The Warriors, sadly, are probably getting used to this. And by “this,” I mean putting up a ton of points and losing anyway.
“We’ve lost three games with us scoring 121, 120 and 116 points,” said Mark Jackson, whose team lost 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
By “this,” I also mean losing at Oracle Arena. Golden State lost its third straight home game, and since their historic road trip the only game they’ve won in Oakland was a two-point win over the lowly Celtics. The Warriors are 12-7 at home, which is probably about three or four games worse than what they planned at this point.
But mostly, this is about defense. The Warriors allowed 35 points in the first quarter on Monday, and four days later they gave up 36 in the first quarter to Minnesota. Golden State matched their 36, and the game was also tied at halftime, 63-63. While the feeling on Friday night was similar to a game involving Paul Westhead’s Nuggets teams of the early ’90s, the lack of defense from both sides allowed the Timberwolves to stay in the game and win a rare close contest
Minnesota’s lowest margin of victory before this game was a five-point win over Orlando in overtime in the first game of the season.
“Eventually we were going to win games like that,” said Kevin Love, who battled through a couple leg injuries he sustained in the game and ended up with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
“We just need to grow up and get a little bit of luck on our side.”
The Warriors had a couple sore frontcourt players of their own. Andrew Bogut, who was hampered by a knee injury, still found a way to block seven shots. I asked Jackson if Bogut was perhaps the lone bright spot defensively, but he disagreed wholeheartedly.
“We’ve done a bad job. Everybody on the floor. Breakdowns. There’s not one guy that’s doing their job defensively. Everybody in uniform has been bad defensively for us. And it’s disappointing right now,” said Jackson, who couldn’t have been happy with Love and Nikola Pekovic grabbing five offensive rebounds apiece.
With all those defensive breakdowns, the Warriors were still good enough offensively (led by 33 points and 15 assists from Stephen Curry) to steal this game. They had enough time to run a solid play at the end — a pick-and-roll with Curry and David Lee — after Kevin Martin hit a baseline jumper to give Minnesota the lead. But instead of Curry taking the shot, or perhaps a guy like Andre Iguodala who scored 11 fourth quarter points and has two buzzer-beaters to his credit this year, the ball found its way to a wide open Harrison Barnes.
Barnes was 1-for-6 going into that play, and he ended the game 1-for-7 after missing a 22-footer.
“I saw two guys in my way and knew somebody was open, made a decision to try to find an open guy,” Curry said. “HB was wide open, great shot, one that we’ll take, and obviously if it goes in things are different. But it didn’t, and it’s a tough loss for us for sure. I think we handed the last play well, but we can’t be in a situation like that at home. That’s the biggest takeaway from this game.”
One has to wonder if Jackson’s biggest takeaway might be a potential change in the rotation, because Barnes is in a free-fall. After averaging 13.3 ppg and shooting 50% in November, those numbers dropped to 10.4 ppg and 37.2% in December and 6.7 ppg on 35.3% shooting in January. Draymond Green isn’t exactly an offensive star, but he had four points, five rebounds and five assists in 14 minutes, while Barnes only had two points, three rebounds and zero assists in 23 minutes. Barnes’ defense hasn’t been bad, but Green is the second-best defensive player on the team right now behind Bogut.
More simply: Kevin Martin didn’t even think about guarding Barnes on the final play. They wanted Curry to swing the ball over to Golden State’s struggling sophomore, and they got their wish.
Clearly the Warriors don’t want Barnes to lose whatever remaining confidence he possesses on the offensive side, but whatever they’re doing with him right now clearly isn’t working. Yes, it would’ve been an amazing boost for both Barnes and the team if he hit that shot. But they need to make the playoffs and it would certainly help their chances in a tough Western Conference if they were able to get a favorable matchup in the first round. That’s why every loss hurts, especially ones to .500 teams at home.
— The loss wasn’t pretty, but the pregame sunset was:
— Curry on the team’s recent cold streak:
Something about the last couple weeks where we may be getting a little down when teams start out hot, and not finding a way to turn it on … We’ve got to have a better mental toughness when it comes to that. It’s the NBA, there’s talented guys and guys are going to be able to score whether you play good defense or not. You can’t let early offensive outburst affect the rest of the game. We’ve got to develop that toughness that we had in the playoffs last year.
— Iguodala on the difference between their success away from home and what has transpired since returning to the Bay Area.
(During) the 10-game win streak, we were on the road. Our backs were against the wall the majority of that time, being in hostile environments. We were a little bit more sharp. When we have the luxury of being at home, we’ve got a great fanbase. They’re really into the games regardless of the score. They’re with us to the end. That’s not normal in the NBA. So we can get comfortable in our home setting. We need to do a better job of being sharp in this building.