This is probably the hardest recap I've ever had to write. I'm just sitting here staring at the boxscore trying to figure out what to write. We all share the same pain. We all recognize that the Warriors need to win their next 3 and Denver go 1-2 for the Warriors to make the playoffs. Some of us hold out hope, some of us would rather give up and be surprised if it happens. I'm not ready to give up on this season. Like they say, it ain't over till it's over.
I got 2 big reasons for the loss and then we'll take a shower and cleanse ourselves of the Denver Chicken Nuggets.
Reason #1 for the loss: Denver's Zone D
One team played D tonight and they won. Simple as that. George Karl made a couple excellent adjustments tonight. First, he didn't let Anthony Carter play too many minutes and instead let JR Smith stay in the game. This team doesn't need a point guard. Second, after Denver got scorched in the first quarter playing man defense, he switched to the 1-2-2 zone.
What a difference a D makes. Denver couldn't stop the Warriors at all in the first quarter. The Dubs had 17 fast break points as Denver's transition D was awful. Starting in the 2nd quarter, Denver put a stop to that. Their zone D disrupted the Warriors offense. Although the Warriors still got 21 fast break points the rest of the way, playing in the zone allowed Denver to get back on D. They didn't have to find their man, they just ran to their spot.
What the zone also did was extend the Warriors offense. Instead of going one on one and getting high screen and rolls, the Warriors decided to settle for swinging the ball around the perimeter and drive and kicks. AI looked very quick out there as he played the passing lanes well as he always does. Najera gave the guards trouble out there and JR Smith played solid D too. Those 3 perimeter guys closed out well on the guards and forced any driving guards into the teeth of the defense.
It was frustrating to watch the Warriors not figure out how to solve the riddle. Everytime they drove baseline, there was Melo, Camby or Kmart cutting off the baseline and trapping. Everytime they drove the middle of the lane, there were two defenders there and the perimeter D could cheat and get in the passing lanes for steals. Usually the only option left was the swing pass across the court or kicking it back out. It left the Warriors offense forcing up shots (not that there's anything new with that) but doing it completely out of the flow of the offense.
Did Nellie Get Outcoached?
This is one question I've been pondering since the game ended. Karl made his adjustment - switching from man D to zone and pulling Anthony Carter. Nellie's team didn't really seem to make any adjustments. They struggled against the zone D for 3 full quarters and didn't change up their offense. Usually against a zone D, you overload one side or you get the ball to a good passer in the middle of the zone. Neither of those happened tonight. The screens stopped coming while the turnovers mounted. Leads me to believe Karl outcoached Nellie. What do you think?
Anyways, props to the Nuggets for adjusting so well after what looked like a disastrous beginning.
Reason #2 for the loss: No Bench
Hello? Did anyone else dress for the game except Baron, Monta, Al, Andris, and Jack? Did anyone else hear Nellie's pregame speech? Did anyone else realize this was the biggest game of the year? Hello? Anyone?
Ugh. Let's count up the bench points. On my left hand: thumb, pointer finger, middle finger, ring finger, pinky. On my right hand: thumb, pointer finger. Okay done. 7 points off the bench! Seven! And Kelenna's 5 came with under 5 minutes in the 4th quarter. So the bench had all of Matt Barnes' 2 points in 43 minutes.
Where was Pietrus tonight? He had such an explosive 4th quarter against the Kings that I was expecting him to show up. To be fair, he played a few good possessions on D against Carmelo. After Melo was lighting up Jax at the start of the 3rd, Pietrus' D was what got him off his rhythm. But other than that, he was MIA. 3 fouls, 0 points, 0 rebounds. Nellie pulled him quickly too.
Here's one question, did Nellie not trust his bench tonight or did he just not use them because they didn't produce? I think it was the latter. Monta played the entire game. Baron played 46 minutes, Andris 40, Jax 43 and Al 33. I guess Nellie decided to live and die by his starters.
I could go on and on about more reasons for the loss. I could also pour more salt in our wounds. But really, it wasn't all bad for the Warriors. Baron ended with a triple double as he played one of his best games of the past few months. Monta had another excellent scoring night, though his 6 turnovers and missed free throws were costly. Al came to play but needed to hit the boards harder. Biedrins was big tonight with 19 boards. And Jax? Well we learned that after he takes his headband off he plays better. Fact is, Melo, AI, and JR Smith played lights out while our starters got sloppy (missed free throws and uncharacteristic turnovers), possibly because they were playing tons of minutes with no help from the bench.
It ain't over yet. Denver has two tough games ahead of them. One at Utah and one at home against Houston. They close out with Memphis. If we get some help from Utah and Houston, we have a chance. That would mean we'd have to beat the Clippers (not easy with Brand back), beat Phoenix in Phoenix (tough tough game), and then finish Seattle off on the last game of the season. Let's hope the Seattle game is like our Portland game last year, win and we're in.
Don't Give Up
Look, it's easy to give up right now and say it's over. Just like it would have been real easy during our playoff drought to give up and be a Kings fan. But we didn't. We're true Warriors fans. We believe in our team until the very last day no matter what. You didn't give up hope when we stunk for years and years and years. You can hold out hope for one more week. The odds are stacked against us. We're a long shot to make the playoffs. Nobody expects us to get there now. It's easy to give up now, and damn hard to be a Warrior fan.
I gotta say he had the best game of the bunch. I could have given this to Baron but the 9-25 and 1-9 from 3 was a killer. Biedrins was all over the place tonight hauling in 19 rebounds along with scoring 11 points. He kept the Warriors in this game tonight not so much with his scoring but his heart and hustle. When the team needed a defensive rebound, he seemed to be the guy getting it. Sometimes it seems like he's the only one fighting for rebounds - 4 blue jerseys and Biedrins in the paint. He even played tough in the paint. He challenged shots, changed shots and got a couple blocks. That's usually something you don't see from him. He had one of the best games of the year at the right time.