Andrew Bogut is often the man left out when people debate whether the Golden State Warriors are title contenders or a team still figuring out what it means to play with a target on their back. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Andre Iguodala, and even Harrison Barnes do much to spark fan interest, and rightfully so. But Bogut represents the heart and soul of the Warrior defense, and the single most important player, sans Curry, on any given night. When asked if this was his best defensive year so far, he assured us this was the best he's felt and played on that end since his Milwaukee days.
Talking on defense, doing the little things, and "quarterbacking" the team remain many things Bogut is focused on - the micromanaged aspects of the game most people would otherwise refuse to acknowledge because of the lack of flash. Who wants to mimic a Bogut vertical contest when they can relive Andre Iguodala reverse alley-oops and Curry step-back threes (two highlight plays down the stretch of the game)? But make no mistake, this is Bogut's defense, Bogut's words and solely his ability to single-handedly change a game that will determine just how good the Warriors can and will become.
The Warriors talk a lot about giving it their all, bringing the energy every night despite strength of schedule, and building their identity as an elite defensive team. And yet, in the past couple weeks, it's been more talk than walk. Losing to the Indiana Pacers is acceptable, even at home. But to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, and Denver Nuggets at home? Unacceptable, at least that's what the head man Mark Jackson and best player, Stephen Curry, will say every time.
And on national TV at home against their rivals, the Golden State Warriors walked the proverbial walk, laying the smackdown on a tired and beaten Los Angeles squad 111-92. Their bench, led by Harrison Barnes (10 points) outscored the Clippers 29-22, just the 11th time they've done that to any team this season. Perhaps the most shocking development came amidst a 66-22 paint scoring advantage. Noted defensive stalwart (at least this season) DeAndre Jordan was repeatedly a step or even two late and the Warriors ripped the Clippers in the lane all night long.
The aforementioned Andrew Bogut started off on Blake Griffin and shut him down in the first quarter, setting a tone the Warriors wouldn't revert from the rest of the game. With Griffin's game predicated on bull rushes and ballet twirls, Jackson opted to stop the physical presence with Bogut's strong center of gravity and smart instincts. Because DeAndre Jordan is used essentially as a dunker on offense, Bogut was able to force Griffin to the perimeter. Granted, Griffin nailed some jumpers and is a much improved midrange shooter, Bogut, and the Warriors, were willing to live with that Blake Griffin all night long.
Like the Portland Trail Blazers game, the Warriors alleviate the franchise's many concerns by disassembling what is ostensibly a Western Conference title contender. Just another day in the yo-yo emotional roller-coaster that exemplifies Warriorsland.
Another appreciation sentence.
Quite possibly the best defensive center (Roy Hibbert?) in the league, Bogut has lived up the extension so far and has made me revise my assertion that the Warriors were better suited with Dwight Howard as the center going forward. Perhaps that's the case, but this is a starting five that's among the best in the NBA. Perfectly content to catch lobs and dominant the Blake Griffins and shutting down the paint, Bogut's been great.
Oh, and he hit a 22-footer. Curry's quote after the game on his form? "Perfect."
1. The Warriors usually go with a Mark Jackson press conference followed by David Lee and Stephen Curry talking during the press conference. Tonight's joyous atmosphere allowed Bogut to talk a bit about his game. It led to this:
When @NateDuncanNBA asked about Lee's recently stout post D, Lee quipped that Nate was ruining my night— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 31, 2014
"It hasn't been a happy place around here the last couple of days. A lot of guys are edgy," Bogut said. "That's good, in my opinion."— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) January 31, 2014
Bogut on whether he checks Sport Vu stats that say he cedes low opponent FG% at the rim: "I don't need to check that to know that."— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 31, 2014
Like I said, it was a happy locker room.
2. Doc Rivers admitted that this was a tough game going into it because of the lack of rest the team had gotten in the preview two weeks. Playing on a back-to-back and fourth game in five days, Doc had this to say:
"They were going by us, we were late on everything defensively tonight and it's jsut one of those nights."
There are scheduled losses. There's no doubt about that. We should all blame David Aldridge at TNT for scheduling this game. - Doc— Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu) January 31, 2014
3. As for the game itself, Lee had another strong game defending an elite power forward in Griffin. He admitted to having another cortisone shot in the shoulder, but shot much better in this game (10-15) perhaps hinting he's nearing full strength again.
4. Minutes Watch:
Harrison Barnes: 24
Draymond Green: 14
Barnes shot 4-13 but the strong slashes, quick decisive takes to the hoop in the first half signalled a more aggressive mindset. Even though he settled a bit in the second half, he grabbed eight rebounds and was much more aware defensively. It wasn't a mammoth breakthrough performance by any means but was encouraging to see.
Green, on the other hand, played sparingly, coming in for Lee and Marreese Speights. With the Clippers playing Jordan and Griffin together, Jackson seemed reluctant to go small. It worked tonight.
5. The Warriors are on a quick turnaround to Utah tomorrow.