CHICAGO -- Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he is a "no limit coach." He doesn't put expectations or limitations on his team. Instead, he takes the season game by game, having faith and eagerly anticipating the results.
Well, Friday's results weren't what he anticipated -- a 103-87 route at the hands of the host Bulls.
"We just got outworked," Jackson said. "We did not have the right mindset from the start. That was not Warriors basketball."
The Warriors didn't start the second half of the season the way they ended the first. Wednesday, they punctuated a surprisingly successful first 41 games with a home win over Oklahoma City, owner of the league's best record.
It was fitting in that it was collective performance, that they grinded from behind and that good defense down the stretch made it happen. Such had highlighted the Warriors' season to the midpoint.
But Friday, none of that was apparent. Golden State was dominated inside. The Warriors were outrebounded 56-37 and gave up 30 second-chance points. And that was with Bulls All-Star small forward Luol Deng out with an ailing right hamstring.
The Bulls had three players post double-doubles as center Joakim Noah and forwards Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler combined for 45 points and 41 rebounds.
On top of that, Warriors point guards Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack -- a strength of their team this season -- were completely outplayed by their Bulls counterparts.
Kirk Hinrich and former Warrior Nate Robinson combined for 47 points on 18-of-27 shooting.
Curry needed 18 shots to get 21 points, and Jack needed 12 shots to score 11.
"They did a good job of executing their offense, and we kind of over-helped in a lot of situations," Curry said. "And (Hinrich) stepped right into jump shots and knocked them down. So did Nate coming off the bench. ... NBA players, they're going to knock them down if you give them easy looks, especially at the beginning of the game."
The Warriors trailed 31-13 after the first quarter and never recovered.
Certainly, the Warriors had a few duds over the first half of the season. Still, they managed to construct their best start in 21 years.
Now the Warriors go to Milwaukee on Saturday to give former teammate Monta Ellis his first up-close look at just how much they've grown this season.
No one with truth on their tongue predicted Golden State would be 11 games over .500 at the halfway point -- even if center Andrew Bogut and swingman Brandon Rush were healthy. But with their two best defenders on the shelf, and with three rookies in the rotation, the Warriors still amassed 26 wins to become one of the feel-good stories of the NBA season.
"We've still got a lot of young guys, and this is the first year this crew has been together," said Warriors power forward Lee, who had to work for all 23 points and six rebounds against Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah.
"We went from a very poor team last year, a team that at times didn't show too many signs of life, to what we've been able to do this year. We've kind of skipped that step of being a .500 basketball team and getting back to decency, and gone right to being a team that's a very consistent and solid team in the West -- which is very tough to do."
Three key areas point to how the Warriors were able to make such a rapid improvement.
They give the Warriors another dimension. And the togetherness this roster has developed has especially helped it ward off losing streaks and grind through adversity.
"I'm a guy that watched this team come together," Jackson said of his players, who met in September to get a jump on training camp. "I watched this team embrace one another, love one another, be prepared, work extremely hard."
That's what made the loss at Chicago, the first game of the second half of the season, so out of character.
All of their usual strengths seemed to wilt under the defensive aggression and offensive execution of the Bulls. They didn't defend, didn't rebound, didn't control the tempo and didn't appear to have much fight in them.
But the fact such is an oddity this season illustrates the strides the Warriors have made. Their first 41 games were nothing short of a success, given their history and the absence of Bogut and Rush. The challenge, now, is to keep it going. Friday was a step in the wrong direction.
"We know who we are and what we have to do to win games," a disappointed Jackson said. "It's a fact that we know we can do it."
Warriors (26-16) at Milwaukee (22-19), 5:30 p.m. CSNBA