On Wednesday night the Denver Nuggets rallied back from a 16-point deficit to take the lead with just over a minute remaining. Turning a contest that appeared firmly in the Golden State Warriors‘ control, into a nail-biting matchup spearheaded by former league MVPs on either side.
Stephen Curry answered with a timely go-ahead bucket with only six seconds left. Before Monte Morris had the final say – draining a buzzer-beating three to steal an unlikely win for the Nuggets. Sending the Warriors into the All-Star break on a 1-4 slide.
A nightmare in Hollywood
In Los Angeles, the Warriors were in an offensive groove early. They put up 37 first quarter points – and held a six-point lead over the Clippers with just over five minutes remaining in the half. The Clippers fought back, but at the interval, it was a game still seemingly in the balance.
What followed was perhaps the worst defensive half of the Warriors’ season – coupled with a prolonged stretch of stagnant offense. A combination that ultimately handed the Dubs their sixteenth loss of the season.
Luckily, the now 17 losses have been accompanied by 42 wins to start the season. The Dubs have the second-best record in the NBA, but boy do they look in need of a break.
Warriors defensive slippage brought on by fatigue
Much of the season so far has been smooth sailing for the Warriors, but they’ve recently found themselves in some testing waters. The taxing 82-game schedule has them looking like a team hanging out for a rest. Fatigue has manifested itself in both physical and mental forms.
On defense, it’s showing in lack of effort and concentration. The Warriors are ranked first in defending the three-point shot this season – yet Clippers rained home 15 threes on Monday night, with a large majority coming on wide-open looks. Reggie Jackson attacked Kevon Looney on switches and worked inside-out to generate looks from distance – whilst the Warriors uncharacteristically messed up on rotation.
The Dubs had held up quite well defensively in the absence of Draymond Green prior to last week. They managed to steer themselves through a tricky slate of games and out the other side with a nine-game winning streak.
However, defensive cracks began to appear in their blowout loss against Utah last week – and then again against the Knicks, who can’t seem to beat anyone else right now. The Dubs have now gone 2-4 since winning nine straight, with their sub-bar defensive effort in Los Angeles topping the lot.
After Monday’s game Steve Kerr commented: “Our defense is (air quotes) No. 1 in the league. But it’s not right now.”
The absence of Green leaves a gaping hole in the defense, and it critically leaves Looney as the sole big man to fend for himself. The Warriors have leaned on their ever-reliable center all season long. Looney is never the type to complain – but even he admitted to needing some time off.
"‘I’m not exhausted. But I’m ready for the break’, said Looney after the Clippers game."
The All-Star Break is here
Luckily for the Warriors, the much-needed All-Star break is finally here. Offering them a chance to rest, reset and turn their minds towards attacking the business end of the season, with the same type of intensity that they started it with.
They’ll hope to welcome James Wiseman back, who is nearing a return after completing his first 5-on-5 scrimmage yesterday. Wiseman told reporters afterward that his body feels good: “It went great. I got a couple of dunks. Just got to keep working.”
Draymond Green, whose absence has been heavily felt, is also expected to return in the coming weeks. For the most part, the Dubs have found a way of weathering the storm without their veteran leader – and at 42-17 now have a well-earned rest upon them.
The Warriors welcomed the Nuggets to Chase Center – hoping to erase the sour taste of the Clippers’ performance. The rest would’ve felt sweeter if they could close out this chapter with a win. Instead, they were hit with a heart-breaking dagger – sending them off for a vacation with a lot to reflect on.