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.
Sorry for the delay in getting these posted. Back-to-backs are tough, and not just on players. Flights that leave six hours after you file your game story — especially when you are then heading to New Orleans — can make it tough some times.
So let’s recap the last two nights. Friday, well, what could you do to slow down Kevin Durant? Probably nothing. He’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s at minimum the second-best player in the world, and he had a career night. The final box score showed a 6-point loss, but that game was never really in question. Durant had OKC in control all night. If he needed to score 70 to win, he probably would have.
The defensive effort in that game, combined with the defense against Denver and then the first half against New Orleans last night, was reason to be concerned. Defense isn’t supposed to slump. It’s why Mark Jackson always says the Warriors act “travels.” But the defense was slumping a little bit.
Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks will be available for the Warriors on Friday when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 6:30 p.m.
On Friday afternoon, the NBA finalized the three-team trade that sent the pair of former Boston Celtics to GoldenState. The approval didn’t come until after the Warriors’ morning shootaround at Chesapeake Energy Arena, so Crawford and Brooks weren’t able to participate.
Both players attended and watched the shootaround, but couldn’t be made available to the media until the trade went through.
Coach Mark Jackson expects the players to quickly blend in.
“It’s basketball,” Jackson said. ‘I’m so used to going to any park, I’ll pick four guys and we’ll be alright. I don’t need to meet them or anything. It’s simple basketball.”
The Warriors were tired. Coach Mark Jackson was tired. The whole traveling staff was tired. Heck, I was even tired and I skipped the final two games of the road trip! Everybody associated with the Warriors were tired on Friday night and that was painfully obvious.
Sure, they had energy at the start of both halves, but that’s easy. Maintaining it is a far, far different thing. The Celtics aren’t a great team. They aren’t even a good team. But as David Lee pointed out, what they do well is play hard. That’s a tough matchup for Golden State after just returning from a grueling seven-game road trip.
Warriors’ forward David Lee was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, the NBA announced.
Lee averaged 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in four games last week — all victories by a Golden State team that’s 5-0 on its current road trip and has won nine straight.
Lee had at least 20 points and eight rebounds in each game to win a player of the week award for the fourth time in his career and third time with the Warriors. The two-time All-Star joins Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway and Baron Davis as the only players to win three such awards in a Warriors’ uniform.
Lee and the Warriors return to action Tuesday when they face the Milwaukee Bucks at 5 p.m.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has spent a lot of time lobbying for Stephen Curry to make the All-Star team but agreed recently it was time to start pushing for a return trip for Lee, whose averaging 19 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
“I’d be the first to tell you that probably the first whatever amount of games, his numbers were there but he wasn’t playing his best basketball and he’d probably tell you the same thing,” Jackson said. “But over the last 13-15 ballgames, he’s been as good as any power forward in the game. Scoring, post-ups, rebounding, he’s impacted the game and he’s certainly in the discussion.”
I’m going to start this one with a quick observation. This past week or so has been my first experience covering the NBA. Before this, it was mostly college football, a little NFL and MLB and before that high schools. I’ve quickly realized one thing about the NBA: it’s the only sport in which players openly talk about teams they “should beat.” I’ve heard that plenty of times now in the past couple weeks. “This is a game we should win”…”this is a team we should beat”..and so on and so.
And really it’s probably the only sport you can say that about. Baseball is a crapshoot dependent upon how good the starting pitcher is that particular day. There are definitely some football games with predetermined outcomes (think when the 49ers played the Jaguars this year), but you’ll never hear a football player take another team lightly. I’d venture it’s the same with hockey. But in hoops, when a team has superior talent, they know it and know the teams they should beat.
The Warriors and I had something in common on Friday. We both missed our alarm clock. Mine didn’t go off in the morning, I overslept by an hour and had to book to make my flight from Miami to Atlanta. The Warriors also missed their alarm. For three and a half quarters, it looked like they might still mentally be in Miami.
Despite a great early start — they hit seven of their first eight shots — the Warriors quickly fell asleep and starting digging a deep hole. Luckily, the Hawks weren’t exactly lighting it up either, but the game was slowly slipping out of hand. When Atlanta led by 15 with 6:48 to go, I began drafting the story of the Warriors’ winning streak ending in an almost expected fashion — losing to the Hawks on a back-to-back fresh off the emotional win.
Then the Warriors showed why they have potential to be great. Great teams win back-to-backs even after high-energy victories like the one in South Beach. Great teams go on double-digit win streaks, which the Warriors are now just two wins away from. Great teams win games when there’s no reason to believe they should. Are the Warriors great? Time will tell, but they have that potential.