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Warriors vs. Nets analysis: Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala stand out; Steph Curry's 'off' night

A strange game happened last night.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Player Performances:

Andrew Bogut played a hell of a game. We all know that he obviously presented an extra dimension to the offense by functioning as an offensive fulcrum in the post, and he also reestablished his superior defensive presence (especially with more skilled bigs, such as Brook Lopez). He also pulled down 18 rebounds on the night, in a game in which the opposition continually found second life on offense through offensive rebounding.

But he also had two big, big turnovers late in the game; and while the knee-jerk reaction to any misstep is annoyance (or more), I found myself able to rationalize the blunders.

Mistake one: down one, with the opportunity to take the lead, Bogut rebounded a missed Curry three (good!), turned his back to the baseline to look for a cutter (good!), but, in an apparent attempt to go fancy, had a behind-the-back pass sail on him and into the hands of a Brooklyn defender.

Now, upon further review, the fanciness was borne of necessity — much like an aesthetically pleasing Curry no-looker, the flash serves a purpose. In this case, it was to get the ball into the paint around Brook Lopez, who had bodied up to Bogut. You can argue he should've pulled it completely and recycled the ball to the top of the key, but that's only preferable to Bogut's choice of action if you think the Warriors could've gotten a better look than a Curry reverse layup.

Mistake two: after securing another HUGE defensive rebound, Bogut decided to play with my heart and trigger my PTSD from late January against the Bulls by turning the ball over in the backcourt. A Brooklyn wing snuck up behind him and intercepted his handoff to Curry.

Now, (a) we DO want Bogut to treat that board like it's a burning hunk of coal. The rebound was secured within the final two minutes of the game, meaning that it was open season to foul him. With this in mind, it's better he had the presence of mind to dump the ball before he finished counting how many white jerseys (Slate night, Warriors were the 'colors' at home) were in front of him--before he'd be done counting, he could've been fouled and sent to the line already.

Also, (b) each player has a limited view. Together, all five guys on the court can see everything. Either no other Warrior had the wherewithal to bark out "man on," or (more likely) the crowd was just too noisy to properly communicate on the court that someone was sneaking up on Bogut. Again, on the court when 103 things are happening simultaneously, mistakes can happen. And these were two of Bogut's mistakes, but they weren't because of laziness or absentmindedness; and both may have been in part propelled by Bogut's intelligence firing too fast.

In my mind, this game has firmly sealed shut the case of which five the Warriors should start. Obviously, the question never revolved around who was the better player — Bogut is superior to Ezeli in terms of overall impact (SSS rim protection data notwithstanding), and it's not particularly close.

The major crux of the Ezeli movement has been around the team's momentum going forward. That was never really an interesting argument to me, though, because it hides behind undebatable vagueness and abstraction. The precedent had been set, however, by coach Steve Kerr's benching of Andre Iguodala in favor of Harrison Barnes that the best players don't necessarily start for Kerr.

Watching the Warriors struggle to establish an offensive rhythm early on, however, reminded me that the most steady way of creating consistently good looks close to the rim is off of Bogut backdoor cuts. That's an aspect of the offense it just doesn't make sense to only bring in six minutes into the game. Two bench playmakers with Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to keep the pulse of the offense beating through the early second quarter is enough. There's no sense in diluting the on-court talent the Warriors have to this degree.

Warrior Wonder: Andre Iguodala

Warrior Wonder: Andre Iguodala

Speaking of Iguodala, what a night he had. While his latest clutch shot doesn't go down as a game winner because, well, it didn't win the game, it is just further evidence to his well-known medical affliction: ice-cold veins. He hit half of his 12 FGAs for 15 points, including the biggest shot of the game:

Iguodala is taking more shots per 36 than he ever has as a Warrior (by only 0.5 attempts, and SSS), yet his 3PAr is down from .427 last year to .400 this season. He added 6 assists to go along with 6 boards, and a +11 on/off for the night, second highest on the team. And because the universe is a mystical, impossibly complicated enigma, Andre did this exactly two calendar years prior to last night's game:

Shaun Livingston steps up against this old team

Livingston was also fantastic in sensing the urgency of the game. He was more aggressive with his shot than ever before, possibly because Walton (with the Jedi ghost of Kerr over his shoulder) benched Marreese Speights for a second consecutive game and live-wire vet Leandro Barbosa missed his second game because of a family situation, leaving a hole in the second unit for a shot-taker. Klay Thompson, who often joins Liv and Andre on the court before Curry re-enters in the second quarter, was also out (back), which compounded the need for someone to finish offensive possessions.

He took eight shots (four more than he averages this season), making three of them. He wasn't crazy efficient, but he and his runner partner Iguodala combined to bring a fresh sense of intensity to the game in the second unit that helped begin the arduous uphill climb against the Nets. This intangible spark was captured in his team-high +17 on the night. When he was in, the Warriors just outplayed the Nets.

It's worth noting that Livingston was (smartly) Walton's replacement for Klay Thompson as the 2 in the late-game lineup. Jarrett Jack did get the best of Liv on multiple possessions down the stretch, but it's hard to fault Liv for giving up the exact shot the Warriors wanted him to take: the dreaded midrange jumper. Defensively, you have done your job if you get your man to take that shot (of course, you have to work to contest it, too); this was just a night when Jack happened to hit them.

