The Golden State Warriors don’t feel good about going into the All-Star Break this way, but the ways they express their pain vary enormously. Mark Jackson was resolutely positive. David Lee and Stephen Curry were glum, frustrated, maybe a little annoyed. Andrew Bogut looked like he wanted to punch someone in the face after losing 116-107 to the Rockets (the fourth time in their current five-game losing streak that they’ve allowed at least 116 points).
“Right now, our defense is s—–,” Bogut said. “You can’t keep looking to help, funneling for help … right now we need to take a bit of notice of saying, ‘How do I stop my man?’”
Bogut didn’t lay all the blame on his teammates for poor one-on-one defense. Some? Sure. But he also said he needs to do a better job of clogging up the lane, and he mentioned repeatedly how he takes it personally that the team is allowing so many points with him in the lineup.
The Warriors enjoyed a four-game winning streak at the beginning of Bogut’s current stretch of activity, so it’s not like he’s some sort of curse. (I think we all know who’s at fault — the 49ers, for losing the Super Bowl.) But now the Warriors are losing and Bogut’s a part of it, so they’ll need to either figure out how to play with their new center as he adjusts to the rigors of playing close to 30 minutes per game … or deal with an angry Aussie for the rest of the season.
If that isn’t the right type of motivation to turn things around starting next week in Utah, Jackson talked about how there are several teams in the West who’d give anything to have a 30-22 record. Lee said the team felt pretty down in the locker room afterward, until Jackson came in and provided some encouraging words.
Perspective is nice, but it doesn’t bury the Blazers (5 games behind Golden State) or the Lakers (5.5 games back). With the Jazz and Rockets creeping ever closer, comparing potential playoff matchups (“Ooh, I’d actually rather see the Warriors face the Clippers than the Grizzlies if they had a choice”) seems ridiculous now. Not with the current “brand” of Warriors defense and the tired, disjointed style of play on both ends. All the talk on Tuesday night was about defense and rebounding after the team’s second loss to Houston in just over a week, but the Rockets aren’t exactly a defensive juggernaut. After a hot start, Golden State scored only 45 points in the second and third quarters combined.
The intentions may have been good, but the Warriors’ passing in the third quarter was atrocious. No one looked as if they knew where to be or where their teammates planned on going. That’s partly due to assimilating Bogut, plus Jarrett Jack’s return after a short layoff. But the Warriors don’t have much time to figure things out, and Jackson said he wants his guys to rest during this break, both mentally and physically. Sounds like Lee needs it, based on his comments in the locker room about being “exhausted out there tonight.”
While one might wonder if playing in the All-Star Game (and everything else that comes along with that) will allow Lee to recharge, Curry was in the “no excuses” camp. He allowed that playing tough defense is quite the physical chore, but it’s something elite teams do.
Pushing past perceived mental and physical limits isn’t something the Warriors have done for a long time. I can’t even remember when they have, at least on the defensive end for longer than a quarter or two. This five-game losing streak shows that the addition of Bogut isn’t going to make things easier, and that’s the give and take the Warriors face. They found a nice little formula with the team they had throughout most of the first half, but the ceiling was easy to spot. Touch, even. With Bogut, the ceiling is higher. Now the Warriors are learning the hard way that this new foundation might take longer to build.