Christmas for Warriors coach Mark Jackson turned sour pretty quickly Sunday, ending with a 105-86 season-opening loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.
Jackson's debut as an NBA head coach, before a sell-out crowd and to a national TV audience, was tainted by a fourth-quarter collapse that suggested Warriors' basketball hasn't changed much. The man who has preached defense since being hired in June watched the Clippers, led by point guard Chris Paul, torch his team late, outscoring the Warriors 21-3 over a five-minute stretch.
The fourth quarter capped a forgettable second half for the Warriors defense. The Clippers shot 59 percent after half time.
"We gave up some easy baskets, some open looks that they knocked down," point guard Stephen Curry said. "Defensively, we didn't have our best performance in the second half."
Jackson wasn't so judicious with his words: "You have to get stops. Sixty four points in the second half just won't cut it."
In addition to its trademark shoddy defense, Golden State struggled offensively in the second half -- especially the fourth quarter, where they missed 11 of their 17 attempts and turned it over five times. The Warriors got morsels from their top three offensive players in crunch time.
Starting point guard Stephen Curry, recovering from a sprained right ankle, decided to play just before the game. By game's end, many Warriors fans probably wished he hadn't.
Curry finished with four points on 2-for-12 shooting with four assists and four rebounds. He had three of his five turnovers during the Clippers' game-cinching run.
"We are a no excuse basketball team," Jackson said. "The turnovers that I saw him commit
tonight had nothing to do with the ankle. He understands he has to do better."
It looked as if Ellis was going to be able to overcome multiple off-the-court issues, and gut his way to an effective performance. But he wasn't able to save the Warriors Sunday night, scoring one point in the fourth quarter.
Wednesday, Ellis was named in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former Warriors employee. Sunday, he learned his grandmother Mary Cole died in Mississippi at age 89.
Still, in the second quarter, he took over. He scored three lay-ups and assisted on another during a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter. That spurt helped the Warriors take a 43-41 halftime lead. But Ellis' spark fizzled in the second half. In 20 second-half minutes, he took four shots scoring three points.
"It's something I've got to get through," Ellis said after totaling 15 points, eight assists and four turnoevrs. "It's tough, but I will get through it."
David Lee finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Though he had six points in the fourth quarter, four of them came in the first two minutes and his third basket came in the final seconds when the game was decided.
The Clippers, who shot just over 40 percent from the field in the first three quarters, made 11-of-21 attempts in the final period. Paul had eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points and nine assists in his first game since being traded to the Clippers by New Orleans.
Golden State, conversely, struggled offensively in the fourth quarter. The Warriors missed 11-of-17 attempts and turned the ball over five times.
It all started so promising, too.
First, Jackson learned Curry was able to play despite a sprained right ankle. Curry, after testing his ankle before the game, decided he'd give it a go. He sprained his ankle Tuesday, giving him a four days to rest it.
But Curry wound up with a rough night, finishing with four points on 2-for-12 shooting with four assists and five turnovers.
Then, it looked as if Ellis was going to be able to overcome multiple off-the-court issues and gut his way to an effective performance.
Ellis is not only dealing with being named in a sexual harassment suit, which went public Wednesday. Sunday, he learned his grandmother, Mary Cole, died in Mississippi at age 89.
With his shooting stroke not in sync, Ellis used his speed to get to the rim. He scored six points, all layups, during a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter. It looked as if he was going to have a nice effort. But by the end of the night, he was silenced. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting with eight assists. But he also had four turnovers and scored just one point in the fourth quarter.
When the third-quarter horn sounded, Golden State was down seven and struggling to find some momentum. After a blown defensive assignment, that led to a 3-pointer by the Clippers'' Brian Cook, Jackson called a timeout and lit into his team.
The Warriors emerged from the timeout down 78-70 with 11:32 to play. Three minutes later, the deficit was down to one. A Brandon Rush 3-pointer and a tip-in by rookie Klay Thompson capped a 9-2 run that cut the Clippers' lead to 80-79.
But the Warriors' defense couldn't come up with the necessary stops.
Back-to-back jumpers by Clippers guards Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups pushed the Warriors' deficit to 87-81. Ellis then split a pair of free throws, and Los Angeles' Caron Butler nailed a runner.
After Curry missed a jumper, Billups knocked down two free throws. Just like that, Golden State was down 91-82 inside of five minutes left.
Then Paul took over. He nailed a jumper over Ellis, putting Golden State down 93-84 just inside of four minutes. After a Curry turnover, Paul nailed a runner in the lane. Paul then sealed it with a jumper as the shot clock expired, putting the Clippers ahead 97-84 with 2:38 left.
He had six points and four rebounds in the first quarter. His putback dunk at the 6:46 mark put the Warriors up 12-6 and forced the Clippers to call a timeout.
He checked out with 5:14 left in the quarter and didn't return until midway through the second. He sparked a 9-0 Warriors run, capped with a fastbreak layup by Ellis for a 37-36 lead.
"When I signed, I thought I was going to the Warriors," Jordan said before tipoff. "I think they're a great team. Lots of young talent. Just like our team, still has a lot of work to do. But I feel like both are up-and-coming.—