In a tight game where every basket was crucial, Warriors star guard Monta Ellis sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter while backup guard Nate Robinson ran the show.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Ellis wasn't feeling well. Nonetheless, the result was a demoralizing 93-91 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.
"It really wasn't a decision due to anything other than the fact he wasn't feeling well all day long," Jackson said. "I almost sent him home. ... He's a gamer, a leader and he stayed. ... Give him credit, he gave me everything he had. ... I just made a decision he was not 100 percent."
Ellis' backcourt mate, point guard Stephen Curry, was hardly lights out either. He had eight points on 3-for-10 shooting with eight assists. He logged nearly nine fourth-quarter minutes but took just one shot.
Forward David Lee did have it rolling. He finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds in 41 minutes, his second consecutive 20-and-10 game. Playing his best basketball of the season, he now has a double-double in five straight home games.
But Lee took just two shots in the fourth quarter, none after his three-point play put the Warriors up 86-81 with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left.
Ellis, who declined to speak with the media after the game, finished with 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting with five assists and two turnovers in 27 minutes. With Ellis on the bench the entire fourth quarter, Golden State went the final 2:49 without a field goal, scoring just three points on free throws.
The Warriors failed to capitalize on a vulnerable Portland squad, which was missing its best player (All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge) and concluding a back-to-back set. Golden State saw its season-high winning streak snapped at three games, ending the homestand with a sour taste.
"It's disappointing for sure," Curry said. "You have a chance to go 3-0 on your homestand, to finish it out and make some more progress to crack into the eighth spot (in the Western Conference). It's disappointing, but now we have the opportunity to beat two good teams in Memphis and Oklahoma City."
For the second consecutive game, Lee kept the Warriors in it while the starting backcourt struggled. He usually plays well against Portland. But with Aldridge out of the lineup because of a sprained left ankle, Lee -- who scored 26 his previous game against Portland -- really caused problems for the Blazers.
Despite Lee's performance, the Warriors entered the fourth quarter trailing 72-70 despite shooting 49.2 percent and outrebounding Portland by one. But 10 Warriors turnovers and 12 offensive rebounds by Portland to that point led to the Blazers taking 11 more shots. So it didn't matter that Portland shot just 40 percent the first three quarters.
Robinson powered a run that gave the Warriors control of the game. He scored seven straight points at one point, including a step-back jumper that put the Warriors up 81-78. Minutes later, a fadeaway by Robinson gave the Warriors a five-point lead with 2:49 left.
But that was about all Golden State could muster. Portland guard Jamal Crawford, a former Warrior, scored five points in the final 1:03 to lift the Blazers. Meanwhile, Robinson -- who scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter -- missed his last two shots and nearly turned it over before he could attempt a game-winner in the final seconds.
Stumbling through the lane, he shoveled the ball to forward Brandon Rush in the corner. But Rush did not get off his 3-pointer in time and missed anyway.
"We didn't have a lot of time, but Nate was getting wherever he wanted on to on the floor," Jackson said. "It was a high pick-and-roll, and he came off and had options around the court with shooters ... so we did get what we wanted."
Curry, who nearly won it two years ago, did not get an invite. Neither did rookie swingman Klay Thompson, who entered Wednesday having made half of his 74 attempts from behind the arc.
But the biggest snub, arguably, is Rush. He leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage (54.8 entering Wednesday).
"That's a joke," Thompson said of Rush's omission.
New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow, a former Warrior, was invited. As was Orlando forward Ryan Anderson, a Cal product. They'll be joined by Miami's Mario Chalmers, Minnesota's Kevin Love, Atlanta's Joe Johnson and defending champion James Jones of Miami.
The biggest question marks are Love (36.1 percent) and Johnson (35.6 percent), though both will play in the All-Star game. Jackson sounded a bit slighted before the game.
"Why don't we just fly those guys into Oakland, and we can put something at stake," Jackson said, proposing a shootout at Oracle. "I'll take my guys."
Curry, who is shooting 42.5 percent through Tuesday, had a similar idea. The Warriors should have their own shootout. At stake: bragging rights as the team's best shooter.
Thompson said Rush is the best shooter by virtue of having the team's best percentage. Rush gave the nod to Thompson for his pure stroke.
Curry didn't hesitate when asked who he thought was the Warriors' best shooter.
He said his knee well enough to play but that he lacks his normal strength and stability. McGuire said he doesn't remember how he injured the leg.
"I just remember it started hurting," McGuire said.
Golden State figures to need McGuire, its best perimeter defender, for the coming road trip at Oklahoma City and Memphis.