The final score may not show it, but that was the worst game the Golden State Warriors have played all season.
As much as it would pain them to say it, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson owe thank yous to the guys at the end of the bench, whose 32 points in the final quarter gave the Warriors box score something vaguely resembling respectability.
Head Coach Mark Jackson pulled Thompson, Curry, David Lee and Andrew Bogut before the start of the fourth quarter. A 5-of-21 shooting performance from Curry and Thompson had contributed to a 31 point Chicago Bulls lead at the start of the final quarter.
Whatever momentum the Warriors could have hoped to muster in the final 12 minutes had been crushed in the final moments of the third quarter, when a supposedly washed up Carlos Boozer threw down a pair of dunks that effectively put an Alaska-sized boot on the neck of the Golden State’s starting five. The game was more or less decided at that point, and Steph Curry had a look on his face as if he had spent halftime eating bad sushi from an East Oakland carry-out.
Jackson made a smart decision to sit his starters following the disastrous third quarter, any face saving comeback would not have ben worth risking an injury. Not to mention it gave Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau the chance to pad his starters’ stats while Jackson took a closer look at the effectiveness of Richard Jefferson’s corpse and Kent Bazemore.
On second thought, Jefferson and Bazemore may have been a defensive upgrade to what the Warriors’ starters had offered all night. The Golden State bench held the Bulls to only 19 points in the fourth quarter, and former Old Dominion standout Bazemore shot 5-of-6 with two threes in only 12 minutes of play. Even against the Bulls scrubs, putting up 14 points against a team coached by a defensive genius of Thibodeau’s caliber will certainly (and deservedly) raise Bazemore’s profile in the league going forward.
It wasn’t all bad.
Despite a rough finish, the Warriors had managed to keep pace with Chicago through the first quarter, though they had a very difficult time stopping Luol Deng, Boozer and Joakim Noah. The Bulls frontcourt went to work against Golden State early, combining to score all of Chicago’s first 22 points.
Even with the porous defense, the Warriors clawed back from a 9-point deficit in the first half with a 15-6 run capped by a trademark Jarrett Jack jumper at the left elbow. Jack only scored four points in the first quarter, but his presence had an obvious impact on Golden State’s offense – the Warriors were plus-8 with Jack on the floor in the opening 12 minutes.
Along with Jack, David Lee was the only other player keeping the offense afloat. Although he had struggled against the Bulls earlier this season, Lee managed to score 12 points on 75 percent shooting in the first half matching up against an All Star defender in Noah.
The second quarter proved to be a more difficult, and the Bulls closed out the half on a 22-8 run to head into the locker room with 10-point lead. As easy as it would be to tack that deficit to the Warriors defensive effort, some blame also has to go to Curry and Thompson, neither of whom managed to knock down a three pointer against the Bulls.
An inability to score from beyond the arc creates difficulties for any team, but for the Warriors that sort of performance will almost always result in a disaster. Golden State is 22-12 in games in which the team makes eight or more threes – the bulk of which come from Curry and Thompson. Without those 24 points, Golden State relies solely on Lee and Jack, which allows opponents to hedge closer to the paint.
The Bulls are a tough defensive team – no doubt about that – but Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson should not be able to hold Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to 5 of 21 shooting in the first 26 minutes of play.
After the half, Chicago opened the third quarter on a 16-4 run facilitated by Nate Robinson, who put on the sort of performance that occasionally endeared him to Warriors fans last year. It all went downhill from there – the Warriors lost the third quarter 38-17.
Hey, at least now we know Kent Bazemore’s a decent player.
- Approximately halfway through the third quarter, Warriors color commentator Jim Barnett noted that Golden State had surrendered an unusual number of baskets at the rim on weak side cuts. I don’t have stats on this, but the point stands. Without Bogut on the floor, Golden State is incredibly vulnerable at the rim, and no one else on the roster is aware enough to pick up on weak side threat when opponents move the ball around the wing.
- Kent Bazemore’s performance in garbage time actually forced Thibodeau to call a pair of timeouts, even the game was nowhere near in reach for Golden State. This was really annoying for people living on the East Coast who had to stay up to watch this pathetic excuse of a basketball game for a FanSided blog.
- The only things promised in this life are death, taxes and Andris Biedrins airballing a free throw. A Warriors tradition unlike any other.