The Golden State Warriors sold out their 61st consecutive game, the team's longest sellout streak since prior to the 1997-98 season. Jermaine O'Neal came back from what seemed like a career-ending wrist injury and looked fine. Not great, probably not that good, but fine. Like Chipotle burrito bowls. Anyway...wait, that's it? That's all that went well?
By as early as late third quarter, fans were streaming towards the exits with their favorite team down by 20. The Charlotte Bobcats won 91-75, and somehow, it didn't really feel like the Warriors were ever going to chop any more than 4-6 points off the lead, if that.
Worst shooting percentage for the Warriors since 2004.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) February 5, 2014
But Marreese Speights hit a half court jumper at the buzzer! Not even the T-Shirt Launch (a fan favorite) could bring back the thousands that were emptying the near-deserted Oracle Arena by the middle of the fourth quarter.
After the game, Mark Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, David Lee, and Andre Iguodala sung that chorus that is starting to sound more rehearsed than believable. The same old "the shots will fall, we just need to bring the defense game in and game out." The only problem?
Warriors fall to 16th on offense, below the Knicks.— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) February 5, 2014
Sure, the ball isn't going through the hoop and it's noticeably affecting the way the players are going about the rest of the possession or even quarter. But since the seven-game road trip ended, they've played eight of their last eleven games at home, winning just five of them. Since that span, the Warriors are ranked 20th in Offensive Rating and 9th in Defensive Rating. Small sample sizes be damned, that's not so much a fluke as something that isn't easily rectified by "shots falling."
I'm not one to offer solutions but there are real problems that have been bubbling under the surface, only barely masked and hastily covered by flimsy scotch tape. Draymond Green is reverting back to his shooting percentages of last season. Harrison Barnes couldn't dribble by Cody Zeller on an isolation play that lasted 15 seconds and featured Barnes running back into the half court after a ball went off his own foot. Klay Thompson is in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career. David Lee is battling a shoulder injury that necessitates injections. Jordan Crawford, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O'Neal just don't own the potential of carrying the bench on their talent. Even Stephen Curry, the team's one saving grace through each and every moment of struggle, will shoot the lowest three-point percentage of his career if his numbers hold up for the rest of the season.
"We had 15 shots in the paint tonight that didn't go in that are normally easy for us. It wasn't our night offensively."
"If our effort is going to be every other night on the defensive end then we shouldn't use that word."
"We are just not playing at a high level when we miss shots."
Lee, O'Neal, and Jackson, respectively, all chimed in with reasons why the Warriors struggled against the Bobcats.
The players themselves don't think the offense is a problem, instead offering up the defense as something that needs improving and consistency when the jumpers aren't going down. It's not a chicken-and-egg scenario so much as the mindset everyone is jaded with when referencing the Warriors. These aren't your Don Nelson Warriors. Andrew Bogut is a beast in the middle. With O'Neal back and Iguodala patrolling the perimeter, this is as good as it's ever been for the Warriors. The offense struggling is sold to us as players simply missing shots and they'll eventually because percentages say so, even if said shots are inefficient contested long twos or fadeaways after elongated and clumsy post-ups.
Mark Jackson and his team are preaching to us about consistency and mindset. And while we've stopping eating it up as more than professional coach and player-speak, perhaps we should remain more in tune with what they're actually trying to change, because a defense this surprisingly stout shouldn't be thrown under the bus by an offense this sneakily mediocre.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.