OAKLAND – As this season rolls on, with the lows neutralizing the highs, it is becoming evident that Mark Jackson is hoping to inject fury into his team, trying to transform the nice-guy Warriors into, um, warriors.
The coach not only preaches defense but also constantly refers to it as the team's bedrock. And all too often, the team goes out and plays marshmallow `D.' Soft, relatively flavorless and perfectly suitable for torching.
That porous defense and their increasingly problematic addiction to turnovers stuck the Warriors with a devastating 104-102 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday at Oracle Arena.
"There's no way to excuse this loss," said center Andrew Bogut, who grabbed 18 rebounds, blocked three shots and was charged with two turnovers. "You can't lose this game at home."
Well, no, you wouldn't think so. Not when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich played along with the fondest wishes of the Warriors, sitting stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. San Antonio's third star, point guard Tony Parker, was sidelined by a shin injury.
"The role players for them had a big night," Jackson said. "More importantly, we got out of character when we established a lead. We started being careless with the basketball.
"The way we gained the lead was by executing, defending and taking care of the basketball. We got out of character and gave them life by being reckless with the basketball."
Not just reckless, but 24 turnovers reckless. The Spurs unwrapped those holiday season gifts and came away with 31 free points. With the Warriors (14-13) being such a generous host, the Spurs could make do with ex-Warrior Marco Belinelli (28 points) in the role of Ginobili and Patty Mills (20) standing in for Parker.
San Antonio (21-5) also played the kind of smart, scrappy game that seems to offset the superior talent of the Warriors. Smart and scrappy was more effective than the nice numbers submitted by David Lee (32 points, 13 rebounds) and Stephen Curry (30 points, 15 assists).
Two nights after the triumphant return of swingman Andre Iguodala, who missed a dozen games with injury, it was abundantly clear Iguodala is no panacea. He played below his standard, and he was not alone.
"We just got outplayed, outsmarted and outhustled," Iguodala said.
"They didn't have their main guys, but we knew it would be a dogfight just because those guys are hungry. We've got to get out of our old (habits) in games like this. A good butt-whipping will wake you up."
Or not, for the Warriors this season have been victimized by several opponents that wouldn't seem to be up to the task. There are losses to the Lakers on Nov. 22, to the Bobcats on Dec. 9, to the Suns just last Sunday.
Bogut noted that the Warriors have trouble defending teams that move the ball crisply and effectively. Soon enough, a defender – often poor D-Lee – get lost or is too slow to react.
The shooter has an open look, the marshmallow is toasted and the Warriors are feeling the heat.
THE GOOD: Curry's first career 30-15 game, Lee's pretty numbers, Bogut's rugged rebounding and, well, not much else.
THE BAD: The turnovers, shoddy half-court defense and the continued downward spirals of wings Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Klay (13 points on 6-of-18 shooting, five turnovers) was Mr. Irrelevant. Barnes was Mr. Invisible, finishing his 19-minute stint with more turnovers (three) than he had points (0), assists (one) and rebounds (one).
THE TAKE: This was, as Bogut said, inexcusable. The defense can get better, but only so much better as long as Lee is an important part of it. He has to be on the floor these days, though, because his offense is needed. The turnovers and the gifted points, that's another story. It needs to be cleaned up, but it probably won't be until somebody in the locker room – not a coach – decides it no longer will be tolerated.