DESPITE 44 POINTS FROM STEPH CURRY THE WARRIORS BLOW A 16-POINT LEAD WITH 4 MINUTES LEFT
I just don’t know how the Golden State Warriors come back from this. A 16-point lead with just over four minutes to go against a veteran and heavily favored opponent and you lose. But, this just wasn’t a loss. It was a collapse that shakes the foundation of a team on their first playoff journey. “Almost” losing to Denver isn’t comparable to losing in such a gruesome fashion to the talented and statesman-like Spurs.
The Warriors needed to score two buckets in the final four minutes against San Antonio to secure the win. The deficit was too large for San Antonio to overcome without some cooperation from Golden State. The Warriors cooperated in a variety of ways. Whether it was too much dribbling on the perimeter by Jarrett Jack, forced shots, apprehensive play or turnovers, the Warriors did them all.
Let me say Mark Jackson is the perfect coach for this team, right now. He has instilled belief in this young Warriors group and there is no doubt he is a rock in the Warrior front office hierarchy, but he has to take some of the blame in this. When it was clear that his small line-up could not contain Tony Parker’s penetration in the waning moments of regulation he called two timeouts after made buckets and called isolations for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Really ? No ball movement, no motion, one on one basketball with no cohesion or flow. His team desperately needed him to stop the bleeding, and then best he could come up with was isolation’s for Landry and Jack ? Second, where was Bogut ? With Parker getting into the lane and scoring easy lay-ups and runners, the Warriors stayed with the small line-up. Why not bring in Bogut and go big, forcing Parker away from the hoop. In the end the Spurs Kawai Leonard and Danny Green hit big three point jumpers at the end of regulation to force overtime. But, wouldn’t have it been better to force the play-making Parker out of the paint and force the Spurs to chuck it from long distance, while you still had some semblance of control in the game ?
What makes it even worse was that Tim Duncan was off the floor with the stomach flu, so with Bogut on the floor it gives you a post option. Jackson’s fear of Bogut’s free throw shooting had to play into his decision. But, once the snowball started rolling down hill, you need to get stops and Bogut would have helped in that regard against the much-smaller Spurs. I believe this was tactical mistake by Jackson in his first pressure cooker playoff series.
I heard the argument that this was only one game and the Warriors bounced back against Denver and they can do so against San Antonio. That is nice in theory but totally unrealistic when you rationally look at what is before the Warriors. First, San Antonio is better than Golden State. They are more seasoned, experienced and saavy. The advantage the Warriors have is their youthful exuberance and enthusiasm. They are also young and spry, which should serve them well the longer the series goes. But, I can’t help but think, what happens the next time the Warriors have a late lead in this series ? You don’t think these guys are going to feel the lump in the throat. Golden State’s inability to close is now a trend. If it happens once, its happen-stance. When it happens twice, it’s a trend.
When a young team makes their first foray into the post-season, and I don’t care which sport it is there will be miscues, its inevitable. The Warriors will learn a lot from this first journey. When it’s all said and done they will do an honest assessment of their talents, their strengths, their weaknesses and then they will address those.
Right now, the lesson they need to learn is how to “close” on a big stage. Closing in February against the Timberwolves is easy. Closing in May against the Spurs in front of a national audience is a different animal.
Who knows, maybe in three years we look back as the Warriors are playing for the NBA Championship and see this as a necessary growing experience. But, right now it feels horrible.
Game 2 is on Wednesday