The Warriors lost a game Friday night they had no business losing. At home against a team that was 20-21 entering the night. Have…to…win. At least if you want to fancy yourself a Western Conference contender. Right now, the Warriors aren’t.
They’re a playoff team still, but right now they aren’t a contender. You can’t pretend to call yourself one when you are just 4-10 against fellow Western Conference playoff teams and 6-13 against teams in the conference who are currently .500 or better. I’ll delve deeper into that subject during my off-day story tomorrow. For now, let’s talk about this 121-120 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The feeling in the Warriors locker room was this loss had nothing to do with Harrison Barnes missing a wide-open jumper at the buzzer. That’s accurate. This had everything to do with 48 minutes of, once again, not playing good enough defense. They allowed 36 in the first quarter…on their home court where they should be able to jump out on teams. Right now, they aren’t. And Mark Jackson took the starters to task for it.
“We are not defending at a high level to start ballgames,” Jackson said. “We’ve been bad. And that’s on our starters.”
Curry’s take after the game was that it didn’t matter if Barnes had made the shot or not. The Warriors, win or lose, did not play winning basketball.
“We can’t be in the situation like that, at home,” Curry said. “That’s the biggest takeaway from this game. We make that shot, it’s great, we win, but it masks the bad performance on the defensive end for 48 minutes.”
Of course, everyone would feel a ton better if Barnes had made the shot. But I think just about everyone watching knew he wouldn’t. Barnes is just a mess right now. He hasn’t handled the move to the bench well (on the court at least, I can’t speak for how he’s handled it emotionally). There’s probably a pretty good reason he was left open. If you’re the Timberwolves, you can live with it a little more if Barnes beats you. You want to do whatever you can to keep Curry from beating you.
Of course, neither beat the T’wolves and the Warriors are now just 2-5 since going on that 10-game winning streak. They’ve fallen 3 1/2 games back of the Chris Paul-less Clippers and it’s becoming hard to imagine them catching them in the Pacific, especially once Paul returns.
Jackson talks all the time about defending at a high level. It’s something the Warriors haven’t done now in nine of the past 10 halves of basketball they’ve played (the second half against New Orleans being the exception, although second quarter vs. Indiana was good also). If the Warriors want to be who they think they can be, it has to start on the defensive end ASAP.
Be sure to check out new beat writer Diamond Leung’s game story, as the Warriors did him a real solid by giving him a nice and easy game to make his debut. Yeah, right. From here on out, this will pretty much be Diamond’s show. I may hop in from time to time (I’m actually filling in next Friday on the road in Utah), but Diamond will have you covered for all things Warriors. If you’re not already, be sure to follow him on Twitter.