Draymond Green navigated a challenge

Draymond Green responded well to the challenge Thaddeus Young provided. It was apparent early on that Green either didn't watch enough tape on Young or simply wasn't familiar enough with Young's in-person tendencies to keep up with him. It's not like Young is on the Clippers, giving Dray four times a season to understand his game. In any case, it took Draymond 24 minutes to familiarize himself with Young: he scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half.

Offensively, Dray continues to operate as the point guard after teams trap Curry on the PnR, so it's no surprise he cracked double-digit assists against a team that elected to spring a double on Curry early and often. Along with his 12 assists, he came away with four turnovers; he and the Warriors (but mostly Dray) continue to show a frustrating tendency to throw lobs into a crowded paint. The closest analogy I can think of is Colin Kaepernick staring down a receiver then trying to force a pass into double coverage: it's stubborn and annoying and unsuccessful more often than not.

Don't get me wrong, there was at least one instance where Dray lobbing it to Ezeli was almost necessary to do before the defense collapsed back down. A lob is a useful tool that eliminates the time wasted on the middle man (catching, gathering). The Warriors should watch more tape on the Clippers, though: you need actual penetration to move the interior defenders before you can lob it up. By contrast, Dray will usually stop somewhere around midrange (or even from the three point line) and lob it up. I've rarely (if ever) seen an NBA defender who allows a lob over their head when they have good position on their man.

This was the good lob:

Steph Curry's game-high on an off night

Steph had an off-night, requiring 31 FGAs (16 3PAs) to get to his game-high 34 points. Like Livingston, not having your two bench shot-takers (Barbosa, Speights) or your secondary scoring option available left a gaping need for someone to shoot the ball. He played heavy minutes (38 minutes of regulation and all five of OT) again last night.

He repeatedly tried to help propel the team over a three-point deficit hump against the Nets through the third and early fourth quarter, until he finally connected to bring the Warriors to within one with five minutes left in the fourth. That also seemed to wake him up from his funk from behind the arc, having shot 1-5 from range in the first quarter and 1-6 in the third.

That was the blow that finally shattered the apparent psychological block preventing the Warriors from retaking the game, and the precursor that set up Andre to go into his late-game savant mode.

Among Steph's five made threes last night was the one that matched his Pop's career total, as well as three more to break the tie.

Harrison Barnes continues to show huge improvement from the FT line.

Other Notes:

The Warriors got lucky. They should be 10-1 right now, putting up shots in a gym somewhere fuming that they lost to the Nets.

If the Nets had followed the instructions of coach Lionel Hollins to foul while up three; if Brook Lopez hits a point-blank tip-in at the buzzer; if...

On the other hand, the Warriors outplayed the Nets for the majority of the game. The Nets shot 68% in the first quarter from the field, granted, but then the Warriors steadily forced the same shots and they magically stopped making them: 34.8%, 43.5%, and a whopping 25% in the next three quarters. Even that 43.5% goes down to 41% if Jack doesn't make an excellent (and aberrant) play on the ball in the final seconds of the quarter and get a final shot to go down.

The Warriors themselves had an off-night from the field, shooting sub-37% from the field in two quarters, and 44.3% on the game. A small part of it was Brooklyn's defense, but it was mainly a startling complacency to launch contested threes and long twos on a night when those shots just simply weren't falling. The offense often got constricted, as the pressure to retake the lead kept growing the longer Brooklyn held it.

As a result, things stagnated offensively. Four total assists in the third quarter (half of them courtesy of Bogut's playmaking). By contrast, with momentum, the Warriors had five assists on their five made baskets in the five minutes of overtime.

Yet Luke Walton boldly stated the only thing he was focused on was "defense, defense, defense" in the fourth quarter, with the team already holding the Nets to 39.1% shooting after the first quarter woes and the offense so obviously malfunctioning. Nevertheless it worked out in the end, and I guess that could've been bluster put on when he knew Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was listening in on the huddle. Oh well.

So, did the Warriors really get lucky? In a sense, yes. Brook Lopez will probably hit that gimme more often than not. The Nets not executing the correct play while up three is just the stripes of a bad basketball team.

In another sense, the Warriors were thoroughly unlucky that they were even in that position to lose on a buzzer beater to begin with. They caught the Nets on fire from midrange for a quarter and a half, resulting in an early deficit. They were also unlucky to be in a funk offensively, even missing some layups at times, making the deficit harder to surmount.

The 1996 Bulls lost one of their games to a new expansion team called the Toronto Raptors. It was a pretty shocking loss to a team that would go on to finish 51 total games behind the Bulls, at 21-61. When you're the best team in the league, every loss is an upset. Brook Lopez should have handed the Warriors their first upset of the season, but at the same time Brook Lopez should have definitely not been in the position to do so.

That first loss is looming out there, folks. Perhaps it's outside the Staples Center right now, smoking a cigarette with a security guard while it waits for the Warriors to arrive in four days. Maybe it's buying some kale chips to munch on, while it waits for the Warriors to play the Bulls in Oracle. Maybe it'll even pay us a visit on Tuesday, against the Raptors.

Until then,

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