In losses at home against a depleted San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Bobcats, and a myriad of other mediocre squads, the Golden State Warriors either came out lethargic and inefficient on offense or generally unaware on the defensive end. On Friday night, the Warriors enjoyed the latter, at least for the first quarter. Giving up 31 points to a nonstop stream of midrange pullups and half-hooks led us into thinking that this could be another of those should-win, but very lose-able home games.
Stephen Curry, after an aggressive two-part series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, fell back into CP3-mode, passing and deferring, content on letting his teammates get into together. Two shots (both made) and five assists ostensibly meant it was working. But the defense was the major issue and it took a big 10-0 late second quarter run, thanks to Andre Iguodala's havoc-wreaking defense. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green helped blitz defenders from the weakside and get into transition the team wouldn't be able to do with both David Lee and Andrew Bogut in the game.
The rest of the game - though it took one more run to effectively salt the game away - was a merry hand-holding circle-jumping group of pinpoint passing and lockdown defense. On a day when two different sites ran features on the Warriors defense, it was fitting they allowed zero points to the Atlanta Hawks in the first 6+ minutes of the fourth quarter.
Nearly every player had a good-to-great game but Jermaine O'Neal stood out if not only for his continued, seemingly unsustainable excellence but ability to still out-agilitize (a word I just made up) younger defenders. Granted, that old man strength sure helps but at times, Mike Muscala (same height as JO, 6'11") seemed positively miniscule next to the 56-year old veteran.
O'Neal pounded, grinded, and slammed his way into a 17-point and 8-rebound performance, nailing seven of his nine free throws. For all the grief and glee given to his slingshot, pause-at-the-top free throw routine, he's an acceptable 73.4 percent from there. To contrast, Barnes is 74.3 percent from the stripe.
Bogut's game is that of a defensive force, with a nice sprinkling of floaters and alley-oop dunks. O'Neal, though cut from the same cloth of badass toughness, is a tad different. Still commanding double-teams in the lane, O'Neal gets tons of isolation touches and still somehow finds a step past defenders. I'm not really sure how it happens but his sweeping dribble on the face-ups or bruising post-ups (knocking defenders off balance) always seem to garner him a long enough glimpse at the bucket to hoist a high-percentage shot. Like Bogut's light drizzle of offense, O'Neal does just enough on defense even though he's lost more than a step. He still comes up with huge blocks but mostly, combines with Green to inhale anything off the glass. Two players with similar body type and injury-prone labels, they've played off each other very well. When healthy, of course.
1. Klay Thompson left the game with a lower back injury and didn't return for the rest of the half. It didn't affect the team much. Why? Draymond Green.
Four steals, four rebounds, five assists and two made threes. And that's scratching the surface on what he brings every night. Forever undersized, Green's quickness and strength tends to surprise and keeps opposing big men off guard, resulting in constant deflections. Green also wants to go up strong, and this forces teams to commit to him, allowing him to drop passes down low. In comparison, Barnes drives for floaters and doesn't necessarily drop a pass unless it is wide open.
I didn't attend Sloan but is there a way we can measure basketball instincts? Is this what the old farts call intangibles? I'm not sure but Green is oozing from every pore all of it. It's a good thing, measurable or not. It just sucks that it will take an injury to see more of it. (ahem, Lee)
2. It's a Friday night and the Warriors blew an Eastern Conference team out. Hit the red X button and enjoy the night.