marcus’ post doesn’t work, at least for me. I’d like to read it. Thanks

  • qtlaw88

    Someone, please someone, tell Jackson that Barnes posting up is horrible (5/16 from left block; 4/22 from right block). How about more motion offense rather than Barnes iso?

  • ecolin

    Green, Bazemore, & Barnes, have a ton of talent, have playoff experience, and have shown many many flashes. They need some confidence. Hopefully they can gain chemistry. The writers keep calling it a weak bench but I would put that up against most other benches. Show me a better bench. In other words, I have faith in our 6, 7, 8 . . . and then Ezeli comes back. Too back Seth Curry did not work out.

    Thanks, Carl. Love the way you write. We’ll keep reading.

  • thewarriorsrule

    it’s easy to blame it all on the bench, but i blame it on jackson for not putting them in a position to succeed. all jackson needs to do is mix and match some of his starters with the bench instead of putting in all of his bench players in at the same time.

    it’s hard for douglas to be effective when he’s averaging only 7 mins a game, the lowest in his career. speights is shooting a career low. they do not get consistent minutes. when they play poor, they get pulled. but when they do well, they also get pulled. so what can they do? there was only one game where jackson finally trusted them to close out the game and that was the magic. if jackson is truly a “flow” coach, he should go with the hot hand or what is working for them instead of putting in his starters to close out the games as a default.

    i have a simple solution: scoring and playmaking is needed in one person? why not just bring iggy off the bench? i think barnes would benefit being put back into the starting lineup to have the veterans help him out, as well as continue his breakthroughs that he learned in his first year. it took him the whole year last year to learn his role and how to fit in with the team and now he got confused again by coming off the bench for the first time in his career and learning the 6th man role. having klay come off the bench to bolster the bench scoring is not such a bad idea either, as barnes is a better defender than klay. i would experiment with different players off the bench. you can also add green in the starting lineup for defense. overall, we should have more minutes for barnes and green to give breathers for klay. it would be nice to have a veteran like iggy (and more shots for him, and a guy who can create shots for the bench), like how the spurs do with ginobili. last year we also had jack and landry veterans to stabilize the bench, so having iggy off the bench is not such a bad idea.

  • ds207

    Warriors have been very lucky that Bogut has held up for this long too. I like O’Neal and Ezeli backing him up, but not on the injured list. Hopefully Myers can pull a trigger on a backup point guard asap, as there is no way Curry can keep this up all year, especially with Douglas and Bazemore doing almost nothing.

  • rio kid

    How about less than nothing…..

  • rio kid

    Probably got into NY around 3:00Am, bus to the hotel, check in, still amped,in bed by 4:000 sleep til noon, groggy, game at 7..amazing they did as well as they did…Fans think about being Nets fan…100mllion pay roll and that’s what you got… yuck…Bogut was quite a beast..Man is he fun to watch, pretty good verticle leaps on his dunks….

  • rio kid

    Not a terrible idea…

  • rio kid

    Green is very smart and tough.. he is a little clunky. That is the only word I know to explain him. Bazemore is physically talented and has a good actitude though a mess on the court. Barnes has a tonne and a half of talent and is going to be a very good NBA player with a long career. Problem is as a unit they are thus far very trainwreckish in nature and do not contribute positively to the outcome of the game. Ezeli and/or O’neal will definitely help defensively. Problem is that Bazemore is a terrible point guard and Douglas is not very good at keeping the wheels on the Wagon as sherriff of the offense and that is the crux of the matter. He has good enough shot, good defense but that is only two thirds of what he needs that 1/3 portion that is missing…vital.

  • Stan

    Festus they had said might return by December,after his surgery in June. Or,worst case March. I guess its now worst case.

    Also..that 33 game Laker win streak? I think they followed that with a 18 game win streak. So,that’s 51 wins in 52 games..and that has to be a record that no team has ever come close to matching.
    I cant find any mention of the 18gamer..so my memory might be off…..

  • flaninerfan

    When is O’Neill due back? That should help secondary scoring down low. A backup PG is definitely needed. I do not think Baze or Douglas have ever been true PG’s? So asking them to fill that role is going to have limited success. In the mean time a better mixing of starters and reserves is needed. The wholesale hockey line change is not working!

  • Howard Benner

    Tonight’s excuses de jour; the road trip “hangover,” pouting over the 1/4 of a game they played against New Jersey, they’re still on east coast time (we shoulda started @ 4;30!), Steph is still awaiting his incoming shipment of “French Pastry. . .
    I was watching an interview with Chandler Parsons & when the question came to why the Rockets have been so maddeningly inconsistent I coulda sworn he was talking about the W’s. . .not coming with the requisite energy every night, inconsistent defensive energy, lackadasical offense leading to way too many unforced turnovers. . .immaturity. . .nice to see it isn’t just a “W’s thing. . .”

    But trailing to another eastern conference team, @ home. . .gonna make it two in a row that shoulda been registered in the win column?!

  • 808Oahu

    After how many misses Klay hits one.
    I am not a believer in Klay and feel we should move him out.
    We talk about getting some bettter bench players, maybe we gotta get rid of a starter or so to getting something decent back.
    Klay is proving to be a streaky shooter with average defensive skills at best. His basketballl IQ is not that high either.