On Oscar Sunday where Gravity stole many of the awards, the Golden State Warriors offense fell to a crashing thud despite Stephen Curry's offensive game serving as a spacesuit and oxygen tank. Regardless of the horrific analogy, it was symptomatic of what the Warriors now must hope for, and need, in the last 22 games of the season. They got ample amounts of it tonight and still couldn't find victory.
Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, noted lockdown defenders but relatively efficient scorers, each shot four times and each made two. Klay Thompson clanked his way to a 4-15 afternoon and David Lee missed multiple shots at the rim that led to a misleading 8-18 finish. The bench combined to shoot 8-20 and played little defense in the second half despite Marreese Speights and Jordan Crawford benched throughout.
With Jermaine O'Neal unable to travel with the team to Toronto because of passport issues (doesn't that just mean he forgot his passport? what does "issues" even imply? Pretty funny, though. Well, until...), the team was forced to play smallball, with Lee at the five and Green at the four. While it led to a flashy passing offense on one end, it was destroyed on defense on the other. We don't exactly know why Mark Jackson has refused to play smallball with Bogut at the five, but perhaps watching his team struggle with Green/Barnes at the four on defense (mostly Lee at the five but he'll never admit that) has cautioned him against that strategy.
At a certain arbitrary demarcation point of a basketball season, it's retroactively, or actively, time to accept what we know about the players and team, and cease to insisting something tangible will change, or evolve. Thompson is an excellent spot-up shooter on offense and not much else. Iguodala isn't as bad a shooter as he's been but isn't that great, either. Lee has trouble finishing over taller defenders, which unfortunately happens to find themselves on above-average defensive teams. Bogut catches lobs, Crawford takes weird shots, and Barnes is who he is, at least for this season. The time to accept that the offense won't get better, barring injury, from a scheme or personnel status, was probably a few weeks ago but struggling on an East Coast trip against two good defenses (and Indiana coming up) just about sums it up.
The defense is excellent, but on nights when DeMar Derozan dominates the perimeter and the opposing team is finding open shooters and nailing threes (8-22, 36.4%) and free throws (20-23, 87%), and turning the ball a total of nine times, it's tough to combat that with a middling offensive attack. It all leads back to Curry. He's played about four minutes less since the All-Star Break but Jackson apparently didn't want the game slipping away and left him run the team the entire second half. A short-legged three around the three-minute mark epitomized what the sheer amount of minutes can and are doing to Curry's slight frame. It didn't help that it appeared he re-aggravated a shoulder injury on a drive to the basket late in the third quarter.
1. Because of reasons known to only himself, Barnes struggled on defense in the beginning of the season. While his athleticism left a bit to be desired on offense, he was always strong and long enough to defend well on the other end. Whether it was reenergized focus or healthier body parts, Barnes is markedly better and more active alongside Green manning the second-unit wings.
He also barely pump-faked on offense and had a couple drive-and-kicks. The obsession with the midrange jumper is still there but he hit a couple to do away with that knock tonight.
2. Klay is a very good on-ball defender. He also has a propensity to foul. A lot. Like his shooting conscience, he doesn't seem to mind, or care, if he's missed 10 in a row or in foul trouble. He's going to play the same way. There's some courage and IQ to be found in that. The only way to break an offensive or defensive slump, is to play within himself. WIthout getting someone else better and expanding his game, Thompson's ceiling as a very good, but not great, player is probably nigh.
3. Draymond dropped five dimes. And they were DIMES. Not the passing out of a trap for a contested 18-foot assist or pass to an iso (only two steps!) assist. He had two to Lee in the first half (needs more run with first, second or fifteenth team) and a tic-tac-toe one to Speights running down the side of the paint. Reading the defense after a pick-and-roll, Green dropped to the short corner (not to the paint therefore spreading the floor), received the pass and in one motion, before the defense could collapse, flicked it to Speights for the layup.
Forget the defense, nobody other than Iguodala or Curry could make a pass like that on this team. He won't solve offensive issues, especially if it means he's playing in place of Lee but there's got to be minutes somewhere for a player that's woefully underused and under-appreciated.