You could choose from any number of story lines to describe this Game 4 Warriors win against the Spurs. Mark Jackson’s was this: “I’m just so glad that a national TV audience had an opportunity to see exactly what’s been taking place in this area.” The Warriors’ PR department’s preferred story line was “Barnes Shoots Lights Out!” Buried deep in the sports section, you might find something about how Jarrett Jack put the Warriors on his back and carried them when they absolutely needed him. You’ll find something about Bogut’s defense and rebounding against Tim Duncan. And the fact that the crippled Curry and Lee gave everything they had.
This was a win notable for physical courage and sheer determination. It was more like watching the 15th round of a heavyweight prize fight than a basketball game.
But a seasoned NBA playoff watcher’s story line to this game would be far more cynical than those above. It would be something like this: In a must win home game for the Warriors, and a throwaway road game for the Spurs — a game in which the home team typically dominates — the Warriors barely survived. The Spurs were road-weary, unmotivated on the glass, unable to hit a shot, nor even a free throw. (The Spurs were 14-25 on FTs, 56% in this game. They were 4th in the league at 78.7% during the regular season, one notch better than the Warriors.) And yet the game was tied at the end of regulation. If anything, this game made it even more clear that the Spurs are currently in control of this series.
Perhaps the most important story line of this game — and certainly one that Warriors fans should hope is true — is that it bought some time for Stephen Curry’s ankle to heal. Because barring his miraculous return to health, and another playoff performance for the ages, I can’t see the Warriors stealing another game in San Antonio.
JACK!: Jack had a JACK! game. He carried the Warriors, as the primary ball-handler throughout. Hit big shot after big shot in the second half.
Spent a lot of time guarding Tony Parker, which was an interesting adjustment on Mark Jackson’s part. By setting Parker up further from the rim, Pop took away Klay Thompson’s effectiveness. Jack can’t challenge Parker’s shot as well as Klay, but he can make Parker work harder to shake free.
Warriors fans are out of their minds in their criticism of Jarrett Jack. He’s not a perfect player, by any means. But he’s a damn good one.
Metta World Peace recently tweeted that Jack is a top ten point guard in the league. I think that’s about right.
A top ten point guard who will be too expensive for the capped-out Joe Lacob next year. And too much in the way of Harrison Barnes.
Curry: I’m just beyond sad to see this great player hobbled again. And in particular that Warriors fans and the world will most likely be denied the chance to see him try to carry the Warriors in the meaningful Game 5.
How many players could hit 5 threes on one leg?
Check out that clutch right-handed runner he hit in crunchtime. He wrong-footed it, off his healthy right foot. One of the greatest talents to ever set foot on the hardwood.
David Lee: Every time Lee takes the court, I have to admit I think about RG3, and how outraged at Mike Shanahan I was during that game. But six specialists and a bishop have said it’s OK for him to play, so I guess it must be OK.
In this game, his performance was much more than inspirational. Due to early foul trouble on Bogut and Ezeli, the Warriors were desperate for his minutes.
All those members of the bellowing herd who think David Lee is a “terrible” defender, owe it to him to replay the first 6 defensive possessions he played in this game, in which the Spurs were held scoreless.
David Lee doesn’t defend the rim. He’s not a shotblocker. But the simple fact of the matter is that Lee is a very decent defender, mano a mano, against opposing big men in the post. He’s proven that against Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin and numerous others. And he showed it again, last night, on one leg.
And there’s something else I’d like to ask the bellowing herd: Is defensive rebounding a part of playing defense? Ending a defensive possession with a rebound?
I think some guys who played with Dennis Rodman might have an opinion on that.
Barnes Shoots Lights Out! That was the graphic the Warriors PR department pasted onto the post-game show. Really? I have to confess, I wasn’t nearly as impressed as they wanted me to be by his 9-26 shooting. Barnes made just enough buckets to keep the Warriors in this game, but it’s hilarious to me that anyone would call this a good performance, let alone the performance of Barnes’ young life.
Barnes was nearly always being guarded by the worst Spurs defender on the court, whether Parker, Neal or Bonner. And for some reason, Pop left him alone in isolation. He had been trapping Barnes, to great effect, in all the previous games. (Was this a head-game? Will he revert to trapping Barnes in Game 5? Or was he simply trying to induce a 9-26 performance?)
All alone in isolation, Barnes managed to get to the rim a couple of times. Particularly against Bonner, which is a great matchup for him. But against the Spurs point guards he generally looked terrible. Spinning, off-balance jumpers. Poor decisions. 4 TOs.
He looked even worse on defense. None of the Spurs could make a shot, of course, but when either Green or Leonard decided to take it to the rim, they went right by him. He can’t stay in front of anyone. Which was probably on his mind when Ginobili broke his ankles at 0:20 4th quarter, and he fell on his ass. Ginobili missed the wide open three to win the game, as Barnes watched from a seat on the floor.
