The Warriors’ problems at home against mediocre teams continued on Sunday night with an 89-84 loss to the Knicks. If momentum actually exists, Golden State’s expired at the end of the first quarter. They started the second quarter with a 32-22 lead, and went into halftime down 56-44.
Stephen Curry almost led the team to victory himself with 22 of his 32 points in the second half, tying the game at 81-81 with a corner three. But the Warriors couldn’t fend of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who combined for six points to put the Knicks up by three with five seconds to go.
The Warriors did have the ball, and they still had Curry, but they wouldn’t take another shot. Curry was hounded by Ray Felton, and instead of taking a three he pump-faked and threw an emergency pass to his left that was a little too high and too strong for Draymond Green, who couldn’t handle it.
After that, one could add the Knicks to a list that also includes the Timberwolves, Wizards, Bobcats and Cavaliers. As many good wins as the Warriors have had this season, they’ve suffered almost as many bad home losses.
After Friday night’s win over the Grizzlies, I asked Mark Jackson about the “hiccups” this team has experienced at home.
“We’ve played well at home, with the exception of some bad losses that we own. I think that’s behind us,” said the Warriors head coach.
Two days later, he blamed the team’s latest home defeat on the their defensive effort in the second quarter.
“Overall, we don’t look at what cost us the game offensively. You’re going to make and miss shots. What cost us the game was giving up 34 points in the second quarter. That’s not our brand of defense,” Jackson said.
That’s right. In a game where the Warriors held the Knicks to 89 points, defense was the problem. In a game where Anthony took 21 shots to get 19 points and the Knicks shot 40% as a team, defense was the problem. In a game where Golden State scored 52 points and went 18-for-60 over the final three quarters, defense was the problem.
The Warriors certainly gave up a lot of points in the second quarter, but it’s difficult to defend any NBA team with capable scorers if those scorers collect long rebounds at the end of most of your offensive possessions. The Warriors’ second unit started the second quarter with stagnant possession after stagnant possession. They over-dribbled, relied on isolations, and showed no urgency or creativity. When Jackson finally put most of the starters back in, the Knicks were in a groove and high-fiving like they just saved their season. That’s when the game turned, going from what should’ve been an easy win for Golden State to one of the most disappointing losses in a season that’s been surprisingly full of them.
The players seemed to think their defensive effort was plenty strong enough to beat New York, and they were happy with how the team fought hard to get back into the game while holding the Knicks to 33 points in the second half. Yes, the Warriors gave up some buckets they shouldn’t have in that second quarter … but how about the first six minutes of the second quarter, when Golden State’s only offense consisted of four points from Jordan Crawford?
“I think we stopped moving the ball like we were. We definitely didn’t have the ball going from side to side like we did to get the lead,” said Draymond Green, who played some at center and blocked three shots to go along with four points and five rebounds.
Ball movement is such a huge key for this team, and when Curry and Iguodala are both on the bench it tends to vanish in games the Warriors lose. But a good shooting night acts as beautiful makeup for this squad — the Warriors made 49.5% of their shots and 9-of-20 three-pointers (45%) against Memphis. A bad shooting night makes the Warriors look like they just rolled out of bed after a long night out on the town — they only made 35.4% of their shots and 32.3% of their threes against the Knicks, and it cost them. Other than Curry, who went 6-for-12 from behind the arc, the Warriors went just 4-for-19 on threes.
“It was an ugly game on the offensive end for us,” said Klay Thompson, who went 6-of-18 after making four of his first six shot attempts.
“We put too much pressure on Steph. He came through like he always does, but it’s on us to make it easier for him. Make a few more shots, make a few more plays.”
Curry looked like he was going one-on-five against the Knicks in the second half, and his teammates’ struggles led to his lowest assist total of the season: one. Interestingly enough, his biggest regret was probably his final pass of the game.
“My read was I saw two guys and knew we had five seconds left, so there was time to get a pass off. It was necessary. I just threw it a little bit too hard at Draymond,” said Curry about the final play.
“If I could do it over, I would probably just try to find a way to shoot regardless. I thought I’d make the right play and just didn’t connect.”
– The Warriors are now two games behind fifth seeded Portland and two games ahead of the Grizzlies, who are currently in ninth.
– I asked Thompson if he thought the team let up after finishing the first quarter up by 10.
“I don’t think so. They got some good looks,” Thompson said. “I think we played hard for 48 minutes. We had our lapses, but I don’t think we let up.”
– I asked Curry about the team’s offensive struggles, whether it was simply a case of missed shots or poor execution. Without explicitly saying so, he alluded to the same ball movement issues in the second quarter that Green mentioned.
“For the most part we had good looks. The ball was moving a lot in the first quarter and a lot in the second half. Just trying to keep the confidence. If you get a shot, shoot it. If not, get the ball moving and find a better one. It did a lot to get back into the game and have the game tied with less than two minutes. A couple plays didn’t go our way down the stretch.”
– A couple more interesting quotes from Jackson:
“We missed shots. We missed some free throws. We missed some wide open looks. That’s what happens when you put yourself in that position when you have to make plays down the stretch.”
The Warriors went 18-for-22 from the line in a game where Andre Iguodala (who played fantastic individual defense on Anthony) shot 10 free throws and made nine.
“We missed some open threes, we missed some drives. Steph missed some shots, Klay missed some shots.”
Curry went 10-for-21 from the field, which isn’t bad considering he made six threes. However, his two missed free throws seemed to bug Jackson.
– The Warriors were without David Lee (hamstring) again, and Andrew Bogut will reportedly miss a week or so with his bruised pelvis.
“We have no choice,” Jackson said when asked if it’s tough to let guys heal fully at this point of the season. “You can’t ignore the fact that we’re shorthanded. Obviously we’re a no-excuse basketball team and the same group that beat Memphis.”
– CSN Bay Area would never do this, but a “Lacob Cam” would’ve provided lots of entertainment tonight. I “live-tweeted” a lot of his courtside body language, which was telling. Whether he was twiddling his thumbs, pumping his fist in anguish after a missed three, or sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed while staring at the Warriors bench, you can tell the Warriors owner lives and dies with these games. After another disappointing home loss, to the ninth seed in the EASTERN Conference, the frustration was plain to see, even from the other side of the arena.