I’m not going to harp too much on the outcome of this game, because as the game wore on, it became apparent that the Warriors didn’t have the horses to go the distance. Actually, it was apparent as early as the first quarter, when Mark Jackson pulled Stephen Curry at 4:14. No way he does that if Curry’s 100% — he’s been playing the entire first quarter this season. And as even 5 yr. old Warriors fans know — better than anyone, in fact — no Stephen Curry, no win.
Also contributing to the loss was the fact that Bogut didn’t show up. If you couldn’t tell that with your eyes, let some boxscores be your aids. In the two home wins the Warriors have against the Clippers this season, Bogut went for 10 points and 14 rebounds, and then 14 points and 17 rebounds. Last night, 6 and 6.
If you don’t know by now, Bogut is not a player who travels well. He’s not a road warrior. His home and away splits are atrocious, even in the playoffs.
It’s possible that travel affects his body. He got off the long plane flight from China in the preseason with a sore back, and it’s not a stretch (cough) to assume that all plane flights are tough on his back and assorted other elongated parts.
Or it’s possible that he simply hates playing on the road. He certainly complains about it enough on Twitter.
And playing on a back to back of course compounds the problem for Bogut. All big men struggle on back to backs, and Bogut more than most. His bones need rest.
Put it all together, and you get a 6 and 6, and a Warriors loss.
Other factors in this loss: This was not just a statement game for the Clippers, but a game they probably viewed as a must-win. Given the remaining schedule, a loss to the Warriors would have loosened the Clippers grip on the four seed, and one thing I’m certain they don’t want is to give the Warriors home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
You could tell how badly Doc Rivers wanted this game by his rotations. He played Blake Griffin the entire second half, and Chris Paul all but three minutes.
That option was simply not available to Mark Jackson on this night. His horses were tired and beat up, and at least in Bogut’s case, dreaming of the barn.
Jackson was forced to rely heavily on his bench, and this game exposed just how wide a gap exists between the Warriors retooled bench and the Clippers retooled bench.
And just how wide a gap exists between the Clippers professional front office, and the Warriors amateur front office.
While Doc Rivers (the de facto GM of the Clippers) added championship pieces at the trading deadline, in the form of Danny Granger, Big Baby Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, Joe Lacob (the de facto GM of the Warriors) added mismatched parts and fingers in the dike.
The Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford Backcourt: The moment of exhilaration provided by the romp against the Mavericks’ undersized and defensively horrible second unit backcourt didn’t last long, did it? Blake and Crawford came crashing down to earth in this game, combining for an 0-11, and 1 assist.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t just a bad game. It was a solid indication of what the Warriors are going to get from this backcourt in the playoffs. As I have been hinting since the acquisition of Steve Blake was made.
Let’s start with Crawford (and apologies for covering old ground). I was initially upbeat about this acquisition, because Jordan Crawford, when played at point guard, is just the sort of playmaker the Warriors needed to jumpstart their second unit. A guy who could breakdown opposing point guards off the dribble, and at 6-4″, shoot over the top of them. And a guy who can find open teammates when he’s doubled.
He’s also a guy who’s good at pushing the tempo, and running a fast break. Which is what you want when you’re playing a Nellieball second unit with Draymond Green at the four, isn’t it? (Isn’t it, Mark Jackson?)
But unfortunately, Crawford is no longer playing point guard for the second unit. The acquisition of Steve Blake has pushed him to the two. And as I have been repeatedly emphasizing recently, Jordan Crawford is a lousy two guard. In the regular season, much less in the playoffs. As last night (and his entire career) indicated, Crawford is very likely to get DESTROYED in the Western Conference playoffs. If he even sees the floor at all. I suspect that Mark Jackson will be forced to tighten his rotation to leave Crawford on the bench.
Why? First of all, because Crawford is undersized for a two-guard. He simply will not be able to get his mid-range shot off against opposing two-guards in the playoffs. Willie Green ate him alive last night, blocking his shot twice. And Green is 6-3″! Against the 6-5″ and 6-6″ players Crawford will be facing in the playoffs it will be… exceedingly tough.
Secondly, because Crawford is a distinctly mediocre three point shooter, shooting just 31%. Isn’t that what Draymond Green shoots?
And third, because unlike Draymond, Crawford can’t defend. While I’ve been impressed by how hard he is working on the defensive end since joining the Warriors, he’ll never be a plus defender at the two-guard. As noted, he’s undersized. And he doesn’t have a stopper mentality.
Can’t score, can’t defend. Is that a winning recipe for a two-guard?
And now, on to Steve Blake. Blake is a good, solid point guard, who has been a godsend to the Warriors second unit. Mainly because Jackson trusts him enough to actually play him at the point guard. Which was not the case with his three predecessors at the position this season, Toney Douglas, Kent Bazemore and… Jordan Crawford.
Blake is fully capable of playing the way that Mark Jackson wants to play on the second unit. Walking the ball up the court, feeding the ball to Jermaine O’Neal, or Barnes, or Klay in the post. Or taking a high pick and driving the lane, looking for an open teammate.
But what Blake is NOT capable of doing is creating shots for himself. He cannot break ankles and get to the rack. He cannot work himself into the lane and get a high percentage mid-range jumper, ala Jarrett Jack (and Crawford).
Don’t underestimate the importance of this limitation in Blake’s game. It was the main reason that the Clippers were able to dominate the Warriors second unit last night. Where was the Warriors’ mismatch? Jermaine O’Neal or Draymond Green on Jordan, Griffin, Davis? Barnes on Granger? Crawford on Green? The Warriors needed Blake to create for them.
