With the Golden State Warriors (30-23) set to take on the Phoenix Suns (18-36) tonight (7:30 p.m. P.T.) at Oracle Arena, the Warriors World staff went 3-on-3 to preview the contest.
1. What does last night’s loss at Utah tell you?
Jack Winter: That Golden State’s pre-break defensive struggles weren’t a symptom of looking ahead or tired legs. The Warriors surrendered 118 points per game in their 5 consecutive losses leading up to All-Star weekend, but some thought it could be explained by a temporary lapse due to schedule minutiae; the players even suggested as much. But that’s for naught now, after the Utah offense absolutely shredded Golden State to the tune of 50% from the field, 10-of-21 from three-point range and 22 second chance points. The Warriors surprisingly solid defense – the biggest reason for their success in November, December and January – is gone now, and there are no signs it’s coming back soon.
Jordan Ramirez: It tells me the Warriors still need to find their identity on defense. With Bogut, the Warriors have been noticeably worse on defense — from the perimeter and the paint — when we thought they would be instantly better. Bogut’s strengths are both a gift and a curse right now. Warriors defenders seem to be too reliant on Bogut when he is in the game, letting defenders go by or failing to properly close out on a jump shot or three. Is this a direct result of Bogut’s presence? Maybe. Maybe the Warriors are just coming back to life after an impressive defensive start to the season. With that said, the Jazz have one of the, if not the, biggest frontcourts in the league, the exact type of teams that give the Warriors trouble. I would like to think this is just a bad stretch of games before they finally find their way, but it’s becoming a real concern.
J.M. Poulard: That the Dubs’s defense seems intent on taking the rest of the regular season off. Seriously, the Utah Jazz literally got whatever shot they wanted.
They were 13-for-17 at the rim, 5-for-10 from 3-to-9 feet, 27-for-33 from the stripe and 10-for-21 from 3-point range. No matter how you slice it, that’s an awful defensive showing and if Golden State plans on remaining in the playoff picture, performances like last night cannot happen again.
2. Warriors biggest X-factor for the remainder of the season will be…
Jack Winter: Andrew Bogut’s effectiveness. Golden State won its first three games in which Bogut played coming back from ankle surgery with an awesome combined plus-11.7 point plus-minus. That last game on February 2nd was the Warriors most recent win, actually, and came in convincing fashion against these very Phoenix Suns with Bogut going for 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes. Then his honeymoon ended, and the harsh realities of marriage have marred both he and the team as a whole. Bogut’s net rating since coming back from injury is a dismal minus-5.7, and the most damning aspect of it is that Golden State is better defensively when he’s on the bench. How much of the team’s struggles can be directly attributed to his play is certainly debatable, but what isn’t is the fact that he’s hurt things more than he’s helped during this terrible stretch. Going forward, that’s a bad, bad sign.
Jordan Ramirez: Andrew Bogut. With him back, the Warriors have been worse on both ends of the floor. If Bogut gets his feet under him, starts playing starter minutes and the Warriors figure out how to play with a talented big man, the results are endless. But if Bogut keeps playing like he has — slow, tired and frustrated — this team will continue to struggle despite a favorable remaining schedule. This team’s success is dependent on the center, we’ll see how the team continues to transition to his presence.
J.M. Poulard: Andrew Bogut. His defensive value just cannot be overstated given the amount of confidence and swagger he’s given his teammates earlier this year when patrolling the paint.
The Warriors need that guy back and the more minutes he can spend on the court, the less likely this losing streak continues.
3. Time to panic in the Bay Area?
Jack Winter: Yes. A six-game defensive lapse like this isn’t a case of statistical variance. It’s most likely regression to the Warriors actual mean, closer to how they’re supposed to have been performing on that end all season long. And if that’s the case, Golden State just doesn’t have enough consistent firepower on offense to make up for it. Then again, no team would; a 117.6 defensive rating is an absolute death-knell for even the most proficient offenses. To be fair, that unbelievably high number will come down even if the missed rotations, dismal on-ball efforts and poor defensive rebounding continue. But it won’t be enough to win on Golden State’s previously consistent basis unless those miscues are corrected.
Jordan Ramirez: The San Jose Sharks finally broke the lid for the Bay Area with the first win since the 49ers lost the Super Bowl. Depending on what you think of the NHL and hockey, that win either counts or doesn’t register with you one bit. The Bay Area is still in panic. Fans love their Warriors, and this season’s success brought about new life in what was an otherwise disappointing on court product since 2007. When the 49ers do well, Raiders fans don’t like it. When the Giants do well, A’s fans criticize (but not at O.co). When the Sharks do well, because it’s hockey, it only resonates with hockey fans. But when the Warriors are doing well (unless you’re a Kings or Lakers fan) the entire Bay Area is happy. This six-game losing streak has been brutal for the entire fan base, and it’s imperative they get a victory against the hapless Suns at home Wednesday night.
J.M. Poulard: Sadly yes. Their Pythagorean Wins (formula that calculates wins expectancy based on points scored and points allowed) suggests that their performance this season resembles that of a 26-27 team. In other words, the Warriors may have been playing above their heads for most of the season and catching a few lucky breaks to help them win close games.
But again, perhaps a better Bogut changes the equation.