Barnes did grab 10 rebounds, in a game where rebounds were raining, but most were uncontested, in a game in which the Spurs didn’t expend much energy on the offensive boards. One rebound that was very much contested occurred in crunchtime at 4:50 4Q: Leonard simply threw Barnes to the ground for an offensive rebound and put back.
The great Hubie Brown weighed in on that one: “Absolutely inexcusable!”
I know I’m gonna get a lot of hate mail for this evaluation of Barnes’ game. Trust me, I know the kid is only 20 years old, and has a lot of room to grow, and a lot of years in which to grow. But until that happens, is it OK if I just tell it like it is? I’m not selling season tickets on this blog.
Here’s something to show I’m not a complete Grinch: One area in which Barnes has excelled in these playoffs is at the free throw line, where I believe he’s shooting well over 90%, 7-7 in this game, and looking completely unflappable. Not bad, for a player who shot 76% on FTs in the regular season.
If these playoffs have proven anything about Barnes’ game, it’s that he has ice water in his veins.
Klay: I understand Mark Jackson’ game plan to attack the Spurs’ weakest defensive link. But that clutch drive and running banker Klay hit over Leonard at 0:30 4Q really showed me something.
I’d rather put the ball in Klay’s hands against Leonard and Green, than in Barnes’ hands against Tony Parker. I think this great player could do better than 9-26.
Landry: One of the best 2-9 performances you’ll ever see. His defense against Tim Duncan was superb, one of the most surprising things about this game.
Bogut: Fought through silly first half foul trouble to have a big impact in the second half. He was particularly good in one on one defense against Tim Duncan. Or maybe Duncan was just busy laying an egg. I’m not altogether certain which is most true, but Game 5 in San Antonio will probably provide a clue.
Bogut also owned the defensive glass, with 18 rebounds in 28 minutes.
As big as Bogut played in this game, though, I saw some signs for concern going forward. For instance, I thought there were signs that Bogut didn’t feel great on his ankle. Like that play at 8:00 3Q, where he got the offensive rebound and had a wide open dunk at the rim. Instead of leaping, he flipped up a soft two-handed bowl of mess. That was followed by his failure to get up to catch Curry’s alley-oop at 5:00 4Q.
Speaking of his ankle, have you noticed how the Warriors have gone dark on the subject of his injections? I intended to predict that, after his spontaneous admission in the afterglow of the Warriors Round One victory, but it slipped my mind. So I’ll say it now: you will hear no more about Bogut’s injections for the rest of the playoffs, even though we are hearing about Curry’s.
Another thing that should be extremely concerning to the Warriors is Bogut’s complete inability to cover the Spurs’ pick and roll. He hates coming out to pick up the guards. That actually didn’t hurt the Warriors too much in this game, as Parker missed more than half of his wide open shots. But I’m not sure you can count on that continuing in Game 5.
When he is pressured by made shots to try coming out a little further, he renders himself helpless against the drive. Both Parker and Ginobili burned him on drives in this game.
A few signature plays to check out:
- 10:00 3Q, a high pick for Parker out at the three point line leaves Bogut high and dry in no man’s land.
- Starting at 6:25 4th Q, Ginobili runs two straight pick and rolls against Bogut. One results in a wide open three, the other in a layup.
- 0:40 4th Q Parker cans the second of two straight wide open jumpers over Bogut.
As Mark Jackson loves to say, “It’s a make or miss league.” And in this game the Spurs missed. But it remains true that Bogut’s pick and roll coverage leaves the Warriors completely at the mercy of Parker and Ginobili’s ability to hit wide open shots.
If the Warriors are going to steal Game 5 in San Antonio, Bogut will have to have a more active game. Better than this one. It might be time for another injection.
On a slightly different topic, Magic Johnson made a very curious comment at halftime in this game. He said:
This summer, Golden State, if they want to be a championship team, they got to get a post player who can score down low.
I had two immediate thoughts about this. The first was: Huh? Doesn’t Magic realize that the Warriors have Andrew Bogut? To which the answer is yes, of course he does. So what is he saying? Apparently, Magic Johnson considers Bogut to be an extremely limited offensive player, incapable of playing in the low post. A one-way player who’s not championship caliber. Either that, or he doesn’t believe Bogut will be around next year.
My second thought was: Huh? Didn’t Magic watch the last two Finals? Did the Mavs or the Heat ever throw it into the low post? Did the Thunder?
The Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers play the kind of basketball that Magic Johnson and Joe Lacob recognize. But the other contenders in today’s NBA are working from a completely different model.
The Nellieball model.