Phew!: Warriors 113 Memphis 105

Hey, the Warriors are on the board in ’09.  We can all breathe out now.

A large part of the credit for this win goes to Don Nelson.  His central conception of attacking Zach Randolph with Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette was the difference in this game.  When Memphis went away from Randolph offensively in the second half, they were left with nothing but a terrible defender.  That’s how mismatches can win games.  That’s classic Don Nelson small-ball.

Winning time came, as it so often does on Don Nelson teams, late in the third quarter.  That’s when Nelson unsheathed his long knife.  He took out Stephen Curry, and went with this lineup: Moore, Maggette, Jackson, Morrow and Ellis.  And Rudy Gay, who had to this point torched Azubuike and Morrow to the tune of 29 points, suddenly found himself being guarded by Stephen Jackson.   It began like this:  Morrow hit a three to push the lead to 5.  Gay tried to answer with a three of his own, got surprised by Jackson’s quick reaction and length, and shot an airball.  And the Warriors were off.  They pushed the lead out to 10, and it stayed there the rest of the way.  Gay took a total of 2 shots in the fourth quarter.

That is Stephen Jackson.  That is what he does.  For those of you who don’t understand how Jackson wins basketball games, this game is a good place to start.

I’ll let the players tell the rest of the story:

Monta: This was Monta’s best game of the season by far.  Particularly impressive was his defence.  He wasn’t long enough to bother Mayo’s shot, but he did a great job staying in front of him and Iverson, and creating turnovers.  5 steals.  He also did his customary good job helping out with the rebounding. 7 rbs.  His 12 assists on offense are the obvious story line, though.  Monta clearly put an extra effort into creating for his teammates this game, and the results showed against the porous Memphis defense.

I have to say, though, that to me he still does not resemble the Monta of two years ago.  For one thing, his shot is off. Particularly disturbing was the wide left airball he shot in the fourth quarter.  After a disastrous first quarter (he opened 3 for 12), he did start driving the ball effectively.  But even there I did not see the same level of effortless quickness, explosiveness and elevation that we used to see.

For the Warriors to win, Monta Ellis needs to dominate.  He needs to be the best player on the court.  This game was a positive step, but I haven’t seen any sign yet that he can get back to that level.

Buike: Ozzy had a very disappointing game.  He did absolutely nothing to slow down Rudy Gay, which was the primary reason he was on the floor.  Nellie gave him a quick yank in the third quarter.  If KA is not getting it done defensively, you might as well play Morrow in his place.

Private Jackson: I’ve noted above what Jack did to Rudy Gay.  He opened on Randolph on the low block and gave a good effort in defending him.  He was rested for much of the second quarter.  But in the second half, Jackson really asserted his will on this game.  He moved the ball well, gathering 6 assists against 2 TO’s.  And he shot judiciously and well, including a trademark 3-ball dagger in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

Jack has appeared somewhat subdued to start the season.  I think that has a lot to do with the fact that his offensive role has changed.  He no longer has the ball in his hands.  I see no evidence though, that he is giving less than 100%.  He likes to win, and he plays to win.  And so far, he is doing everything that Nellie has asked of him.

Biedrins: Beans has yet to have a good performance this season.  This one was very nearly disastrous.  He picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter, and forced Nellie to lean heavily on Mikki Moore.  Fortunately, Beans returned in the fourth quarter for a very effective run in which he got 7 rebounds in about as many minutes.  One of those was a nice offensive rebound and put-back that stopped a small Memphis run.

Unfortunately, Beans came out of the game with what looked like a lower back injury.  Could this be the secret reason for his slow start to the season?  The Warriors have opened the season with injuries to Wright, Turiaf, Randolph and Biedrins.  Virtually their entire front line.  I sure hope this isn’t the prelude to a replay of last season.

The Natural: Curry had a very quiet 9 assist game last night.  Am I really writing those words?  9 assists, 1 TO in his third NBA game.  Ho hum.  Curry was content to be a complimentary player, setting up his teammates, not looking for his own shot.  He seemed determined to follow Nelson’s agenda for this game, which was to restore ball movement to the offense.

He did a decent job on defense as well. Iverson made some shots against him, but Curry successfully kept both him and Conley out of the lane.  He picked up 5 rebounds, continuing to show the same kind of team rebounding savvy that Monta Ellis has.  And he got another 2 steals.  He’s now averaging 2.3 on the year.  A natural.

Chocolate Rain: was back tonight, after a 2 game drought.  His teammates did a much better job looking for him, and he found the openings against the poor Memphis defense to get his shot off.  He even managed to get to the rim on some nice drives.  He has apparently been working on making quick decisions with the ball once he gets it.

On defense, he had a target on his back.  Memphis went right at him, and Gay in particular lit him up. Nellie did something quite clever with Morrow in the fourth quarter, however: when he switched Jackson to Gay, he switched Morrow to the point guard Conley.  Morrow had a tough time running around after Conley, but Conley had an even tougher time converting that advantage into baskets.  Nellie will continue to hunt for unconventional ways to hide Morrow on defense, so he can get his dead-eye shooting on the court.

