Jarrett Jack had a better weekend then you.
The eight year veteran became the first bench player to score at least 23 points with 8 assists in two consecutive games since Clyde Drexler (per Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group). And he did so with style; facilitating the offense in transition, breaking Patty Mills’ ankles and hitting a critical three from the left wing in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
The back-to-back performances should cement Jack’s credentials as a contender for Sixth Man of the Year. More importantly, the 26.5 points and 9 assists he averaged this weekend kept a struggling Warriors’ offense afloat against a healthy San Antonio squad and Ricky Rubio’s Timberwolves.
His teammates certainly needed the boost.
Jack’s 53 point, 18 assist explosion offset poor shooting from the Klay Thompson/Stephen Curry backcourt, which was held to 21-of-69 against the Spurs and Timberwolves. Thompson and Curry’s woes forced David Lee to pick up the slack. Although Lee notched an impressive pair of double-doubles on Friday and Sunday (25 points/22 boards against the Spurs; 22 points/13 rebounds against Minnesota), those efforts put a visible strain on his already limited defensive capabilities. Production from Minnesota and San Antonio big men almost canceled out Lee’s scoring – the Warriors accumulated a plus-7 point differential over Lee’s 83 minutes.
To compare, the Warriors were plus-34 with Jack on the floor.
While Jack’s weekend performances are outliers relative to his usual production – he has averaged 13.8 points and 6 assists per game this season – they are also indicative of his role as the team’s closer. The Warriors spent the bulk of their previous two games playing from behind or struggling to hold on to leads, two situations in which Jack has excelled this season. So much so, in fact, Coach Mark Jackson has made a habit of running the offense through Jack rather than Curry in crunch time.
Although Curry is an adept passer and phenomenal spot-up shooter, Jack has superior handles in traffic and tends to be more efficient from mid-range and at the rim. Furthermore, Jack’s ability to get to the rim has enabled him to draw fouls on 16.7 percent of his clutch possessions, whereas Curry only draws a foul on 8.4 percent, according to 82games.com. Having players who can get to the line is critical in the final minutes of close games, and with both Jack and Curry averaging approximately 87 percent from the stripe in clutch situations; Jackson has good reason to keep the ball in his sixth man’s hands.
The decision to run the offense through Jack has yielded a return for the rest of the team as well. According to NBA.com, Jack leads the Warriors with 19 total assists in clutch situations this year. Curry and Lee rank sixth and tenth overall in clutch situation plus/minus, which in turn has helped the Warriors net the second most clutch situation points in the league.
Golden State shouldn’t expect Jack to put up 20-plus points and 10 assists per game – with Curry, Thompson and Lee starting, he shouldn’t have to – but having a player of Jack’s caliber come off the bench has been an effective tool for when the team’s starters struggle.
Despite collecting a pair of crunch time victories this weekend, the Warriors’ effort looked questionable in the final seconds of regulation.
- After Jack netted a three to give the Warriors a 93-91 lead with 7.3 seconds remaining, Golden State’s defense failed to execute on the Spurs’ final inbound play, which allowed Manu Ginobili to drive the baseline for a lay-in. As much as I love free basketball, Jackson’s decision to keep below-average defenders Curry and Lee in the game after that timeout helped the Spurs send the game into overtime.
- On Sunday, Golden State surrendered a critical offensive rebound in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, which gave the Timberwolves final possession in a one point game. Thankfully, Luke Ridnour missed a floater at the buzzer.
The latter situation indicates how the Warriors may struggle in the paint with Andrew Bogut once again sidelined by injuries. The Minnesota frontcourt of Nikola Peković, Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko torched the Warriors for 58 points on .558 shooting. And although Andris Biedrins played tough defense against Tim Duncan, the Latvian’s ineffectiveness on the other end of the floor allows opponents to double Lee in the paint.