OAKLAND – Harrison Barnes is looking beyond the missed shots and trying his best to ignore the groaning in the background as he continues to seek for the best of himself in these playoffs.
The Warriors forward, often cited for overanalyzing, insists he will not let this stretch of futility get to him, that he’ll stay in the moment and try to control that which he can.
“I just try to focus on the little things, because those can cost us,” Barnes told CSNBayArea.com. “Even in the games we’ve lost this season, when it comes down to the last couple minutes, it’s one rebound, one stop, one shot or one little thing that ended up costing us the game.”
So Barnes throws his energy into the fundamentals, which never seem to clang off the rim to the disappointment of crowds at Oracle Arena.
If his shot is not going to drop, maybe the 6-foot-8 small forward can do something else to help the Warriors win games.
And his shot is not dropping. After a regular season in which he shot 46.6 percent overall and 38.3 percent from deep, Barnes through 10 playoff games is shooting 35.9 percent from the field, 25.0 percent beyond the arc – both team lows.
“You can have a great offensive game and be feeling good, but that won’t matter if you’re not doing the right thing at the right time,” Barnes said. “If you don’t box out and get the rebound, it could be all for nothing. A great offensive performance, but you gave it back somewhere else.
“So I try to keep that at the forefront. I’m confident that the shots will fall as the playoffs continue.”
The Warriors would like to think so. Barnes’ teammates still provide opportunities, finding him for open looks from his favorite spots. It hasn’t helped. His coaches continue to support him, pointing out his successes instead of his failures.
Yet the Warriors all know they’re an infinitely better team when Barnes is making those open looks. When he’s not, opponents pay him no mind. Each of the Warriors’ first two opponents this postseason have assigned to Barnes their weakest perimeter defender. Against Houston, that was James Harden. Against Portland, it was Damian Lillard, who gave up five inches and 20 pounds.
Barnes did hit a crucial shot in Game 4, a 3-pointer that tied a game the Warriors won in overtime. Stephen Curry was driving along the baseline, attracting the defense, and found Barnes alone on the deep wing.
“Harrison didn’t hesitate,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It was a great shot, a big shot, and definitely good to see. I always say Harrison does a lot more for us than just score, so I don’t worry too much about his shooting. But when he shoots well, we are that much tougher to beat.”
Barnes likely will have to shoot well against Oklahoma City in the upcoming Western Conference Finals. The Trail Blazers kept coming behind C.J. McCollum and Lillard. The Thunder will keep coming behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Warriors hope Barnes finds his inner warrior, which appeared only once against Portland, on a ferocious dunk over Blazers big man (and fellow North Carolina product) Ed Davis. Barnes even shot a glare in Davis’ direction, perhaps because they are friends.
Barnes’ Warriors teammate Andrew Bogut was pleased to see that flash of fire, saying that he wouldn’t needle Barnes for fear that “it might disappear for another three years.” It was, to be sure, a rare display of emotion.
“When you miss a lot of shots, or you haven’t found your rhythm on offense,” Barnes a said, “getting a dunk to go down like that, all the frustration comes out.”
Barnes may be the biggest X-factor in the next series and he seems to realize he must pick it up, that fundamentals alone won’t be enough.
“We didn’t play well for three of the five games, maybe four of the five,” Barnes said. “We got down big and had to fight back. This series was more of a wakeup call for us. We got by, but we’re not going to continue to move forward if we’re going to be spotting teams 10 and 15 points in the first half.”
Spotting OKC 10 or 15 points in the first half will be dangerous – and much more difficult if Barnes can find, well, 10 or 15 points before halftime in a game or three.