Recap: The bad, the ugly and the win

Big Shot Klay. - Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

In a very ugly affair between two NorCal teams, the Golden State Warriors prevailed behind a big shot by Klay Thompson over the Sacramento Kings 87-83.

Midnight Shooter.

Don't know who I'm talking about? Yeah, me neither. I think it's Klay Thompson's half-hearted attempt at a Kobe Bryant-esque self-titled nickname. Sorta working for Harrison "Black Falcon" Barnes, right? Nicknames for everyone! Well, except #SplashBrothers, that's just odd and uncomfortable.

Gsom-ww-thompson_medium

lol. that face.

Stephen Curry dribbles over halfcourt, is immediately double-teamed because that's how good defenses have been stopping the Warriors' offense. Problem is, these are the Sacramento Kings' defense. Curry makes a quick bounce pass to David Lee, two defenders suck in to Andrew Bogut running to the rim, John Salmons take a step from the corner to Lee, Lee snaps the ball to Thompson for the most productive shot in basketball, game over.

The defense was horrendous and the play was essentially won by the Warriors when Curry made the bounce pass to Lee, but it was his decision-making that made everything fall into place. Lee held the ball a split second, feigning a drive, baiting for Salmons and when he bit like a fish in the sea, snapped a pass to the corner. Bogut was also open down the middle and if Lee drove, he had a layup and also a Jarrett Jack corner three.

It wasn't Thompson's best game but it was certainly the biggest shot he's ever hit in his NBA career.

Maybe a little more than $300 this week, pops?

The game as a whole was one of the ugliest Warriors game this season, filled with bricks, balls bouncing off of hands, too much dribbling, Richard Jefferson flailing after a loose ball as his mind couldn't make his body go in the same direction, and standard Draymond Green clanks.

The saying goes something along the lines of "Good teams will find a way to grind out the ugly games". I think I got all the cliches there in one sentence. No matter how bad this game was, we can collectively agree that it's a relief the Warriors are three-quarters done with playing the Kings this year—last game against the Kings also at home. It must be the weird Keith Smart, horrible Kings-ball synergy that runs along the lines of the Orlando Magic that drags the Warriors to their level of play. Whatever it was, the Dubs escaped with a victory that keeps them four games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers—who pulled off a miracle victory against the New Orleans Hornets. Miracle, victory, Lakers and Hornets in the same sentence is all types of LOL.

As the Warriors search for that season-defining win or moment—perhaps they found it wearing those skin-tight sleeves against the San Antonio Spurs but methinks more is to come—they find themselves grinding through every game, hoping to uncover the diamond under the lump of coal.

Notes:

1. David Lee was superb both offensively and defensively. I know I just finished writing a post on how Lee should be traded...or something. Welp. He scored 17 points on an efficient 8-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, and his usual three assists per game. Jason Thompson and company aren't the best defenders, and DeMarcus Cousins was benched for reasons known to who-cares, but Lee's hyper-energy paid off. His post-game is extremely effective against inferior defenders: he sets shop on either block, takes a dribble or two towards the middle, then spins off the defender's outside shoulder and flips a five-foot shot in with either hand. Smooth and always seems to catch the defender by surprise.

2. The bad news first: the lineup that Mark Jackson employed late first quarter and spilling into the second was one of the worst stretches of basketball this season. And it isn't the first time he's gone to it. The five-some of Green/Jefferson/Jack/Landry/Ezeli didn't prevent much on defense and certainly didn't move the ball well on offense. Instead, there was a Jack dribble-out-the-clock turnover, Jefferson long two (actually a made shot), Green post-up airball, Landry iso from too far, and all culminating in a Green three. Perhaps the most concerning part was Jackson keeping that lineup together for more than five minutes.

Now for the good news: Barnes played in the fourth quarter and played relatively well. At this point, Jackson will never take Jack out in late-game situations and that's to be expected and acceptable given Jack's heroics, so it's a matter of choosing between Klay or Barnes in the fourth. They ended up splitting the time. When Barnes was in, they set numerous pick-and-rolls and fed him in the post. With the opposing team taking away Curry on doubles, the offense becomes much more dangerous with another option.

3. I confess: I haven't seen Bogut play much as a Milwaukee Buck so I don't know how he plays when he's 100 percent and I'm certainly not a doctor, but it appears he saves his legs for certain moments. There are the acrobatic recoveries on the screens and blocks at the rims and then there are the times he can't cover his man crossing through the lane. Healthy or not, the Warriors are better with him on the court.

4. Festus Ezeli still has trouble setting screens but his value to the team was in full force on a sequence in the first half when he blocked a shot from Cousins, ran back on offense, watched Jack dribble around for 23 seconds, then catch a bullet pass and flip it in after a foul. It appears he is entrenched as the second-string center and plays like those are positive developments.

5. Watching tonight's game, it became apparent why the Warriors give up so many corner threes, and not just because they pack in the paint. The off-ball defense is especially horrid when the other team is able to recognize the extra pass. Klay has been victimized on these types of breakdown plays because he often is caught in no-man's land between two offensive players. Instead of playing the middle and waiting for a teammate to recover, he often picks one and sticks on him. It isn't just Klay but most players on the team share the same lack of awareness.

The last defensive possession conjured up immediate early-season Denver Nuggets memories. The Warriors had a foul to give but Klay didn't use it (or forgot) the same away against Danilo Gallinari. He was, however, able to play excellent one-on-one defense, as is often the case this year, and come up with the stop.

6. Keith Smart appears to have his own Stephen Curry—a player he inexplicably refuses to play because of reasons only known to himself. In Smart's one season as coach of the Warriors in 2010-11, he played Curry 33.6 minutes per game, a year after he averaged 36.2 in his rookie season. Smart found a liking to Monta Ellis and often subbed Curry out early on little mistakes. It appears Isaiah Thomas is now the unfortunate player to draw the ire of Smart's absurd substitution patterns. Despite being their best player, shooter and passer, Thomas played only 20 minutes tonight and 25.6 per game this season. Free the Kings from Smart and the Maloofs, not the city.

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