Struggles of Barnes, Thompson hurting Warriors

Thompson: 'I take it personal when I play bad'

Struggles of Barnes, Thompson hurting Warriors
December 20, 2013, 8:00 pm
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Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson combined to score 13 points (6-of-21) and eight turnovers vs. the Spurs on Thursday. (USATSI)

OAKLAND – They're subject to stunning lapses on defense. They're treating the ball as if it has a contagious disease. And, maddeningly for the Warriors, they're getting open shots and missing them.

Meet, once again, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Remember them? The team's last two lottery picks?

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The two talented young wings that used last postseason to flash their All-Star potential are struggling and it's hurting the Warriors. Their shot goes missing, their concentration wavers and their games shrink.

Thompson and Barnes have in recent games disappeared into an abyss of futility that neither can deny.

"I’d be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating,'' Thompson said after practice Friday. "I hate when I play bad. I hate when I miss shots.''

There has been a lot more of that than normal. Thompson early this season was among the league's scoring leaders, draining 3-pointers at an astonishing rate. Since those opening weeks, his numbers have steadily declined. He's averaging 16 points over his last six games and, moreover, is shooting 41 percent for the month.

"I know I'm a great shooter,'' he said. "I 'm just going to keep working, keep getting my reps up – get a few more than I usually do – and visualize that ball going through the rim.''

While Thompson has spent the past couple weeks thrashing about in search of his game, Barnes bottomed out in Thursday's 104-102 loss to a Spurs squad without stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

He took three shots, missing them all. In 19 ineffective minutes, Barnes accumulated more turnovers (three) than points (0), rebounds (one) and assists (one) combined.

"I just couldn't get into a rhythm,'' Barnes said. "The only person I can blame for that is myself.''

Barnes has dipped noticeably, certainly on offense, since his season-high 26-point game on Nov. 29 at Oklahoma City. He's averaging 11.6 points per game over his last eight, shooting only 29 percent from 3-point distance.

"I'm getting good looks,'' he said. "I get close touches, I get (isolations) and I get wide-open threes. I just have to knock down the shot. It's all upstairs.

"It's something that you lose a little bit of sleep over. But it's something that your confidence can change. It's all things that I can control. I just have to be better.''

Though the struggles of both players clearly have a negative effect, they tend to react differently. Barnes is prone to losing some confidence, while Thompson loses focus, hurting his defense.

"I know shots won't fall every night,'' Thompson said. "I know you're going to have rough stretches. But that should never affect how you're going to play the rest of the game. And that's what I've been doing these last few games.''

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The most damaging aspect of their missing shots is that it puts even more of a scoring load on point guard Stephen Curry. Curry is facing defenses coached to contain him, especially at the 3-point line. It has reached a point that players assigned to Thompson or Barnes often rotate toward Curry.

That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Warriors – unless Thompson and Barnes are missing the open jumpers set up by Curry's passing.

That's precisely what is happening, and the Warriors are paying a steep price.

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