To wrap up 2008, the Golden State Warriors treated the Bay Area with a 107-100 loss on New Years Eve to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the worst team in the NBA. The Warriors (10-24) were plagued by 20 turnovers, Stephen Jakson's great ball handling ability, Marco Belinelli's blind passes, and Don Nelson's insistence on the ineffective "small ball" style of play.
Kelenna Azubuike led the Warriors with 24 points, all of those points came in the second half. Azubuike also tied his career high for three point makes (four) on the last day of the year.
Jackson had four turnovers, nine assists, and 17 points. However, Jackson did more harm than good for this team in the second half with his unnecessary dribbling and ball handling.
Jackson and Marco Belinelli lead the team with four turnovers each.
One aspect Jackson does not seem to fully absorb about his game is that he's actually a better player off the ball. True, the Warriors captain feels the urge that he has to do everything necessary for this club to win a game.
However, hoisting up abrupt threes on a three-on-three fast-break and dribbling through traffic only to have the ball taken away by the opposing defense, does not accomplish his target.
His most successful games this year came when he played off the ball more consistently. This is why Jackson was so successful last year with Baron Davis' presence.
Belinelli, who has been the hottest player in a Warriors jersey the past 10 games, had one of his worst games. His defense on Kevin Durant proved to be the only exception, but his crazy passes and turnovers were not a pleasant sight. Belinelli only had two points and five assists.
Then, Nelson came along.
The Warriors' head coach put Rob Kurz and Anthony Randolph on the inactive list tonight. What he did not envision occurring was that his starting power forward, Brandan Wright, would be in foul trouble. This is Nellie we're talking about here.
"I thought Oklahoma City deserved the win and we just didn’t seem to have the pop we have had in the past couple of weeks. I wish I knew why, I don’t know the reason," Nelson said.
Midway the second quarter, Wright picked up his second foul. In effect, Nelson was forced to take him out of the game. Consequently, "small ball" started to kick in.
The Warriors, who held a 12-point advantage at the five-minute mark of the opening quarter, faced a "Thunderous" run to cut the lead to six, 28-22.
When Wright was forced to sit, the Thunder made their real run. Oklahoma outscored the Warriors 29-27 in the second quarter.
While Wright was squeezed on the bench due to picking up his third foul in the third quarter, the Warriors were out-rebounded, out-hustled, and out-scored (27-15).
The Warriors were out rebounded 45-35.
The Warriors were +10 when Wright was in the game and -10 when Ronny Turiaf entered the game.
Andris Biedrins, who notched his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds, had yet another off game offensively. Biedrins' offensive moves are becoming more and more predictable, as he failed to make a successful move towards the basket. His points were mostly accumulated by his put-backs.
"When we don’t make shots or share the ball, we lose. We had a lot of mistakes on defense. There is no excuse, we just lost. You have to take a loss like a man. We have to take the loss tonight and move on," Jackson said.
Guards Earl Watson and center Chris Wilcox had their way with the Warriors tonight. Forward Jeff Green had an outstanding game with 26 points and eight rebounds. Kevin Durant had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
2009 should be a very interesting year for the Warriors.