OAKLAND, Calif. -- The game plan for becoming the first team to beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena is a simple one. "They're a team that's beatable but you've got to play a heck of a game to beat them," Wizards point guard John Wall said before Tuesday's game. "Even a game they're not supposed to win they find a way."
The Wizards (36-38) made them look beatable for most of three quarters, but eventually the dam breaks as a 21-4 fourth quarter run did them in. The Warriors (67-7) are 36-0 at home after a 102-94 in front of their 170th consecutive sellout.
Unlike the playground-type of matchup that produced a 134-121 win for Golden State two months ago in Verizon Center when Steph Curry had 51 points to Wall's 41, this was a much more measured pace.
Curry (26 points) led all scorers followed by Klay Thompson (16 points), Draymond Green (15 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists) and Harrison Barnes (14 points, nine rebounds).
"The way they stay calm and poised throughout a whole 48-minute game," Wall said about Golden State. "No matter if they're down or up they stay poised and give themselves a chance."
The Wizards were three-quarters of the way there which isn't nearly good enough. They were able to slow the tempo early and keep any deficit to ballooning to double-digits. And they played as intelligent of a game as they have all season until the end.
Bradley Beal (17 points) only scored two after halftime but he still led the Wizards followed by Markieff Morris (15 points, seven rebounds), Otto Porter (11 points, six rebounds), Nene (10 points), Marcin Gortat (nine points, 11 rebounds) and Wall (eight points, 11 assists, five rebounds, four blocks).
This is the first game of a back-to-back with the Sacramento Kings up next tonight.
- The difference in how each team ran its offense early was evident. While Golden State moved the ball with all five players touching it, Washington bogged down in too many isolations. Morris was guilty of it twice and he took two contested mid-range shots that missed. Gortat went 1 on 1 with Andrew Bogut (two points, five rebounds) and settled for a jump hook farther out than he's comfortable. Porter dribbled excessively out of traffic, turned back to the basket and was long on a pull-up jumper. Nothing wrong with missing shots but they made it easy for an elite defensive team by not making them have to rotate and adjust which is why they fell behind 20-12. The pick-and-roll between Wall and Gortat disappeared in the second half as the Wizards opted to go small, and Wall, Beal and Gortat combined to score four points in the second half.
- Six turnovers in the first quarter put the Warriors in transition, but the Wizards forced four and had an 11-7 edge in fast-break points. They only attempted one three-point shot, missed by Jared Dudley, but made seven trips to the foul line (six made). They also were able to put Thompson in early foul trouble to get him off the court and bothered Curry into 6 of 17 shooting through the early part of the third quarter.
- The Wizards had a good game plan defensively and were switching everything 1-5 and Gortat was careful not to pressure Bogut with the ball 15 feet away from the basket. That allowed him, or whoever was at the five spot, to zone for help coverage on Curry or Thompson. When Thompson was on the floor without Curry, the Wizards trapped the ball out of his hands and dared other scorers to beat them. Where the Wizards erred is during a 12-2 run by Golden State to enter the half. They went from down 44-37 to ahead 49-46 as Dudley was caught on switches vs. Curry but didn't have the proper help from the big stepping up to slow the dribble penetration. Morris probably was better-suited in that situation but he'd been subbed out so he wouldn't pick up foul No. 3. That resulted in easy buckets that weren't Dudley's fault, but Dudley also missed an open jumper during that run and made a bad pass for a turnover that add fuel to the Warriors' fire.
- The open shots were there for Morris who missed two wide-open threes. Had he been able to make any of them, it would've opened up the floor better for Wall. His matchup with Green never really materialized in the first half as Morris once again got into early foul trouble. He missed the previous game with the Lakers because of soreness in his left calf. But Morris lit up the Warriors for three three-pointers in the third quarter. The Wizards trimmed a 61-53 deficit to 61-60 and then trailed 72-62 and had it down to 72-70 with 2:20 left. When they started stretching out the defense with Green stepping out to Morris, it opened the backdoor for Beal who had his only second-half basket on a bounce pass for a dunk.
- Nene wasn't able to exploit is matchups with Anderson Varejao or Mo Speights and the ball stuck too much when the offense ran through him on the low block. When he was with the second unit, the double teams continually came from the weakside to cause turnovers on the strip. And when Nene would turn into the lane, a guard would dive down and force him into a travel or a bad pass out to the wing. In 17 minutes he gave away the ball five times. Even worse, the Wizards allowed a manageable 79-72 deficit entering the fourth quarter to grow to double digits against Golden State's reserve unit. Curry, Thompson and Green weren't on the floor as the Wizards' defensively disconnected second unit blew repeated help coverages for three uncontested layups. They lost their edge and had no path for coming back.
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