This was one weird game, for a few reasons.
1. Klay Thompson was horrible offensively. Simply awful. He shot 3-for-17, made 1-of-9 threes, and it seemed worse.
2. Besides Stephen Curry’s 18-point fourth quarter, the Warriors’ offense was center-driven.
3. It never seemed like Golden State was going to lose this game, until they did.
The Brooklyn Nets earned their most exciting win of the season, and I can say that on full authority — even though I never watch them play — considering the opponent and how they clinched this particular victory. The Nets kept nailing shot after shot, never allowing the Warriors to take a lead (after midway through the first quarter, anyway). Then Jarrett Jack came through at the end with the dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble … DAGGER with 1.1 seconds left.
I guess we can add a No. 4 to that list … after Curry woke up from a slumber and looked quite MVP-ish throughout the fourth quarter, he had a pretty unfortunate conclusion to this game. He did all he could against Jack, who probably relished the opportunity to steal a win from a guy he stole shots from throughout the 2012-13 season. But Curry’s hesistation and non-shot at the end of the game was so unlike him. In fact, he’s been so fantastic all season, I expected time to stop as he avoided Joe Johnson and carried the ball under the basket.
Curry’s done so many crazy things this season, so why couldn’t he turn 1.1 seconds into 3.3? But instead, the Warriors lost 110-108 to end their six-game road trip with three wins, three losses, and yet another mediocre defensive performance. It was like they only worried about Johnson instead of Thad Young, until Thad got hot, and then it was too late.
Speaking of weird, Andrew Bogut (perhaps motivated by last night’s stinker in Boston) was the team’s best offensive player in the first quarter. He was dunking on the springy-yet-soft Mason Plumlee, flipping lefty hooks all over the place. Festus Ezeli (who was most certainly motivated after his one-game suspension, brought about because he reacted just how Tyler Hansbrough wants every player to react to his trashtastic tactics) scored 14 points, the second-highest total of his career (he scored 15 against the Kings on Dec. 22).
But the Warriors gave it right back, allowing Brook Lopez to come off the bench and score 26 points in just under 26 minutes.
In all, this game was a great sign for things to come, however. Sure, they now have 12 losses, so 70 wins probably isn’t going to happen. But Bogut looked half-asleep the night before, and I probably wasn’t the only one who assumed he’d sit out Monday’s game. To come back and show that there’s nothing physically wrong was huge — as long as he doesn’t suffer any residual soreness from that play where Jack fell into his knee or shin or whatever.
Also, Shaun Livingston is getting better and better. He’s playing like an Andre Iguodala clone, albeit one who (1) doesn’t shoot threes and (2) isn’t afraid of contact (and getting to the line) when he drives.
The playoff rotation (no “Dub Steps” tonight, as we’ve got a plane to catch)
These are things you worry about when you’re 46-12, and I didn’t see much to sway me from expecting Steve Kerr will stick with the seven-man postseason lineup I predicted after last night’s game. Justin Holiday got Leandro Barbosa’s minutes — definitely a good plan at this point, but Holiday’s offensive game is soooo far behind what he can do defensively. Teams know to give him as many open shots as possible. Perhaps that’ll change with some more playing time and a chance to nail some threes, but getting him up to playoff speed is a tall order with just 24 games left.
Mo Speights made three shots and picked up three fouls in seven minutes. David Lee (four points and three rebounds in 10 minutes) is a better bench cheerleader than reserve player this days. That’s not to say he couldn’t put up numbers somewhere else, but Kerr isn’t in a mood to tailor his strategy to Lee’s talents (pick-and-roll on offense, wait for rebounds to fall in his direction on defense) and it shows.
Ezeli is an interesting wild card, however. His hands are forever terrible (he’s like Dan Uggla mixed with Vance McDonald, for the fans of other teams I write about who happen to be visiting), but when he DOES make the catch, he can throw down some dunks and get to the line. He made 6-of-7 free throws, which I’m pretty sure is a Warriors season high (kidding … sort of). And if Speights and Lee are too defensively feeble to throw at the bigger teams — like Memphis — Ezeli could be a decent fallback option.