Jackson: Warriors must understand what they need to do better
The Warriors have beaten the star studded Oklahoma City and Dallas with but have lost to average Phoenix and Charlotte teams. (USATSI)
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OAKLAND – With three "winnable'' home games and the return of Andre Iguodala, this was the perfect week for a struggling Warriors team to recover and regroup.
They responded with further evidence that winnable games also are losable games.
And another such contest looms Saturday night, when the Lakers roll into Oracle Arena. They'll be without their signature superstar, Kobe Bryant, as well as two-time MVP Steve Nash. Also out are fellow guards Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar.
Do the Warriors (14-13) really need another 'teachable moment'? They say no, that they have learned, once and for all, that the primary factor determining their fate is not the opponent but their own level of proficiency.
"We've always been more concerned with ourselves than anybody we face,'' coach Mark Jackson said. "We truly believe that when we play our brand of basketball, it doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing.''
The problem, however, is that their brand of basketball continues to evolve. If there has been one defining characteristic about these Warriors it is inconsistency.
They've beaten Oklahoma City and Dallas with all their stars, yet they've lost to an average Phoenix team, a short-handed Charlotte club and, last Thursday, San Antonio's scrappy band of backups.
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These Lakers (13-13), only a half-game behind the Warriors, are marginally more talented than Phoenix or Charlotte. Forward Harrison Barnes says the Dubs comprehend the new reality after the home loss to San Antonio, playing without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili.
"Regardless of who's on the court, in this league if you give anybody life they can be a problem,'' Barnes said. "There are too many guys who are talented. And if you let a guy hit one or two shots, or let a guy get a couple of easy looks and then you have to worry about that. Then they have confidence for the rest of the game. Guys feed off that. Energy is contagious in this league.''
Jackson is preaching the same sermon he delivered prior to the loss to the Spurs, that the Warriors are not good enough to overlook any opponent.
"This is a team that has NBA-proven guys,'' he said of the Lakers. "So you can't look at them the way some people may have looked at the Spurs and say 'No Parker, no Ginobili and no Duncan.' They had proven guys, and the Lakers are the same way. They have guys that can score and guys that have had success in this league, so we have to have the right mentality.''
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Forwards David Lee (17.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg) vs. Paul Gasol (15.0, 9.4). Gasol is very inconsistent, but he's one of the most skilled big men in the league. If he abuses Lee, it could force Andrew Bogut to switch over, perhaps diminishing the overall effectiveness of the Warriors center. Lee, however, is capable of running rings about Gasol.
Centers Bogut (7.7, 10.2) vs. Jordan Hill (9.2, 7.8). Expect these two to see plenty of each other, as both like to play in the shadow of the rim. Bogut is a bruiser with smarts, Hill a bruiser with relentless energy. Hill on several occasions this season has been a difference-maker.
Warriors centers Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist surgery), Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and Ognjen Kuzmic (right pinkie surgery) are out indefinitely.
Lakers guards Bryant (fractured left knee), Nash (nerve root irritation), Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament) and Farmar (torn left hamstring) are out indefinitely.