David Lee just might be the healthiest star on the court.
That’s a joke of course. But Bogut and Curry are working on one leg. Manu Ginobili is working on no legs. His legs are so bad that he can’t even hit a free throw. Tim Duncan looked like he turned into an 80 year old man between the first and second quarter. When is the last time you saw him brick a layup, and then airball a 15 footer, on consecutive possessions? Tony Parker took a quarter to get his body working. He said post-game that everything hurt to start the game, his calf, his Achilles, and that, “I felt like I was 50.” Tiago Splitter looks nothing like the player he was during the regular season. He’s maybe 70%.
All of the role players on both teams have been forced to step up. This series looks less like Warriors-Spurs right now than it does a rookie-sophomore game. And the sophomores are winning.
Otherwise, nothing much has changed in the series from the last game. The return of Tiago Splitter to the starting lineup, and Popovich’s defensive adjustment on Stephen Curry (discussed next) have put the Spurs in control. Even if Bogut and Curry get healthy in a hurry for next game, it’s difficult to see what Mark Jackson can do to change the dynamic. He appears out of answers.
Curry: It’s obvious his ankle is a big problem, and Pop is making it worse by attacking him on the defensive end. But I don’t think it’s his only problem. As I noted in my recap of Game 2, Pop found a defense in the second half of that game that worked against Curry, before he injured his ankle. He used Danny Green to guard Curry from the side, rather than in front. Taking away his three point shot completely, and inviting him to drive into a trap. Curry shot 3-11, 0-1 from three, in the second half of Game 2.
I called this defense then a “worrisome development,” and it has proved just that. By my count, Curry had three open shots all night long. Pop has figured out a way to deny Curry the three point shot without actually blitzing, and Mark Jackson has yet to figure out a counter. He may, in fact, be helpless to figure out a counter.
Because of Andrew Bogut. And because of the injury to David Lee.
A major reason that Pop’s defense is so successful against Curry is that he has no real options off the pick and roll. His number one option is to jack a quick shot over a closing trap. His second option is to dribble into another trap, and try to get a runner off over a 7 footer.
His third option, which should be his main option against this defense, is to pass to the roll man. The only problem with that is that his roll man is Andrew Bogut, and Bogut is helpless to create offense against the Spurs defense. He can’t shoot the 15 footer. He can’t beat the Spurs rotation to the basket. And because his roll is no threat, the other Spurs defenders can stick like glue to their men on the wings. Giving Curry no option at all to find a three point shooter.
One of the very biggest differences between the Spurs and the Warriors is that the Spurs have two-way big men, and the Warriors don’t. The Warriors are playing 4 on 5 on the offensive end.
Do they miss David Lee yet?
Jack: Warriors fans will be all over his turnovers. I will note this: like Curry, he’s being trapped on the pick and roll, which makes even good ballhandlers turnover prone, and that’s down to Andrew Bogut’s inability to play on offense.
It’s also down to the coaches, as Jerry West says. It may be time to simply get Bogut out of the way, and iso Curry and Jack at the top, as the Warriors did to beat Denver’s blitz. Remember that?
Bogut: It’s possible he tweaked his ankle, by landing on Splitter’s foot in the first quarter. It’s also possible that, like Game 5 against Denver, his ankle was killing him before the game started, and he took the game off.
Whichever is the case, Bogut was awful in this game. Most of the time, didn’t even attempt to guard the pick and roll. Left Duncan completely unguarded in the key. Couldn’t move laterally at all to challenge layups. Not a presence on the boards.
Assuming they have to choose, should the Warriors shoot him up for Game 6, or wait until a possible Game 7? I think they’ll opt for Game 6, in front of the home crowd.
I expect Bogut to come out for Game 6 like he did in Game 6 against Denver. As for how he finishes, let’s hope Mark Jackson’s god keeps his hands on him.
Jefferson: He looks pretty darn good in his minutes to me. Like a veteran. Do you have the feeling he could have had a bigger role this season? Given David Lee a breather at stretch-four? Helped the Warriors win some games?
