If you ask Mark Jackson about his team's identity, the first, and only, words you'll hear are ones that he will paraphrase and reiterate like his numerous favorite cliches: "hard-nosed, defensive, tough, defenses will travel." That's what he wants this team to work with, strive towards, and to emerge victorious with said mentality.
Less than a week ago, Jermaine O'Neal saw Chandler Parsons cut baseline for a late fourth quarter dunk and alertly left his man at the high post, took two steps down and stuck a paw up, rejecting the shot and essentially clinching the game. Fast forward to Monday night's game and despite Andrew Bogut returning from a shoulder injury, Jackson opted to go with two large, defensive-minded big men instead of a floor-spacing forward like Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes.
The popular theory and opinion is that the Golden State Warriors are an exciting and innovative offensive-minded ballclub that wins with just enough defense and an avalanche of three-pointers. However, Jackson has stated repeatedly that this team is defense-first. Perhaps it's time we listen. And for good and for worse, it will likely remain the case and determine the rest of the season.
With David Lee returning from the flu, Jackson once again turned to the Twin Towers lineup, and like the game against the Pistons, the Warriors struggled on offense without any type of spacing. Coupled with a rare off night from Stephen Curry (missed shots, bad decisions, and a startling knack of standing in the corner while the mess played itself out in front of him), there was no chance the Warriors could scratch together a late run.
The game started with an up-tempo pace favoring the Warriors and they actually had the lead after one (24-21) but more importantly, they failed to capitalize on turnovers and their own stifling defense. When the Bulls finally clamped down on defense, forcing the Warriors' second unit into jump shot after clank after brick, they outscored the Ws 59-35 spanning the second and third quarters. Like how teams can run into a hot-shooting team, the Warriors ran into a buzzsaw of a defense in the middle portion of the game. A 103-83 defeat on the road against an elite defense is easy to forgive, but the obvious flaws are harder to look past.
In a desperate attempt at a frenetic, overwhelming defense, Jackson turned to a zone and small lineup to combat the Chicago Bulls' excellent interior passing, but they were slow on rotations and were often beat by their own man. Their inability to ignite any scoring and constant one-and-out offense trickled into a lifeless, slow-reacting defense. This kind of game happens to every team, and probably isn't as bad a loss as it looks from a "Eastern Conference sucks! No Derrick Rose so should be blowout!" perspective. The Bulls play really good defense and Curry had a bad game. That will add up to a loss 100 percent of the time.
Warrior Wonder: Only thing wonderful about this game was thinking about the next game and how many points Curry lit them up for last season.
54. The answer is 54.
1. Curry often goes into LeBron James mode in the beginning of games, looking to dish the ball and assist others into rhythm rather than taking his own shot, even if its to the detriment of the team. The O'Neal isos, Klay Thomson pindowns, and Lee pick-and-pops are a constant circle of plays that we see repeatedly because Curry doesn't seem to mind it happening.
It's not a bad thing, necessarily, but LeBron has Chris Bosh and a host of shooters to rely on and Chris Paul (another who is guilty of this) has Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford to take control of the reins. The Warriors' only player than can create not only off the dribble but in an isolation situation from any spot on the floor is Curry. I understand the strategic and mental aspect of getting players involved but with a floundering offense, it's, perhaps unfairly, up to Curry to do everything. As he has all season.
2. Joakim Noah is a beast. Is there any NBA player tougher to go up against than Noah? Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, LeBron James, and Paul George come to mind as elite defensive players but none as annoying and especially tough to deal with than Noah. The dude RELISHES switching off on guards, clapping his hands, shuffling his feet, and somehow bending even lower to the ground, ready to pounce on anyone and anything. Perhaps there are better defenders, but none more fun to watch than this guy.