Golden State Warriors Get Past Phoenix Suns in Spite of Mark Jackson
The Warriors coach, whose credentials and aptitude were the subject of justifiable questioning all offseason, did nothing to prove his doubters wrong against Phoenix.
There's no question the Warriors possessed greater top-end talent than Phoenix—not one Sun could start for Golden State—and greater depth, but in spite of all that, Jackson very nearly coached his Dubs to a catastrophic loss.
Sure, Stephen Curry had the worst night of his career as he obviously pressed to justify the $44 million extension he'd signed only hours before tipoff. And yes, David Lee complemented Curry's awful performance with a 2-for-14 shooting display of his own.
But that's beside the point.
Jackson made two egregiously obvious strategic errors, and if not for the Suns' general ineptitude, those mistakes would have cost the Warriors the game.
It's a little misleading to say the Warriors struggled to execute their offense against the Suns, mostly because it was unclear what their offense was even supposed to look like.
On virtually every possession, the Warriors point guard (whether it was Stephen Curry or Jarrett Jack) would bring the ball to the middle of the floor beyond the three-point line and wait...and wait...and wait. While the ball handler pounded the dribble, one or both wing players struggled to pop up off of down screens for mid-range shots.
Occasionally, the "play" worked in the game's early stages. But after a while, the Suns caught on to the incredibly obvious, inexplicably repetitive strategy and started overplaying the wings as they popped out, making the pass from the point guard impossible.
Jackson never adjusted.
The result was a generally scattered attack that didn't even start until the shot clock had ticked down into single digits and a handful of avoidable turnovers. Curry and Jack each had four giveaways because of the Suns' adjustments.
Any coach worth his salt would have either set back screens for his wings or ordered the point guards to attack the middle of the defense. The Suns weren't helping on drives into the middle because they were so concerned about overplaying the pop-up shooters. Naturally, neither of those adjustments took place, and the blame belongs almost entirely on Jackson.
Small Ball Doesn't Work
In a similar vein, Jackson erred by going small early and often, much to the detriment of the Warriors' efforts on defense and on the boards. Overall, the Warriors outrebounded the Suns 49-44, but don't let that fool you.
Down the stretch, Golden State featured a four-five combo of Carl Landry and David Lee, neither of whom effectively kept the much bigger Suns off the offensive glass. As a result, Phoenix climbed back into the game while Jackson refused to get bigger.
Andrew Bogut, who unequivocally changed the game with his brilliant help defense and effective rebounding, was only allowed limited minutes by the training staff, so his absence down the stretch was somewhat excusable.
But there's no excuse for leaving Festus Ezeli—who pulled down five rebounds and snagged three steals in just 13 minutes—on the bench while Lee and Landry stood around and watched the Suns play volleyball on the offensive glass.
Ezeli's not known as a terrific rebounder, but he takes up space and would have fought for possessions in a way that neither Lee nor Landry seemed interested in doing.
There was real concern over Jackson's penchant for small ball during the preseason, but he earned a pass because Bogut was unavailable. Now, there's no excuse.
Look, the Warriors were the worst rebounding team in the NBA last year, largely because they played small. They had to.
Now, they've got the size to dominate inside, but Jackson doesn't seem interested in putting it to good use.
Nobody ever said Jackson was a genius, but it's starting to look like he's actually going to cost the Warriors wins. They narrowly escaped with a road victory in Phoenix, but Jackson doesn't deserve a shred of credit for it.
Here's hoping he spends the night in the video room.
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