“They’re dodging a bullet,” said CSN commentator Jim Barnett, halfway through the third quarter. “It’s living dangerously.”
The Golden State Warriors do not lack for talent on offense. Their defense has improved considerably over the last 18 months. Unfortunately, the current squad continues to struggle with turnovers, a critical flaw that has limited its ability to reach its full potential.
The Warriors coughed up the ball 16 times in their 102-83 victory over an undermanned Los Angeles Lakers squad Saturday, a majority of which came in the first three quarters. The Lakers failed to capitalize on of the opportunities the Warriors handed them.
The outcome would have been considerably different against a better team, (or if Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar were available), particularly considering how poorly the offense played in the opening minutes.
Neither team shot particularly well through the first half. Golden State’s starting five struggled with ball movement and forced field goal attempts in transition. Although they managed to outscore the Lakers 17-2 on fast breaks through the first two quarters, their inability to generate offense in half court sets limited the team’s ability to build a comfortable lead, despite limiting Los Angeles to sub-40 percent shooting.
As David Lee put it in a halftime interview with Ric Bucher: “Nothing’s coming easy right now.”
It certainly wasn’t. The Warriors shot just 18-of-53 through the first half, hitting only five threes on 18 attempts. Most of the team’s first half scoring came from Lee and Curry, who hit his power forward with three assists (including two no look passes) early in the contest.
Although Lee is a solid player on the offensive end, Golden State’s embarrassment of riches with its shooters should relegate him to a secondary role as a scorer. Lee’s best statistical outings always seem to come when the the Warriors’ other weapons fail to find their shot – the team had gone just 5-5 in his 10 most productive nights this year, per basketball-reference.com.
Both teams inability to convert generated a lot of rebounding opportunities for the big men. Lee and Andrew Bogut pulled down 19 boards in the first half, a critical contribution given the Warriors startling lack of offense. Bogut finished the night with a remarkable 20 rebounds and 12 points, though he struggled to contain Lakers big man Jordan Hill.
The Lakers big man scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds, putting his shooting range to good use against Bogut’s unwillingness to move beyond the paint and restricted area.
Golden State managed to pick up the pace in the third quarter, going on a 17-3 run that was capped with a beautiful running lay-up from Barnes in transition. Barnes finished the night 8 points, though he did make a serious mental error at the end of the third quarter when he tripped Nick Young at half court, giving the Lakers sixth man to shoot three from the line.
Although the turnovers remain troubling, there were a number of bright spots. Golden State’s defense held the Lakers to just .325 FG% on the night, a season low for opponents. Also, an (almost) fully healthy bench contributed some much-needed offense in the first half. Marreese Speights added 10 points and 3 boards off the bench before being ejected early in the fourth quarter, easily his strongest contribution of the year.