Let’s not mince words: the Golden State Warriors are a bad basketball team. They entered today’s game against the Bulls 11-27 overall and only 7-10 at home. In terms of wins and losses, only the Minnesota Timberwolves (9-33) and New Jersey Nets (3-37) are worse.
The Warriors have had two main problems this season. First, they’ve suffered a bizarre number of injuries. Seriously, the Warriors have as many players out of action as they have available for games. Their injured list includes Anthony Morrow (strained right knee), Anthony Randolph (torn ligaments/avulsion fracture of the left ankle), Brandan Wright (left shoulder surgery), C.J. Watson (lacerated right hand/index finger), Kelenna Azubuike (left knee surgery), Raja Bell (left wrist surgery), Ronny Turiaf (sprained left ankle) and Vladimir Radmanovic (strained right Achilles).
Crazy, right? I guess it’s safe to say the Warriors aren’t exactly oozing sympathy for the Bulls, who were without Kirk Hinrich (flu-like symptoms).
Golden State’s second problem has been their defense. Or, more accurately, their complete and rather embarrassing lack thereof. The Warriors rank 29th in Defensive Efficiency (108.7 Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions). And although they score a lot of points — they average 107.3 PPG, good for 3rd in the league — the Warriors are only 20th in Offensive Efficiency (103.5 Points Scored Per 100 Possessions). The point being, their offense isn’t nearly good enough to make up for their lousy defense.
In all honesty, Golden State’s best defense is the mind-numbing effect their uptempo, undisciplined style has on their opponent’s offense. That was definitely the case today. They suckered the Bulls into playing their style…and it worked.
The Bulls only have themselves to blame. Too many one-on-one plays, too little movement without the basketball, not enough passing and waaaay too many jump shots. In fact, 72 of Chicago’s 96 shots were jumpers. Sure, I could give a little stink eye to Tyrus Thomas, who attempted only two shots at the rim (one of which got stuffed), but everybody was guilty of chucking…even Joakim Noah, who went 0-for-5 on jump shots (one of which was swatted). Has Noah ever attempted five jumpers in a game? Probably not. And there’s a very good reason for that.
Mind you, Golden State’s opponents hit 65 percent of their shots at the rim, which is second-worst in the league. This means that Chicago’s best strategy would have been to attack the basket relentlessly. Not only would that have earned them higher percentage shots, it would have gotten the Warriors in foul trouble…a real bonus considering Golden State coach Don Nelson only had eight players in uniform.
Instead, the Bulls were content to jack up outside shots, which probably explains why they hit only 36.5 percent of their field goals. That does not, however, explain why Chicago missed 11 of their 33 free throw attempts.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Golden State’s Andris Biedrins — who has appeared in only 14 games this season — is finally healthy. He set up camp in the paint and defied anybody who tried to challenge him. Biedrins grabbed a season-high 19 rebounds and blocked a career-high 8 shots. Now that he’s back and feeling like his old self, it’s very possible some of the Warriors’ defensive stats will improve. Probably only slightly, but still.
In addition to losing their minds on offense, the Bulls never really established themselves on defense. Nellie has always specialized in isolating his best offensive players to create mismatches. That’s precisely what he did against the Bulls, and you can see the results in the stat lines of Monta Ellis (36 points, 8 assists), Corey Maggette (32 points, 11-for-14 from the field, 10-for-11 from the line) and Stephen Curry (26 points, 5-for-8 from downtown, 6 assists).
Said Noah: “They’re match-up problems. And Maggette’s an unbelievable offensive talent. And Ellis is … he’s a monster out there. I think that they just played harder than us and they deserved the win.”
Now the Bulls are left to ponder one that got away, which could very well come back to haunt them. By the numbers, the Warriors were easily the worst team they’re going to face on this seven-game Western Conference road trip. If they don’t come through against the Clippers on Wednesday, an 0-7 trip wouldn’t be out of the question.
Said Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro: “When you lose there’s a lot of question marks. Our intensity was not at the level defensively that it needs to be at. We’re not going to win just out-scoring people. Especially Golden State, who can really put the ball in the basket. Those three guys are tough to cover off the dribble — we know that — but we should of done a better job with them.”
Well, you can’t change the past. Not without a DeLorean outfitted with a Flux Capacitor, anyway. So what can the Bulls do moving forward?
Said Vinny: “Play harder. Play smarter. With more intensity. And that’s what it’s going to take for us to win on the road. There’s no magic pill. There’s no perfect scenario. What it is, is, going to work — understanding, executing and getting after it.”
Sounds good. Now they need to go out and do it.
If you check last season’s schedule, you’ll notice this was the point of the year when the Bulls started to turn things around. After opening their road trip with a loss in Minnesota, the Bulls rebounded to beat the Clippers and eventually finished their seven-game trip 4-3. Let’s hope we see a repeat of that this season.