One of the biggest mysteries of this season, that was left completely unexplored by the beat writers. $10 million, left on the bench to rot.
There was a Rookie of the Year contest to consider, I guess.
Thompson: He’s simply not being left open, and he’s not being given the ball to create his own shot. Mark Jackson is going to the Barnes mismatch for that.
Mitch Richmond had something to say about this on the Warriors post-game show. He doesn’t think Thompson’s shooting woes are entirely his fault, because he’s been the forgotten man. He thinks the Warriors need to put the ball in his hands more, and get him going.
There might be some truth to that.
Corey Joseph: Gave the Spurs some big minutes in this game in relief of Tony Parker. Pop reached into the D-Leagues on March 1 for Joseph, in response to the injury devastation to the Spurs backcourt. And he’s become a part of the Spurs’ playoff rotation.
Once Brandon Rush went down, do you think the Warriors could have used Joseph, or a player like him, to back up Curry and Jack? Cut down their minutes? Keep them fresh for the playoffs? Step up big in the playoffs in the event of injury?
That’s not how Joe Lacob operates. For the third straight season, Lacob stripped the Warriors bench at the trading deadline. Do you think the Warriors could have used Charles Jenkins in the last few games?
Hey, at least we got under the cap.
Kawhi Leonard: He’s shooting 58% in this series (chiefly with Barnes guarding him). But I don’t watch him for his offense.
I watch him for his defense, which is out of this world. I would love to see the stats on what Thompson and Curry are shooting when guarded by him. I’m guessing it’s well below 40%.
What a player, and a big reason why the Spurs are currently in control of this series.
Two-way wings are what win in the NBA. Whether you build your team conventionally, like Memphis and Indiana, or as a Nellieball team, like Miami, OKC, and Denver, they are not an option. They are essential.
Barnes: Had a genuinely good offensive game, probably his best so far as a Warrior. Still covered by the Spurs’ worst defender for most of the game (whether that be Parker, Neal, or Bonner) — still single-covered by Pop (Pop is by his coverage essentially daring the Warriors to beat them with Barnes) — Barnes responded with a coolly efficient 10-18 for 25 points, and only one turnover. Instead of validating the Spurs defense with a godawful 9-26 and 4 TO performance, he punished the Spurs defense for disrespecting him, and just possibly gave Pop something to think about going into Game 6.
I took some heat for pointing out Barnes’ inefficiency in his last game. Let me ask those who criticized me something: In the Pacers-Knicks game played earlier tonight, Carmelo Anthony shot 9-23 for 24 points, and JR Smith shot 7-22 for 19 points, not against Tony Parker and Matt Bonner, but against the best defense in the entire league. Do you think the Knicks’ PR department splashed “Melo and JR Shoot Lights Out!” all over their post-game show?
Of course they didn’t. Because that would be an insult to their fans’ intelligence.
This was the first time all season that I felt that Barnes looked truly comfortable in isolation. As Jim Barnett noted post-game, he took his time and surveyed the defense before deciding what he wanted to do. There was very little forcing. He even scored efficiently over Danny Green, on the few possessions Green picked him up. Progress.
Can you imagine what it would mean to the Warriors if Barnes were able to force either Leonard or Green off of Curry or Thompson, in order to guard him? I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that happens, but it is Barnes’ job to make it happen. Or to at least give Pop a headache thinking about it.
Or how about forcing Pop to start sending double teams again, as he did in Games 1-3? To give Curry and Thompson a chance of finding a crack of daylight in the black night of the Spurs’ smothering defense. That is Harrison Barnes’ job, when he finds himself being single-covered by Tony Parker.
On the defensive end… well, I’ll just point out once again that there are light years between Barnes and the Spurs wings Leonard and Green on that end. But I did notice him help turn Tony Parker over once, and block his shot to end the second half. I believe that’s his first block of the series. Progress.
(You see how I did that?)