Last night, and against playoff defenses as a rule, the Warriors’ second unit will be desperate for a point guard who can create his own offense. Who can light it up off the dribble. Who can force the defense to react, and get his teammates open.
That’s simply not Steve Blake. Blake was actually perfect for the Lakers, playing with Kobe Bryant. Bryant would of course dominate the ball, allowing Blake to float on the perimeter. When he received the pass, boom, three point shot. Or, if his defender closed out hard, drive and dish against an already out of position defense. That’s Steve Blake.
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, well, why can’t Jordan Crawford play the Jarrett Jack role? Play the point guard, and move Blake off the ball?
The reason is this: The Jack/Curry backcourt worked because Jack could attack the mismatch. If the other team put their best defender on Curry — which they always did — then Jack could attack the worst defender, usually the point guard.
But when Crawford and Blake are played together, the other team will always put their best defender on Crawford, and hide their worst on Blake. Always. And Blake simply can’t exploit the mismatch.
What’s the solution? In my mind, when the Warriors second unit gets stymied the way it did last night, the solution is to bench Blake, and use Crawford at the point.
Unfortunately, that would require a different coach and a different system.
And a different front office.
Curry: Get well soon, kid, the Warriors aren’t going anywhere without you.
Unfortunately, as with Iggy earlier, the Warriors can’t afford to rest him.
Thompson: The recent trend of aggressive offensive performances continued in this game. And it was extremely interesting to note that the Warriors broadcast devoted a segment to just this fact, providing graphics showing the decreasing role of the three point shot in Klay’s game since the All-Star break.
So I guess I’m on to something here. Either that, or someone on the Warriors’ PR staff has been reading me.
Even more impressive to me than his offensive performance, though, was the defense he played on Chris Paul. The last time I checked, Klay Thompson was leading the league in miles run per game. (A new stat brought to us by SportVu, or somesuch.) You’d only have to watch this game to understand why. Thompson shadowed Paul everywhere on the court. Over screens, under screens, cutting off drives, refusing to bite on shake and bakes, using his length to deny over the top passes and the midrange pull-up. Holding Paul to 5-15 shooting.
It was absolutely extraordinary to watch. Klay Thompson doesn’t do this with athleticism. He does it with his brain, which unlike his feet, is lightning quick. Thompson is one of the highest IQ defenders I have seen in my entire life.
A basketball genius, and a rising star.
Barnes: Before I start ripping Barnes, I owe it to him to point out that he’s been playing much better as of late on the defensive end. He’s been working hard, and it has payed off in several recent games. I also note that he’s been using his athletic ability to go for far more shot blocks than he has previously. Something that has been a bit of a bugaboo for me.
Now to the ripping. Unlike Klay Thompson, Barnes is an extremely low IQ defender, who’s never seen an upfake that didn’t lift him off his feet, or a crossover that didn’t break his ankles.
Last night, he was repeatedly taken to the cleaners by an old man on one knee. Not tall enough, or willing to get close enough, to bother Granger’s shot. Not quick enough — or, like Klay Thompson, smart enough — to keep Granger in front of him.
If the Warriors and Clippers meet again in the playoffs, this matchup will be key.
Bogut: I ripped on Bogut above. Now for some praise.
In the last few games, Bogut has shown far more aggressiveness in rolling to the basket. And he’s found a very reliable finish in that little floater he’s tossing up.
This is an extremely positive development for busting the Curry blitz.
Lee: Almost single-handedly kept the Warriors alive in this game.
I posted this in the previous thread, but I feel the need to repeat it here. Do you know who the number one best defender of the pick and roll among Western Conference power forwards is? That’s right, none other than David Lee, at .94 ppp.
I wonder if Professor Goldsberry will bring this up at the next Sloan Conference? Or if Adam Lauridsen or Ethan Strauss or Tim Kawakami or Danny Leroux will ever mention this in a post?
Anyone willing to take 100-1 against?
Memo to Mark Jackson: On the rare occasions you go to the Lee at center, Green at PF lineup, how about pick and roll? For the love of Mike, not post-ups, not isos. Pick and roll.
“Whenever the Warriors post up Biedrins or Lee, they are doing the offense a favor. Stephen Curry and David Lee are among the best pick and roll players in the league.”
Do you remember who said that…?
YOU SAID IT, ON NATIONAL TV. Back when you were doing something you were competent at.
Iggy: Looking more and more like himself. But didn’t get to that magic 6 assist number, so the Warriors lose.
O’Neal: This is a terrible matchup for him. Why did Mark Jackson find the need to go to him in the post? There’s no edge there against this team. The Warriors need a different option.
I wonder, hypothetically speaking of course, would a stretch-five have any value against this Clippers front line? A guy who could not only stretch the floor to pull Jordan out of the lane, and create openings for Crawford, Barnes and Green, but also rebound and block shots and stand up like a man in the paint? A guy who never backs down from a fight, as we saw recently against Tyson Chandler?
Could a guy like that have any value against DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and Big Baby?
Yes, I’m still going to beat this dead horse. I’m referring, of course, to the name that must not be spoken, MOKUR, the bane of Warriors fans’ existence, replacing their previous bane, David Lee.
MOKUR, who shot above 50% in the previous two Warriors wins against the Clips (O’Neal wasn’t available), but who now languishes in banishment on the Warriors bench.
The player whom Mark Jackson utterly failed to develop at his true position.
Just like Kent Bazemore.