Let’s get this out of the way first: if by some miracle the Golden State Warriors fight their way out of the West and meet the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed. But after a gut-wrenching loss against the defending champions courtesy of a LeBron James 3-pointer with 0.1 second left, that’s probably the only feeling the Dubs have heading into All-Star Weekend.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors battled and needed one stop to close out the game, but LeBron’s clutch three sent Golden State to the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings since the Dallas Mavericks won last night. The Warriors have now gone 5-5 in their last 10 games and since that 10-game winning streak that prompted “contender?” talks, the Dubs have gone 7-9. They’ve also lost six home games during that time.
Last night, there wasn’t much the Warriors could do when LeBron decided he wasn’t losing the game. You could argue that Mark Jackson should have sent a second defender over to get the ball out of his hands, but LeBron hit a tough step-back three right over the outstretched hand of Andre Iguodala. It was about as well defended as one could ask for in a one-on-one situation against LeBron James. The Warriors just came up short, even after erasing a 21-point deficit in the third quarter.
However, Golden State definitely missed Andrew Bogut‘s presence in the lane. With the Australian missing his last four games due to a shoulder injury, the Warriors have struggled to keep teams from scoring in the paint. Miami had 56 points in the paint last night to the Warriors’ 40 and in every game Bogut’s missed, the Dubs have given up at least 40 points in the paint. Those numbers are what an average NBA defense gives up on a nightly basis.
But that’s the point: without Andrew Bogut in the middle, the Golden State Warriors have the kind of average defense that will prevent them from climbing the standings or advancing in the playoffs. Against teams with a record of .500 or better, the Dubs are now just 10-15. Heading into the All-Star break, the only thoughts of optimism surrounding this team are, “Steph Curry’s fun!” and “Well, that 10-game win streak was fun. Remember that?”
On a night in which the Warriors’ disco ball came crashing to the floor, LeBron James had the Heat Stayin’ Alive. MY COLUMN:
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 13, 2014
The good news is the Dubs still have 29 games to turn their season around. Bogut has plenty of time to heal over the weekend and of Golden State’s remaining games, only 12 are against teams with a record over .500. Of those 12, five are at home, although the advantage of the bonkers fans at Oracle Arena has been wasted as of late. There’s no need to overreact just yet; the Dubs were one LeBron buzzer-beater away from being the sixth seed in the West and are only a half-game behind Dallas for that spot.
However, this team also hasn’t looked like a Western contender for quite awhile now. The Dubs have had problems keeping #FullSquad healthy and they’re a full five games behind the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets for the race to the third seed. Any game where Curry drops 29 points, seven assists and five rebounds while sinking threes and getting clutch and-ones in the fourth quarter is a good one for the Warriors. But as last night proved, sometimes even Steph Curry can’t get by without enough help from his friends.