Rewind: Warriors' defense rests in loss to Wolves

Rewind: Warriors' defense rests in loss to Wolves
January 25, 2014, 9:45 am
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Mark Jackson: "We lost three games with us scoring 121, 120 and 116. We are not going to win games scoring the basketball." (AP)

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OAKLAND – The numbers on the scoreboard are doing a number on Mark Jackson's mood, if not his faith. They're too big, too bold, too vivid an illustration of what has happened to his team.

The first number is 36, the amount of points Jackson's Warriors allowed the Timberwolves to score in the first quarter Friday night at Oracle Arena. The second number is 121, or one more than the Warriors scored in defeat.

The level of defense for which Jackson likes to praise his team has for the most part disappeared since its much-needed, or so it seemed, schedule break earlier this month. After giving up as many as 120 points only once in the first 39 games, the Warriors have watched three of their last five opponents race past that mark.

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All three times, the Warriors tried to keep up. All three times they failed.

"The history of this franchise and the history of this basketball team . . . you are not going to get anywhere attempting to outscore people,'' Jackson said, eyes cold and jaws tight. "That's not who we are and that's not who we're going to be. We lost three games with us scoring 121, 120 and 116. We are not going to win games scoring the basketball. You can fall in love with your ability, but we've done a poor job of defending lately.''

The Warriors (26-18) have been burned for at least 30 points in the first quarter in seven of their last 11 games, four of their last five. They've allowed opponents to shoot at least 50 percent in three of the last five, a span during which the Warriors have allowed 570 points – or 114 per game.

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It's downright ghastly. After developing a reputation for adding defense to their explosive offensive attack, the Warriors lately are reminiscent of the worst of the defensively indifferent teams under former coach Don Nelson, who never claimed to fixate on stopping the other team.

"It's not winning basketball, and we've got to figure it out,'' Stephen Curry said. "There's not much else to say about it. We've shown we can do it, and good teams do it every game. Three losses in the last four or five games when we scored over 115 points. So scoring the ball is not our problem. Defensively we've shown that we can do it this season, so we've got to get back to that effort.''

The team's defensive slide began with a 123-116 loss to the Nuggets on Jan. 15 at Oracle. That game followed four nights during which the Warriors did not play. They had endured such a grueling schedule to that point, so Jackson gave the players two full days off before resuming practice.

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It's as if sometime during this respite, the notion of defensive intensity up and walked out. The Warriors haven't seen it since, and its absence painful to the players, torturous to the coach and profoundly evident on the scoreboard.

THE GOOD: Klay Thompson and Curry combined for 20-for-35 shooting, including 8-of-14 from 3-point range. Lee was offensively efficient. Bogut's seven blocks indicate he was a paint presence, even if T-Wolves center Nikola Pekovic rang up 22 points and 14 rebounds. Iguodala was strong in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of the team's 22 points. The starters shot 62.5 percent.

THE BAD: The defense, as noted above, was atrocious for all but a precious few minutes. Harrison Barnes, who missed an open jumper at the buzzer, continues to struggle mightily: 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting, three rebounds, zero assists and three turnovers. The starters let Minnesota shoot 59.3 percent in the first quarter.

THE TAKE: When the Warriors defend with urgency, they can be very imposing; they're 19-2 when holding opponents under 100 points, 7-16 when they don't. When they become defensive spectators, they're just another team, a Utah or a Philadelphia or a Cleveland. They can't be any better their defensive numbers, and lately they've looked a lot like some of the 60-loss Warriors teams of the late 1990s. 

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