“We’re a defensive team. 115 points is not acceptable.”
“We were a step slow on defense.”
“We need to play our brand of basketball.”
“We need to be true to our identity.”
“We’re going to stay true to the process.”
That was Mark Jackson’s take on the reasons why the Warriors lost to the Bobcats.
Here’s my take: Mark Jackson stuffed this loss down his team’s throat. His rigid inflexibility of mind and refusal to match up with his opponent was the single biggest reason why the Warriors lost this game. (And it’s something of a tradition for him against the Bobcats in Charlotte.)
The Matchup Problem: Jackson hid Stephen Curry on the stretch-four Anthony Tolliver, who had been pressed into service at small forward due to injuries. This was a good decision: Tolliver is a floor-spreader who did not make it tough on Curry.
The problem was at the other two positions: Klay Thompson on Kemba Walker, and Harrison Barnes on Gerald Henderson. Both Thompson and Barnes got absolutely torched in this game. Thompson can guard some point guards, but not those like Walker who can both shoot the three and get to the hoop. He had no prayer in this matchup.
Just as Barnes had no prayer of guarding the smaller and quicker Henderson. “A step slow?” No kidding, Coach Jackson. If you put Andrew Bogut on Monta Ellis, he’d be a step slow too. Get the concept?
The Warriors problems were exacerbated by the fact that David Lee was forced by Jackson to guard a stretch-four — Josh McRoberts — out at the three point line. Opening up the court even further to the drives of Walker and Henderson.
And forcing Bogut and O’Neal into foul trouble. When the floor is spread and you can’t guard the perimeter, your bigs are simply dead meat.
The Warriors were a step slow because Mark Jackson allowed his opponent to make them a step slow. Because he refused to make an adjustment.
The Solution: It’s really quite simple. In the NBA, when you’re getting beat by quickness, you play smaller.
Play a two point guard backcourt. Bring in the trio of Douglas, Nedovich, and Bazemore to pressure Kemba Walker. Leave Curry on Tolliver. But guard Henderson with the better defender Thompson. Move Barnes to the power forward, on Josh McRoberts. Move Lee to center, on Al Jefferson. And ship Bogut to the bench.
Now who has the quicker team? Now who has trouble guarding who?
Now who has more talent on the floor?
Can Al Jefferson defend the Curry/Lee pick and roll with a completely spread floor? Can Josh McRoberts defend Harrison Barnes at the three point line, with the ball and a live dribble? Can Jefferson and McRoberts run up and down with this Warriors team? Can the Bobcats find Curry and Thompson in the open court, in a wide open game?
I know what you’re thinking, David Lee can’t guard Al Jefferson, blah blah blah. And Harrison Barnes can’t rebound at the four, blah blah blah.
Barnes rebounded just fine in the playoffs last year playing power forward, thank you. While destroying the likes of Anthony Randolph and Matt Bonner when they tried to guard him.
And contrary to what resident genius Bob Fitzgerald seems to think, David Lee HAS matched up against Al Jefferson before, in the years that he played center on the Knicks for Mike D’Antoni.
In 2010, in Lee’s last year on the Knicks, he played Jefferson (then on the TWolves) twice. Here are the results:
- In New York: Lee 28 and 10, Jefferson 4 and 10.
- In Minnesota: Lee 16 and 11, Jefferson 22 and 11.
See any problem with that? Here’s some more food for thought: Lee’s frontcourt mate in those games was 6-7″ small forward Wilson Chandler, playing out of position at power forward. Jefferson’s frontcourt mate was Kevin Love. (Go ahead, look it up.)
Now, don’t go thinking the way some do, that I’m suggesting that the Warriors play small all game every game. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe that David Lee and Harrison Barnes are strong enough to play big all game long. And I do believe that there is a use for Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal.
What I am suggesting, quite simply, is that the Warriors play small exactly the same amount of time that all of the other great coaches in the league would, if they were blessed with one of the best, if not THE best, smallball teams in the entire league.
What amount of time is that, exactly?
Enough to win the damn game.