OAKLAND -- Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings saw a weakness in the Warriors defense. You could tell as, in the fourth quarter, he danced a bit with the ball before hoisting up a 3-pointer. And he had no doubt it was going in.
That's been the case against the Warriors for the last month or so, opponents finding their 3-point swag against Golden State.
Milwaukee was the latest team to victimize the Warriors from deep. The Bucks, who entered the game here Saturday ranked 19th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, made 13 of 28 from behind the arc.
Monday, the Warriors host a New York Knicks team that lives and dies by the 3.
There was a time when Golden State guarded the 3-point line well. What's happened?
"I don't know," center Andrew Bogut said last week. "Some games we've done a good job closing out to guys. Some games we haven't. Teams just seem to shoot the ball well against us the last 20 games or so."
Through the first 47 games, the Warriors ranked third in the NBA in 3-point percentage defense. Opponents made just a third of their attempts from behind the arc. Golden State's scheme of collectively protecting the paint and desperately rushing out to defend 3-point shots was working to perfection.
But Feb. 5, the Houston Rockets started what has grown to be an unnerving trend. They knocked down 23 3-pointers against the Warriors, tying an NBA record and stabbing the Warriors in their collective ego.
In the 17 games since then, starting with that Houston embarrassment, opponents are shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range. That's 26th in the league during that span.
And it hasn't just been opponents shooting at a high percentage but high volume as well.
During that 17-game span, the Warriors allowed 161 made 3-pointers, the most in the league. That's an average of 9.5 made per game. The Bucks nailed four in the fourth quarter, including three clutch ones to kill Warriors rallies.
There was a time when Golden State tightened it up on defense in the fourth.
"We've shown signs we can do it, we just have to stay consistent," point guard Stephen Curry said. "We understand (defense) is what is going to allow us to get out of this hole. ... We have to just improve our performance. Individually, we have to take that responsibility to find out what we can do to help the team."
Golden State has thrived on aggressive switching, timely rotations and ready help defense. The strategy was designed to compensate for the Warriors' lack of individual defenders since swingman Brandon Rush was lost to a major knee injury the second game of the season.
The scheme leaves open the perimeter. But the Warriors covered that leak by relentlessly hustling on the perimeter to cover shooters and banking on players to miss. The Warriors got to 30-17 relying on this scheme.
But a few factors have led to a reversal of fortune.
No. 1, the league has caught up to the Warriors' strategy. Opponents are combating this by playing small lineups -- either three guards at a time or a shooting power forward who spots up behind the arc. That makes the Warriors pay for collapsing the paint, the biggest fear for a team loaded with suspect individual defenders.
Also, fatigue has set in. Perhaps such is expected since three of the Warriors starters -- guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and rookie forward Harrison Barnes -- have never played this many minutes at this stage in the season.
But the Warriors aren't nearly as effective, or desperate, as they had been when charging out to defend shooters. Nor are the rotations as crisp. And lapses are happening more frequently.
On top of that, opponents are getting into the paint still -- which any basketball coach will tell you is kryptonite for a defense. Outside shots produced by passes from the paint are difficult for any team to stop.
A couple early 3s build confidence in streak shooters. And once teams develop a rhythm, the Warriors are in trouble.