I watched the Golden State meltdown Monday night — the Warriors blew a 104-88 lead over San Antonio with 4:31 and lost in double overtime — and immediately thought of the Thunder’s meltdown against Dallas in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
In 2011, the Mavericks trailed 99-84 with five minutes left in Game 4 but rallied to win in overtime. The Thunder did not use great clock management, if you remember. Watching the game, I figured the same thing had happened to Golden State. But actually, no. The Warriors just quit playing — quit scoring, quit getting stops. It wasn’t a case of poor clock management.
Here’s my general theory. If you lead by, say, 15 points with three minutes left, committing shot-clock violations on five straight possessions is not a bad ploy. That means at least two minutes of game time have been consumed. If you shoot right at the end of the 24 seconds, it will take up a little longer time. That means the opposition would have to make a 3-pointer, in 10 seconds each time, to catch you.
I don’t advocate intentionally getting a shot clock violation. But what I’m saying is, run clock. Run clock on offense and run clock on defense. The Thunder two years ago committed a couple of backcourt fouls, which helped extend the game for Dallas.
That didn’t happen to the Warriors. They actually milked the clock rather well. They quit running much offense, so that’s a problem that might not be mutually exclusive to the time management. But they did not extend the game. However, on defense, the Warriors totally slacked and let San Antonio score too easily.
From that 4:31 mark to the 1:00 mark, by which time the Spurs had pulled within 104-101 and essentially made it anybody’s ballgame, the Warriors got the ball eight times. And failed to score.
They took 15 seconds before Draymond Green missed a reverse layup; 16 seconds before Jarret Jack missed a jumper; 17 seconds before Stephen Curry was called for charging; 17 seconds before Jack committed a turnover; 24 seconds before Jack missed a jumper that was rebounded by Green, who then missed a putback; three seconds before Richard Jefferson was fouled and missed two both foul shots; 19 seconds before Curry missed a 3-pointer; and 18 seconds before Carl Landry missed a jumper.
The high crimes of that stretch were 1) the putback miss by Green. You can’t blame him for trying to score at the basket. The mistake was not shooting immediately. The mistake was missing; 2) Jefferson’s missed foul shots. You’ve got to make your foul shots. Your team is in an epic scoring drought, you get a breakaway layup, get fouled and miss both foul shots? That’s letting your team down in the most fundamental way.
Meanwhile, over on the defensive side, Golden State let San Antonio score quickly. The Spurs took 11 seconds before a Gary Neal miss; then six seconds before Klay Thompson fouled Tony Parker, who made two foul shots; nine seconds before a Parker basket; eight seconds before a Parker basket; seven seconds before a Kawhi Leonard basket; 15 seconds before a Park turnover; 15 seconds before a Leonard 3-pointer; and two seconds before a Parker fast-break basket.
The killers were Thompson’s foul — it fouled him out, and the Warriors’ demise started — and all those quick possessions. Five times San Antonio scored less than 10 seconds into the possession. Think about it. On five possessions, the Spurs used 32 seconds to score 10 points. That in effect meant San Antonio had 3-1/2 minutes to make up a six-point deficit, which is nothing.
To make up a 16-point deficit in four minutes requires almost flawless execution on both ends of the court. The Spurs had it. Golden State didn’t. But at least the Warriors didn’t play carelessly. They just played poorly.