OAKLAND — The Warriors won their sixth consecutive game Tuesday with a 114-101 victory against the Brooklyn Nets, but the end result is the only thing to be celebrated.
Against a well-coached, plucky, but ultimately talent-depraved Nets team, the Warriors played one of their most bizarre games of the season, jumping out to a big first-half lead, only to give back all 21 points of that advantage (and then some) before ultimately locking down on defense and putting the Nets away.
It was a disjointed and dispirited effort from the Warriors, who were coming off a three-day break.
And on a night where the Houston Rockets won their 16th consecutive game with a beat-‘em-down performance against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, the Warriors’ less-than-inspiring performance resonated even more than usual — at least for me.
Still, a win is a win, and the Warriors have a chance to redeem themselves (or not) Thursday against the Spurs.
Here’s what we learned in Tuesday’s contest:
The NBA is a game of runs, but that was ridiculous. The Warriors looked like they were going to make easy work of the Nets when they went on a 25-0 run in the first quarter.
If only it were that simple. The Nets bounced back in the second quarter and outscored the Warriors by 21 in the frame (the Warriors were held to 13 points in the second frame).
“I just thought they outplayed us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “Every time we play them, this happens. They came after us, we let our guard down, started turning the ball over and it was a game again.”
The Warriors were able to turn it around in the second half, though it was touch-and-go for a while. (More on that later.)
Obviously, the Warriors have the ability to lay waste to the Nets on any given night, and Kerr is correct — Brooklyn brings its best night in, night out, — but for the game to swing so wildly was still a bit jarring. Effort couldn’t be the only culprit behind that, no sir.
Stephen Curry did shed some light on how Tuesday’s game might have come to pass, though:
“Our job, when we’re out there, no matter if we’re playing well or it’s a grind-it-out game, or we’re playing from behind, is to not let our body language dictate the vibe out there on the court,” Curry said. “We got better at it in the second half — they were still made a couple runs, but we were able to stay aggressive, stay positive, and keep pushing and create separation.”
Body language can, indeed, have an amazing effect on the game, and there’s no doubt that the Warriors are an expressive team.
It’s been easy to notice the Warriors’ body language when they’re complaining to officials (as they do often) or making big runs (same) — but it’s the reactions to the small runs, the 6-0, 10-2 spurts, that I’ll be paying close attention to moving forward.
Curry admitted Tuesday that the Warriors need to be more composed down the stretch and that when they failed to live up to that standard in the first half against the Nets, it played a role in squandering a 21-point lead.
If the Nets can take advantage of such lapses in composure, what could a playoff team do?
Draymond Green keys it all
Draymond Green had a tough first half — in the first two quarters against the Nets he had two points on 1-of-3 shooting and five turnovers, and he was denied at the rim by Joe Harris going for a dunk.
Yeah, it was rough. Green looked nothing like himself.
But as bad as that first half was, his second half was stellar. Particularly his fourth-quarter minutes.
Green turned into a dominant defensive force in the fourth quarter and that performance was a huge reason behind the Warriors re-establishing a double-digit lead in the second half.
I’ve seen it countless times, but it still amazes me how Green can flip a switch and decide when to shut down an opposing team. And I’ll never quite understand how he can be everywhere, guarding everyone, on any given play.
On Tuesday, Green contested 18 Nets shots — nine from beyond the arc and nine from inside of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the stat, that’s a hell of a number — the NBA leader, Rudy Gobert, averages 14 per game.
The man is a defensive savant and we’d be well-served to not forget that.
Jordan Bell might be what Warriors need
And that makes his injury Tuesday even more challenging to Golden State.
You’ll have to forgive me if I forgot how active and fun Jordan Bell can be when he goes up against the right opponents.
And you’ll have to forgive me again if I felt for the rookie out of Oregon when he injured his right ankle in the third quarter.
Tuesday was Bell’s fourth game back from a left ankle injury — one that kept him out for over a month. That’s just bad luck.
The Warriors and Bell didn’t seem overly concerned with the injury after the game, but he could miss Thursday's game (in fact, I’d venture to say it’s probable he misses it) as well as Friday’s contest in Portland.
And while the Warriors’ hopes for the first seed in the Western Conference playoffs aren’t tied to a rookie depth center, Bell’s performance against a small-ball Nets team did hint at how impactful he can be for this Warriors’ team.
Bell was a plus-24 in 10:19 Tuesday. That’s almost unfathomable, but the stat doesn’t lie.
Bell was a plus-20 (along with Andre Iguodala) as part of the Warriors 25-0 run, and when the returned to the game with roughly four minutes to play in the third quarter, he helped the Warriors get back on track defensively, as well.
Bell contested six shots, deflected two balls, and had three screen assists in his time on the court — talk about active.
It took a while (and the right matchup) for Bell to re-establish himself after his injury, and sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Bell was splendid Tuesday — so the Warriors are certainly hoping he’s not gone long. They could use more of what he provided ASAP.