The Warriors have several ready-made reasons to brush off their 79-72 loss to the host Milwaukee Bucks.
They played Saturday without power forward David Lee, who was back in the Bay Area recovering from surgery on his left elbow. They were playing their fifth game in seven nights, on the road and against a playoff-caliber team. They had already won six games, solidifying a winning record over the first 10 games of the season -- an accomplishment for a team that won 26 games last season.
But guard Monta Ellis isn't buying any of them.
Perhaps he sees the 2-3 record on the road trip and believes it could have been 4-1. Perhaps he sees the consistently sluggish starts and inconsistent effort on defense.
"I'm not too happy with it," Ellis said after totaling 24 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and seven turnovers. "We could've gotten this game. We've just got to go back home, protect our house and go back on the winning side."
For the fifth time in 10 games, the Warriors failed to score 100 points. It was the third time they failed to top 85.
Golden State (6-4) never led and shot a season-low 34.1 percent, as everyone not named Ellis combined to go 19-for-66 shooting (28.8 percent). The absence of Lee was noticeable.
After spending Thursday night in the hospital, Lee flew back to the Bay Area on Friday with owner Joe Lacob once it was determined Lee's elbow was infected. On Friday night, the team announced Dr. Frank Chen performed surgery to clean out the infection from the laceration. He was discharged Saturday morning and will be re-evaluated toward the end of the week, according a team official.
The Warriors obviously missed Lee's rebounding -- they were handled on the boards 58-42 -- along with his scoring. They also missed his leadership, his understanding of the offense and the attention his presence draws from a defense.
"David Lee was an All-Star last year," Warriors forward Dorell Wright said, "20 and 10, 35 minutes. That's one of our key players for everything we're doing. His presence is definitely missed."
The Warriors trailed by 18 with 3:42 left in the third after two free throws by Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. But even without Lee and even though they were weary at the end of a five-game road trip, the Warriors clawed their way back into the game.
They did it with little-used guard Charlie Bell, playing against his former team. They did it with little-used forward Jeff Adrien, who had six points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes.
After an 8-0 run to open the third quarter, capped by a Bell jumper, Milwaukee's lead was down to 66-59 with just over nine minutes left. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, the Warriors trimmed a 75-65 deficit with a 7-0 run. Adrien sandwiched a Reggie Williams 3-pointer by muscling in a couple layups, the latter pulling the Warriors' within three at the 1:31 mark.
That was as close as the Warriors would get. A jumper by Bucks guard John Salmons, who had 26 points, all but iced the game.
"It's a sad game, but we're going to move on," Ellis said. "We've got to do something. Me being a leader on this team, I'm going to go to Coach and get some film and see exactly what it is. Because we've got to nip this in the bud if we want to be a playoff team."
Detroit at Warriors, 7:30 p.m., CSNBA