The Warriors are déjà vu like Beyonce Knowles.
Its like the Warriors were re-living a game played last year.
After beating one of the best teams in the league, the Warriors let the lowly Atlanta Hawks take them to the house. Granted the Warriors were without, again, emotional and defensive anchor, Stephen Jackson and leading rebounder, Andris Biedrins. But the lackadasical effort on the defensive end throughout, worsened by Warriors poor protection of the ball and poor shot selection on the offensive end (14 turnovers), continually hurt them throughout. While Biedrins may have made up for the rebounding disparity, the rest of the Warriors inability to defend on the perimeter and rotate to get in the faces of sharp shooters like Joe Johnson probably would have made Biedrins contributions on the defensive end pretty negligible.
Josh Smith made things look easy
Though the Warriors battled back in the 3rd quarter with some scrappy play, this was a game that the Atlanta practically handed to them (20 turnover, which the Warriors rarely capitalized on). Trading baskets when your down by 10, 20 points isn't going to cut it.
From jump, the Warriors looked like they were on relax mode for the weekend. Their shots fell waaaaaay short, barely hitting front iron; they were unable to stop the drive; and they looked confused in defensive transition. There were several times where Monta, Pietrus, fill in the name of any Warriors on the court would have no idea where their man had drifted to and that man would end up with a wide open jumper. Why did the Warriors always have two players running out at a man on the perimeter? On both end of the floor, it was pure chaos: overthrown passes, passes to no one, majorly clanking shots, and so on and so forth. Further, the Hawks defended the Warriors run out plays, preventing easy buckets in transition. You could tell the Hawks read the scouting reports, or tivoed Warriors games just because they knew they would be fun to watch!
Simply put, the Warriors were outhustled and outmuscled. A long, athletic, and skilled Hawks team created havoc for out small ball Warriors. The Hawks are reminiscent to the Steve Lavin UCLA days, with his army of 6'7-6'9 small forwards at all positions; Joe Johnson at the shooting guard spot proved to be more than a handful for Monta Ellis and Baron Davis. Stanfords best NBA prospectus ever, Josh Childress, made me eat my typed words as he jumped over practically anyone for offensive rebounds. Zaza Pachulia, a fantasy stud a few years ago, completely dominated the smaller Austin Croshere during the second quarter and just about anyone else that tried to defend him one on one.
Smith goes up for another uncontested shot. These pictures are looking SLAM monthly poster insert worthy!
Amidst a defensive effort that that could probably only come straight out of a Mike Dunleavy Jr's "Guide to playing basketball" handbook if one existed was our team captain Baron Davis relentlessly keeping us within striking distance, which is about 23 points if the Wizards game is any indication. With most of his points coming off drives, Baron Davis continually attacked Salim Stoudemire and split defenders, willing himself and the Warriors to the hoop. Chris Webber started the game off nicely with a few nice passes from the high post, but also has several errant passes (3 TO), which perhaps is due to his rustiness. We got a glimpse at the court vision that Webber has and his ability to initate offense, which might come in handy down the line or even now in spelling Baron Davis on the court.
Oddly, versus the Celtics, the Warriors only attempted 14 threes compared to last night where they only made 5 of 26. If Monta, Baron, and even Azubuike put holes in the Hawks defense like moths in a closet, why not continue attacking the basket? Further, the freethrow disparity was also outrageous as well. The Hawks made 11 more free throws and also attempted 10 more than the Warriors, which as we've mentioned before, allows opponents to punish you in multiple ways (foul trouble, easy points, etc.).
Damn! It's Josh Smith AGAIN! Guess you can't help but stare at tight dunks
Aside from Webber, there was very little ball movement. With the Warriors struggling offensively in the first half, it seemed that the team relied too heavily on Baron and Harrington to keep them in the game. Granted, without Baron attacking the basket, the Warriors probably would have been down by 30 by halftime. But too often in the first half, Baron went one on three or they ran isolation plays for Harrington three times in a row. The drive and kicks that the Warriors more effectively ran in the second half was non-existent in the first half.
Silverlining: Brandan Wright defied my prediction (which I am glad)! Finally getting some valuable playing when it counts during the game, Wright had a solid game helping the Warriors out where they needed it most (read=defense). Though he struggled with his one-on-one defense (like everyone else), he altered shots and got UP, finally stopping the Hawks from getting second chance points. His teammates did a great job of putting him in a position to score; there were no awkward shot attempts by Wright to take his man off the dribble. He's not ready to carry the torch nor am I suggesting that he's necessarily the one to take it, but I'm hoping he can build on this game and become a regular contributor by season's end.
Monta had some Sportscenter top 10 plays tonight
Watching a shorthanded Warriors getting abused on the defensive glass made me wonder how picking up someone, ala Artest, might have altered the situation. If the Lakers pressed to pick up Pau Gasol only when Andrew Bynum went down, shifting their attentions away from JKidd (as rumors have it), why wouldn't the Warriors want to make a trade (not necessarily Artest, but some other solid player) if we have players that might be out indefinitely? If Don Nelson's contract is largely incentive based, wouldn't he want to solidify his team in the present?
At any rate, the Warriors lacked urgency as they always do after an amazing win over a top tier team. No disrespect to the Hawks, but the Warriors definitely played to their level. The West is just too good for the Warriors to be losing these types of games. Usually an egg in the Warriors faces usually gets them going the following game though, no matter who the opponent is. If this is the case, can I continue critiquing them in hopes that they'll feel motivated?
I reluctantly give it to Baron Davis, even though he was ignition like R.Kelly. Without him the Warriors would not have been able to make that comeback in the second half. He put up some blistering numbers and hit big buckets when it counted over and over again.
Photos courtesy of Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images