Al Jefferson had 30 points on 12-22 shooting with 13 rebounds. Gerald Henderson dropped 17 points with eight rebounds and six assists. The Warriors combined to shoot 32% on 93 shots, made only 4-20 from deep with only four fast break points.
The Charlotte Bobcats were rounding out a 4-game road trip, where, after their 91-75 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors, would have them coming home 3-1. The Bobcats were seven games under .500 at the time while the Warriors were sporting a 29-19 record.
The Bobcats are an NBA team, and as we’ve seen recently, anyone (OK, maybe not the Philadelphia 76ers) can beat another team on any given night. Despite talent disparity, these are still professionals, and unless ownership is completely abandoning the idea of winning games a la Philadelphia, one team beating another shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
But, there are certain exceptions: good teams – the really good teams – don’t often lose games they should win. It happens to the best of teams, including the mighty San Antonio Spurs, the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers and the scary Memphis Grizzlies. Losses happen over an 82 game season for whatever reason: back-to-back’s, injuries or simply an off shooting night.
The Bobcats loss last February was one indication that this team wasn’t quite ready for the limelight. It was a bad loss, as good teams do have various bad losses over the course of a season, but it was the heartless, deflating type of loss that you simply don’t see from elite teams.
The locker room after the game was the worst I witnessed that season. The players didn’t want anything to do with the media. Mark Jackson didn’t have much to say as why it happened, just that it happened. Joe Lacob, who often is seen in the back of the interview room while the head coach has his presser, looked as upset as I’ve ever seen him.
Everyone in the building knew that the way they lost was nearly as important as the actual result in the standings. The team didn’t look ready to play. If the team was looking at a deep playoff run, games like this shouldn’t happen. The elite teams lose games, but not like that.
This is why what may seem like a casual win in mid-November actually bares weight. The win certainly helps, but the fact that neither Stephen Curry nor Klay Thompson surpassed the 25 minutes of play will pay dividends as this five-game road trip progresses. Elite teams make (most) easy wins seem just that: easy.
Coming off a five-day layoff and the Jazz being a competitive 5-7 team heading in, this could’ve very much been a “trap” game. We saw it last year plenty. Whether not adequately prepared by the coaching staff, unfocused or simply not shooting the ball well: these losses were prominent under in years past.
The Warriors’ two losses this season have come at the back end of a back-to-back in a matchup against the feisty Phoenix Suns and a clinic put on by the NBA’s example franchise, the San Antonio Spurs. Two losses that wouldn’t be considered “bad” considering the opponents and situations that was at hand.
The Jazz rolled into Oracle Arena on Friday night with a hefty frontline, a newly designated max-contract player, a freshly paid Alec Burks and an exciting prospect in Dante Exum. They’re not pushovers, but they’re certainly not contending for anything but a high draft pick anytime soon.
The Warriors made their point early and often that this wasn’t going to be a close game. There was no slow start, no early timeout to supplant a Jazz surge and no defensive lapses in the first quarter. With runs of 12-0 and 10-2 – along with a 11-0 run in the second quarter – this one was over quickly.
“I was worried about this game, to be honest,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “Four days between games in the NBA is a long time. Two days off in a row — Monday and Tuesday — we didn’t do anything. It was great to get away from it mentally, but I was worried physically.
I didn’t know about our conditioning, I didn’t know about our rhythm. I did think there was some rust offensively, we didn’t shoot the ball very well, but our defense was there. The encouraging thing tonight was that it showed our guys if we defend and take care of the ball we can win a lot of games even if we don’t shoot. That’s the mark of a good team. I’m thrilled with this game.”
At 9-2, it’s hard not to be thrilled with what’s been taking place.