Well, there’s one of those important road wins given back. And “given” is the appropriate word. How do you give up 123 points to the Denver Nuggets when you limited them to 81 less than a month ago … in Denver?
A lot of ways, as it turned out. From the outset, the Warriors seemed content to play Denver’s up-and-down fast-paced style instead of locking down early on defense. Denver shot 66.7 percent in the first quarter, getting way too many easy buckets in the paint, and it continued into the second quarter. Denver shot 61 percent in the first half, and guys like Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler were allowed to look like All-Stars.
The W’s gave up a half-court 3-pointer to Evan Fournier at the end of the third quarter with precisely no defense being played at all. That should never happen, but if it does, someone should at least make some effort to contest the shot. No one did, and surprise, the shot went in.
Then, in a bit of a backhand to the Warriors big news earlier in the day — a deal to acquire scoring off the bench in the form of Boston’s Jordan Crawford — one of their former bench players, Nate Robinson, decided to go off. He scored 24 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, and was positively electric. The Warriors can only hope that Crawford is bringing a couple of these types of games in his back pocket from Beantown, but that’s probably doubtful. Nobody can light up a game off the bench like Robinson when he’s on, and if you can divorce yourself from the pain of the outcome, you have to admit, that was pretty fun to watch, eh?
But finally, the ultimate killer: Robinson’s last basket came with 3:44 left and the Warriors rallied to take a 116-115 lead with 1:13 left. In short, they still could have pulled out the game, even with all the badness that had come before. But with Andrew Bogut out of the game because Mark Jackson decided to play small-ball matchups, J.J. Hickson scored just nine seconds later at the other end. He just blew threw the key for an easy layup. Finally, on the ensuing possession, Stephen Curry tried to break down Hickson on an isolation play at the top of the key and got picked clean by the big man, who raced the length of the floor for the basket that salted the game away.
It was an entertaining game but a bad loss because it once again raised the question if the Warriors are truly an elite NBA team. Elite teams don’t let visiting opponents come in to their building and dictate the tempo. They don’t give up 67 points to a three-man backcourt of Foye, Robinson and Ty Lawson. They don’t allow a guy like Hickson to get 24 rebounds and then pick the pocket of your All-Star point guard in the waning seconds of the game.
Curry went on Twitter after the game and the loss was “on me. I’ve got to make a play.” Maybe, but Curry only had two turnovers in the game and the second one just happened to come at a very bad time on a very embarrassing one-on-one theft. At least he scored 24 points and dished seven assists. It was a rougher night for others. Bogut, despite a strong first quarter, disappeared after that. He was totally ineffective in the second half. Andre Iguodala went 1 for 7 against his old team and despite six assists, didn’t play well. Harrison Barnes seemed primed for a big game on his bobblehead night but the Warriors didn’t get him the ball nearly often enough when he was clearly feeling it. Marreese Speights continued to tantalize but too often disappoint. He made a big bucket to tie the game, but when he had a chance to score underneath on a subsequent possession to give Golden State the lead, he shuffled his feet and was called for traveling. Just don’t know about Mo, still, at midseason. Kent Bazemore? Assuming Toney Douglas’ old role, he played four minutes and missed a dunk. And like Douglas had of late, Bazemore didn’t play in the second half.
Bottom line, after an iffy effort against Boston and now this loss, the Warriors are back to a position of having to prove their worthiness again to be mentioned in the same breath with the Clippers, Rockets, Spurs and Blazers. And the whole “top 5 defense” thing … is that really believable after a game like this? Without question, other teams are going to have big nights offensively, but again, this is the same Denver team that scored just 81 against Golden State on Dec. 23. The Nuggets shot just 38.3 percent in that game. They shot 54.2 percent in this one. Foye scored one point in the last meeting. He had 21 this time around. The Nuggets didn’t even have Andre Miller in this game and still got it done.
As said David Lee, the one Warrior who played his tail off in this game — 28 points, 11 rebounds 12 of 13 from the line –if the Warriors play like this in Oklahoma City on Friday, it’s going to be a long night.
The thing is, you hate to see a team hit this kind of bump in the road after all they’ve banked to this point under very tough circumstances. It’s called killer instinct. Maybe it is just a bump, but if you’re a Warriors fan, you know they raised some significant doubt with this defeat. An elite team does not lose this game, and particularly in this manner.