CHICAGO — Coming out of a timeout, the Warriors had the ball with 24.7 seconds remaining, tied at 87 with the Chicago Bulls. Anyone who's been following the Warriors this season knew which play was coming.
So, as usual, guard Monta Ellis was isolated at the top, dribbling down the final seconds of the shot clock. He penetrated against a waiting defense and put up a contested shot. He air-balled a floater, sending the game into overtime.
The Warriors wound up losing 96-91 in overtime. But Ellis' misfire on a potential game-winner was emblematic of the Warriors' struggles to close out games. Golden State is 0-4 in games decided by five points or fewer.
"That's the play that we called," Ellis said. "Nothing else we can do on it. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn't. Hey, at least we did what Coach asked."
The Warriors led by as much as nine, and were up 51-44 at the half. But faced with the opportunity to step on the pedal and snatch a road victory — especially with a rested Detroit on tap today — Golden State just sputtered. It shot 34 percent in the second half, including 2-for-10 in overtime.
"We just missed shots or we refused to move the ball," said assistant coach Keith Smart, filling in for head coach Don Nelson, who is in the Bay Area recovering from pneumonia.
Smart said the Warriors settled for a lot of jump shots instead of attacking the basket. Part of the problem is that the Warriors have yet to develop a consistent place to go for offense, especially when they desperately need a score. Certainly, the youth of the team is a factor. When looking for late-game offense, when Ellis doesn't have the ball, the Warriors are looking to the likes of second-year guard Anthony Morrow, third-year guard C.J. Watson, and even rookie guard Stephen Curry.
What's more, Ellis, Golden State's primary option, is still learning how to be a go-to guy down the stretch. And it appears the coaching staff is still trying to learn how best to use Ellis down the stretch.
The Warriors have gone with the Ellis isolation at the top for most of the season at the end of quarters. Smart said they want Ellis to run down the clock to prevent the opponent from getting the rebound and scoring on the other end. He said they also direct where they want Ellis to go, depending on the situation.
But this mode of attack is scarcely successful. Friday, Ellis failed to score at the end of the second and fourth quarters on the last-second isolation. On this road trip, he is 0-for-3 shooting with three turnovers on the six times he's made the play on the Warriors' final possession of the quarter.
One teammate hinted that there was another factor leading to Ellis' miss near the end of regulation.
"Review the tape," center Mikki Moore said, suggesting Ellis was fouled on his shot. "Review the tape and you make the decision."
In overtime, Smart switched it up, and went to Ellis in the post against Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. It resulted in an easy-looking turnaround jumper for Ellis the first time, and the second time Ellis dished to an open Corey Maggette, who missed the jumper.
The Warriors then missed four of their next five shots, the last a 3-pointer from the top by Watson that would've cut the Bulls' lead to one with 17.9 seconds remaining.
"It's always tough when you lose down the stretch and didn't get what you needed done," said Smart. "We came out real flat the third quarter. We gave a team life. We just never got the rhythm back."
Pistons, 4:30 p.m.
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