COHN: Warriors picked bad time to go flat
Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 9:51 p.m.
OAKLAND - A dud refers to a bomb, shell or explosive that fails to detonate. It has come to mean something ineffectual.
On Sunday night, the Warriors were a dud in both meanings of the word, losing to the Utah Jazz 97-90 and blowing their first chance to make the playoffs — they will have others in their remaining five games. They failed to go off and they were ineffectual. So although the Warriors were not successful in a basketball sense, linguistically they were off the chart.
Why were the Warriors a dud?
Because they lost to the Utah Jazz, who are no big deal.
Why are the Jazz no big deal?
Because they are floundering along with the Lakers in search of the eighth and last playoff spot in the West, and because the Jazz came into the game with a road record of 11-27.
The Warriors were supposed to beat these there-for-the-taking Jazz. But they didn't. If the Warriors won, they would have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the We Believe team that made the playoffs in 2007. The current Warriors are the We-Want-To-Believe Team, or more to the point, the We-Expect-To-Believe Team. But hold the believing just yet. Their magic number remains at two.
Afterward, there was some debate why the Warriors lost. They were up 38-29 in the second quarter, and let the Jazz take over the game. Not good. And Stephen Curry had 17 points at the half but finished with 22, which means he was kind of a dud in the second half.
He scored the Warriors' first nine points and was on fire. Later, the Warriors went away from him, went to Klay Thompson and David Lee. They had their reasons. The Jazz were putting bigger guys on Curry, but come on. You never go away from Curry.
You can't overstate Curry's impact. He can score anytime from anywhere. He is the best shooter in the league. He is at least as good as Chris Mullin in the shooting department, and he finds his shot more easily.
But coach Mark Jackson swore Curry's lack of offense in the second half was not the cause of the loss that forestalled the celebration, which made the crowd go home quietly.
The Coach: “They outplayed us. They played like a team with their playoff lives depending on this game. And we played, at times, like a team that had a cushion.”
So, the issue was the cushion. Hmm. I mentioned to Jackson it sure looked like his team played hard and didn't think cushion.
“The standards that we set are higher than that, with all due respect,” he said respectfully. “We didn't put together 48 minutes of our brand of basketball. Twelve minutes in the second quarter hurt us and cost us the game and cost us the opportunity to celebrate having an X at our name. That's unacceptable.”
I know you're intrigued by the X. I promise to get back to it lickety-split. First, more cushion talk — this is the source of the postgame debate, whether or not the Warriors played like they had a cushion.
Curry on the cushion: “They played a little harder,” he said. “That's not where we're going to be successful if a team plays harder than us and tries to make winning plays more than us.”
So far Curry was with the coach. He and Jackson meant, I think, the Warriors were psychologically not ready because they did not absolutely need to win to make the playoffs. They were cushion-deceived.
“Do you feel you played like you had a cushion?” I asked Curry, making it personal.
“No, I don't think so,” he said, totally contradicting himself and Jackson. “We tried to do all we could to make that comeback in the third and fourth quarter. I don't feel like we came in knowing if we lost, we're OK. We felt like this was a great opportunity for us. It was set up real nice for us to get the X by our name and clinch a playoff spot.”
Either the Warriors played like they had a cushion or they didn't.
I say they didn't play cushion ball. They played hard. Resorting to cushions is something a coach does to “cushion” the blow that his team flopped on its biggest night.
And that brings us to the X. Jackson referred to the X before the game and after the game. Curry referred to the X after the game. I bet if you polled the Warriors players, everyone would have talked about the X. Never has an X been discussed so fervently this side of the X Games and X-rated.
Curry on the X: “We knew what the situation was. You win, you're in and knowing you get the X by your name.
“What's the X?” I asked.
“If you're a basketball fan, you know what it means,” he said, “especially with the history we've had here as an organization. They put 'clinched playoff berth' by our name in the standings.”
The Warriors are dying to get the X by their name, the X that proves they're in the playoffs.
They haven't had the benefit of X in six seasons.
One last thing. Someone asked Jackson if he lectured his team on, allegedly, not playing hard enough.
“I've been in that seat as a player,” he said. “You're well aware of what took place and what you did not do. You're well aware of the mistakes you made. The worst thing that you can have is a head coach preach the message that's already been preached. Heads were down and we move on.”
They move on in search of the elusive X, because, and this is the main point, X marks the spot, as in playoffs.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
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