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?
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.
Carl Steward here, awaiting a flight to Brooklyn for the Warriors’ final stop of the seven-game roadie, which so far has been a wild success at 6-0. The team couldn’t be riding higher than they are right now, having won 10 in a row with most of the wins coming in convincing fashion.
It tells you how well the Warriors are playing that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can combine to shoot 11 for 36 from the floor — 3 for 17 from 3-point range — and still win by 21. Granted, it was against the worst team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, but this game was over by late third quarter in their building on one of the final stops of an exhausting trip. You still have to play well to get a win, and the Warriors did, particularly in the second half.
The Warriors seem to have a sense of the history they can make in Brooklyn now. Tie the all-time Warriors win streak (11). Break the team record for most wins in a row on the road (8). Become the first NBA team EVER to complete a road trip of seven games or more undefeated. David Lee was unaware of that last one Tuesday night after the game, and when informed of the prospect, began to excitedly tell teammates around him about the history they can accomplish by beating the Nets.
Killing time in my toasty hotel room before the Warriors take on the Bucks tonight in frigid Milwaukee (-14 degrees as we speak, with a -30 wind chill), I decided to go back and take a look at the two longer franchise winning streaks on record, the 11-gamer in 1971-72 that still stands as the benchmark, and the 10-gamer in 1975-76 which the Warriors can tie tonight with a victory over the Bucks, who own the NBA’s worst record at 7-26.
What I learned rather quickly about the two longer streaks is that they weren’t nearly as impressive as the current 9-gamer the Warriors have put together. Yes, the Warriors have made some hay against some pretty bad teams, but nothing like those prior teams did.
The Warriors may have played their most complete game of the year Friday night in squashing the Phoenix Suns 115-86. It was certainly their best from a defensive standpoint. They outrebounded the Suns 56-41. They outshot them 52.9 percent to 36 percent. They moved the ball and posted 32 assists, while Phoenix had 12. The Suns were 4 for 23 from 3-point range. Stephen Curry, by himself, had more rebounds than anybody on either team and he had more assists than the entire Phoenix team. He was one point shy from outscoring the young backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined.
But more than anything, the Warriors out-efforted a team that had compiled a 17-10 record largely by playing with more effort than the opposition for 48 minutes. Even the bench, led by a composed and competent Kent Bazemore, outplayed the Suns bench. It was a total pasting, and well timed as the Warriors set out on a seven-game road trip starting Sunday in Cleveland.
After a walkover win against the Faker Lakers and a nice road victory against a Denver team missing Kenneth Faried, now we finally get a game worth rewinding. The Christmas Day special against the Los Angeles Clippers lived up to the hype in every way, with the Warriors ekeing out a 105-103 victory that could go a long way toward reestablishing them as a player in the Western Conference.
It was tight, it was contentious, it was full of fabulous plays at both ends of the floor by both teams. In the end, the Warriors survived by getting Blake Griffin kicked out of the game for the final 10:41 and then playing stellar defense over the final 1:09 with a two-point lead. Chris Paul missed two layups and had another blocked from behind by Klay Thompson. Then Thompson’s outstretched hand made Jamal Crawford’s 3-point shot for the win a desperation try, and it barely hit front iron as the buzzer sounded.
The Warriors needed a win over a top team in the West after losses to Portland, Houston and San Antonio on their home court, and defeats to lesser lights like Charlotte and Phoenix on the road. So have they finally hit a groove? Probably not just yet. But three wins in a row is something Golden State hasn’t accomplished in more than a month and this win could be a launch pad to better play and firmer footing in this killer conference.
We’re going to be fine.
It’s been one of Mark Jackson’s stock lines after a series of throwaway losses this year, but he didn’t utter it after Thursday night’s mortifying 104-102 loss to a shell of the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle. Maybe even Jackson, ever the faithful optimist about his team, has some doubt creeping in about whether this bunch has the goods to right its foundering ship, or whether he has the coaching wherewithal to deliver tangible solutions to the myriad problems.
We’re virtually a third of the way through the 82-game season. The Warriors are 14-13. They have two — count ‘em — wins against teams with a winning record. They stand as one of the biggest disappointments in the league to this point, even considering their tough schedule. Lose four or five win-able games and that’s the different between 18-9 and 14-13. With the Spurs’ big three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili — all out, losing to the leftovers is humbling and perhaps telling. As Andrew Bogut said afterward, “We can’t lose this game at home .. period.” But they did.
So the Warriors are going to be fine? When? They’re 3 1/2 games out of the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings and the gap is widening. They as close to 12th in the conference standings as they are to eighth. So nobody can say with any degree of assurance right now that they are going to be fine.