The Golden State Warriors fell to the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 109-102 on Saturday night, thanks almost entirely to a thorough beating on the glass. Of course, a cursory glance at the box score would only show a minus-eight margin for the Dubs on the boards, but when you note the 22 offensive pulls for the Bucks, it’s pretty easy to see that second-chance opportunities swung this one.
Across the board, the Warriors played the Bucks fairly even otherwise. Both teams shot it in the low 40s from the field and slightly better than that from long range, and neither club had a distinct advantage in any other significant statistical category.
Stats aside, an anecdotal viewing of the Warriors’ second-straight defeat revealed a clear disadvantage on the front line—and one Festus Ezeli was at the center of the issue.
Through the first month of the year, Ezeli appeared to be a pleasant surprise. He had ready-made NBA bulk and was a willing and active defender. His occasional failing to grasp offensive nuance (and the basketball) were excusable rookie mistakes. But that was then.
Now, Festus is giving the Warriors a net negative performance every time out. Mark Jackson can hardly keep him on the floor because of his total inability to handle even the simplest, softest passes from teammates. At the same time, taking Ezeli off of the floor leaves the Warriors with two unpalatable options:
1. Watch Andris Biedrins run away from the ball, clog passing lanes and generally try to remain invisible. Or,
2. Play small and get crushed on the boards.
The Warriors went with the second option tonight, and it killed them.
David Lee’s Pre-All-Star Hangover?
David Lee has played two games since being named to the Western Conference All-Star team, and they’ve been two of his poorest performances to date. After a 6-of-15 effort in the Dubs’ blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 25, Lee regressed even further, totaling a mere 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting against the Bucks on Saturday.
Yes, his 15 points and five assists were nice. But playing 38 minutes as the Warriors’ offensive facilitator and lone big man is going to net counting stats like that. The key failing of Lee in recent games has been his woeful field-goal shooting. He has made just 38 percent of his shots over his last five contests.
It’s easy to point to the dagger three that Monta Ellis hit in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter as the game’s turning point (he was 7-of-20, by the way), but it’s probably more accurate to highlight any of the half-dozen wide open jumpers Lee missed as key junctures in the contest.
Harrison Done Did It Again
That’s as good a note to leave on as any, right?