PMC: This was the only pic the USA Today had of Bazemore, so be it. - Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Warriors had no chance going into this one. However, the silver lining was one Kent Bazemore.
The Golden State Warriors got into OKC at about 4:30am this morning via minivans from Tulsa due to fog at OKC, and with Andrew Bogut sitting on the second of a back-to-back, Jarrett Jack also on the bench with a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with Jeremy Lin last night, and a revenge game (where the Warriors have been blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat in such games) on tap for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dubs basically had no chance going into this.
Actually, I must take the blame for this, as I tuned in late when the Warriors were still up early. But then the lead closed to 10-10 and David Lee got stopped at the rim on more than one occasion, with him arguing with the ref and not running back on an ensuing early offense by the Thunder. After a couple of silly turnovers by Stephen Curry, as well as giving up two straight wide open halfcourt layups on curls, it was apparent that a long night was in store for the Warriors.
Here were some other glaring deficencies:
- On a fastbreak, Steph and Klay Thompson found themselves running side by side. With Lee leading the break, you just knew that would end badly. And it did. Turnover, Warriors.
- Festus Ezeli once again trying to do too much on offense.
- Draymond Green also a little overzealous on trying to make a jumpshot.
- Serge Ibaka nailing a corner trey.
- Nick Collison outjumping D.Lee for a putback.
- Steph looking really slow getting back on D after a missed trey.
- Three referees not seeing an obvious goaltend on a missed free throw by the Warriors.
- Bad turnovers by Klay.
- Collison overplaying a high post entry pass to Carl Landry and forcing a turnover.
- Kendrick Perkins hitting a jumper from about eighteen feet, with Andris Biedrins (correctly) standing about nine feet away.
- Klay getting called for a foul on Kevin Durant when Durant was forcefully backing his way in. It was actually the correct call because Klay had elbows in. I guess some guys still don't have HDMD drilled into their brain. (That'd be "Hand Down, Man Down".)
- Landry at one point playing the 5 with Perk and Collison still in the game. Two easy offensive boards for Perk there.
- Tons of blocks by the Thunder interior defense. Ibaka had six.
- Serge probably had a chip on his shoulder, facing D.Lee straight up and Lee of course getting the All-Star bid.
- Steph passing up an open trey off dribble to stop inside the arc for "the worst shot in the NBA", and bricking it to boot.
- Lightning quick moves by Russell Westbrook to totally dismantle the Warriors help D on the pick-and-roll, to the point that Russ blazed by so fast, the pick was almost inconsequential.
- A lineup consisting of Charles Jenkins and Kent Bazemore with no other starters during non-garbage time (to start the 4th, I think). I know Coach Mark Jackson played in an LA rec league with Warriors GM Bob Myers not too long ago. It's in rec league when you learn never to have your five guys out there without one of your Big Three. It's just an unwritten rule in basketball.
Question: Why didn't the Warriors rest Bogut vs the Rockets (I mean, people do know that they play uptempo, right?) and save him for this one vs OKC?
But let us put the woes aside. Here's my assessment of the last forty-eight hours. With the Houston Rockets, it was like when the Green Bay Packers finally got a taste of Colin Kaepernick's speed. As the TV announcer said, "You just don't know how fast he is until you get on the field and see for yourself." The Rockets are a fast team. A lot of people underestimate Lin's footspeed, as well as the long first step of Chandler Parsons (!). And we all know how deadly James Harden is -- man up and get taken to the hole; leave him room and get a three drilled on you. [Aside: Still the worst trade in the NBA this year!]
You go into that game thinking you're going to pound Houston with a non-fully-conditioned Bogut, you watch the game tape and you still can't believe this Rocket roster is a legit playoff contender, and you get thoroughly humbled. Then the aforementioned four major factors going into the sure loss vs a vengeful Westbrook, who played poorly mano-y-mano against Steph last time out.
Speaking of which, Steph and the rest of the starting five haven't had the best +/- of late. It's probably embarrassingly bad. What Steph needs to do is put his imprint on the game. Come out and set the tone. That's what All-Stars do. Right now, Jack is the one who, the majority of the time, puts his stamp on the game and keeps the team close. Steph has done it, but not enough. He needs to ascend to this true leadership role, in spite of Jack's seniority.
The fact that Steph missed a triple-double by just two rebounds (albeit a quadruple-double by four turnovers!) is a testament to how great he can be. I mean, that was an otherwise terrible game by Steph.
Btw, give credit to Landry. That's now two games in a row he's managed to help spark the Warriors coming from behind. And it's almost always with an and-one down low. But Landry isn't the one to grab an entire game by throat. He doesn't even get the ball enough to do that. That's on Steph. But it's just part of his maturation process.
Well, I've saved the best for last: Bazemore!
Seems like MJ has more confidence in Baze now. He was the designated backup point in the absence of Jack, getting the call to sub in for Steph, in essence leap-frogging Jenkins on the depth chart. Baze got off to an auspicious start, with that high-post entry pass to Landry, overplayed by Collison, gone awry.
But as far as speed, shot selection, penetration, and defense, kudos to Bazemore. The Warriors have him for another year at $473,604. Is it too early to say he's going to get a raise in 2014-15? Here's what we saw:
- Confidence in his own shot, in the flow of the offense, even if they were misses (and none of them were bad misses). He looked like he thought they were going in, you know? One was even a catch-and-shoot from the right corner pocket that rimmed out. Okay okay, it was one of those shots you could say was a little early. But still.
- Not one, not two, but THREE rundown blocks on layups. Okay okay, the last one was a foul on him, the second-to-last one a foul on another Warrior, and the first one wasn't counted as one by the NBA scorekeeper. But still.
- With less than two ticks remaining the third quarter, Baze bursts past the Thunder defense (I'm pretty sure KD was one of them, plus a big) and converts a reverse strong-left-handed layup to pull the Warriors to within 11 to start the 4th quarter. Okay okay, the weakside help probably thought Baze would be the last option on that one. But still.
- A confident swish out of a baseline out-of-bounds with less than :02 on the shotclock. Okay okay, it was in garbage time. But still.
- An absolutely stupendous left-handed dribble attack with a spin that left the defender ten feet away from the basket, and a banker finish. Okay okay, this happened with less than a minute remaining in a 20-point blowout. But still.