Highlights: Warriors' D clamps down on Pelicans in second half
Andrew Bogut's stat line in New Orleans Saturday night: 10 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, 34 minutes. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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As the Warriors flew home from New Orleans Saturday night and into Sunday morning, they were victorious and relieved and in a little bit of a quandary.
They had come back in the second half for a 97-87 win over the reeling Pelicans, avoiding what surely would have been a humiliating loss, but they also witnessed a defensive tour de force by Andrew Bogut at crunch time.
In the final three minutes of a tight game, Bogut blocked three New Orleans shots, all of which were within kissing distance of the rim. The 7-foot center personally extinguished any hopes of a Pelicans comeback.
"He was spectacular," Mark Jackson said. "Protected the paint, protected the rim, rebounding the basketball. (And) the little things that he does to disrupt a team's offense that won't show up on the stat sheet."
Which brings us to the quandary in Jackson's lap. Does he put Bogut on the floor down the stretch?
The fundamental advantage to doing so is evident, as we saw on Saturday night. He can patrol the paint and hog the glass.
The fundamental disadvantage, though, is that Bogut is a notoriously poor free-throw shooter and his presence in the game provides opponents with a convenient way to strangle the Warriors' offense.
Some teams deliberately try to get Jackson to remove Bogut. That's what Denver did, running high pick-and-rolls on offense to pull Bogut away from the basket and indicating they were willing to send him to the line. Bogut watched and the Nuggets beat a path to the basket for layups.
Other teams simply challenge Bogut with their best drives to the hoop. New Orleans paid for that strategy.
Jackson's late-game use of Bogut is a warm topic among fans, as it should be. It's meaty debate because a cogent argument can be made for either side.
If there were a way to make Bogut a designated defender, somehow shielding him from being sent to the foul line, Jackson surely would use it. There isn't, though, so the coach will confront this issue on a regular basis.
One thing was certain on Saturday night: Bogut made his strongest case for himself to be on the floor at the end of games. The only way to be more convincing is to start making more free throws.
THE GOOD: After playing lethargic defense in the first half, looking as if they would try to win with offense, the Warriors wised up and locked down. They held the Pelicans to 33.3 percent shooting in the second half, 26 percent in the fourth quarter, with Bogut leading the way.
THE BAD: Klay Thompson had a forgettable shooting night and Harrison Barnes was comprehensively dreadful for the second night in a row. Thompson took 14 shots and missed 11. Barnes concluded 18 minutes of work with 0 points (on 0-for-4 shooting), two rebounds, one assist, one turnover and three fouls.
THE TAKE: Arriving at New Orleans around 3 a.m. after their loss at Oklahoma City on Friday night, the Warriors dug in and pulled out a game they needed. They also were reminded that Bogut is essential to their ability to play superior defense. This squad learns something every day, and it has another three months to apply the knowledge.