The Blackhole: also had a terrific game.  His defence on Zach Randolph was excellent.  And on the other end of the court, he was unguardable.  Nelson ran several plays to get Maggette on the move, either on curls or backcuts, and Curry connected with him beautifully.  There were a few isolations that resulted in jumpers, but fewer than in previous games.  And he even connected on a couple of them.  Maggette was instrumental in the second quarter run that got the Warriors back from a 13 point deficit.

Maggette also made a very conscious effort to move the ball in this game.  He swung it quickly and effectively.  His game can appear selfish at times, but I have never gotten the feeling that he is not coachable.  He tries to execute what Nellie wants from him.

Mikki Moore: It didn’t show up in the boxscore, but this much derided off-season acquisition saved the Warriors’ bacon last night.  With Biedrins out with early foul trouble, Moore was the only player left on the roster who could bang with Gasol, and keep him out of the lane.  He gave some very effective and desperately needed minutes.

Anthony Randolph: Nelson said before the game that Randolph would be playing backup 5, but not against Gasol. Gasol is simply too big for him. And sure enough, when Gasol sat to start the second quarter, Randolph came in. He did some nice things against Thabeet, most notably a pick and roll with Monta (finally!).  But when Gasol returned, Randolph was pulled.  But not before the Grizzlies fed Gasol in the lane, where he “horsed” Randolph under the basket (Nellie’s word) and forced the foul.

In the fourth quarter, Randolph got a couple of minutes more against Gasol but was largely ineffective.  He got his shot blocked, and missed a rotation on the defensive end in his preoccupation with bodying up in the lane.  In the end, Randolph got only 7 minutes on the court.

Randolph didn’t get the chance to show much this game.  The main reason for his few minutes, however, was predetermined: Nellie had a game plan to beat Memphis, and it worked to perfection all night long.  The matchup of Jackson and Maggette against Zach Randolph was too effective to mess with.

We can only hope that at some point Randolph will force his way into the lineup. Matchups will play a large part of it. But so will the continuing effort of this 20 year old to learn the game, and to play effectively in the minutes given to him.

11 Responses to Phew!: Warriors 113 Memphis 105

  1. Glad to get the win…Sad to see Randolph still riding pine. This is starting to look real Chis Webberish.

  2. Don Nelson has been beaten up a lot lately with many people saying that he is not the right coach for this team and some people saying he is not a good coach at all. As the Warriors accumulate losses the criticism keeps growing. I should state my bias upfront, that I am a huge Nelson fan. Also, for the most part I generally like the feltblog as the anti-Kawakami platform. It’s like tuning in to Keith Olberman after Bill O’Reilly has left you with a small bit of vomit in the back of your throat.

    That being said, this entry seemed to me to be skewed so far in favor of Nelson that it ignored some basic facts of the game. Yes the Warriors won the game but not really for the reasons you said. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry won the matchups on offense and defense. They got high percentage shots, forced turnovers, passed the ball well, etc (Ellis especially). It’s worth noting too that Morrow’s shooting was ridiculous.

    What I did not see was a great matchup for the Warriors in the front court. Gay and Randolph had the advantage there. I also saw Maggette miss almost every outside shot he took, for the third game in a row. In my opinion if you give Anthony Randolph more minutes at the 4, the Warriors still win the game. They just have a better roster than the Grizzlies so it’s not saying much.

    Which begs the question, why isn’t Randolph getting more minutes? I’m not willing to condemn Nelson for not playing Randolph. It’s just a couple of games and I don’t want to blow it out of proportion. Also, Nelson’s not saying anything so let’s not assume his motives. There are enough unsubstantiated accusations levied against him. I mean, tomorrow Kawakami will write some BS that somebody passed him a note in study hall that says Don Nelson is a member of the Nazi party and doesn’t like Anthony Randolph.

    Anyways, without being hyperbolic, wouldn’t you admit that Randolph’s minutes don’t make any sense. Nelson’s offensive and defensive schemes are predicated on the philosophy that quickness and skill beat size and strength, a fundamental tenet he learned from Red Aurbach. Power forwards don’t get much quicker than Randolph, and his overall skill level, while still developing, isn’t terrible. The Warriors aren’t making the playoffs this year and they desperately need him to develop for next season. Give him 10-20 minutes each night at the 4, tell him to only shoot dunks and lay-ups, and let him play through his mistakes. He’s earned it.

  3. Felty, great recap. Missed the game last night so I am glad to hear your insights as we often see eye to eye. It was heartening to hear about Monta’s willingness to pass as well as Jackson and Maggette’s realization that they don’t need to shoot the ball every time they touch it.

    PJ, that was funny. If TK did get a note passed in class that would be far superior to the sources he currently uses (his imagination). I have never seen a blogger who has less insight into the game but yet takes more liberties and makes more assumptions. Ignorance and assumptions combined are a scary thing, mix in a personal vendetta and you have horrendous journalism.

    Back to ball. I took a look at the gameflow at and it looks like the Warriors ascent started with Maggette’s entry into the game. I was able to listen to parts of the game while driving to the meeting and what I garnered from it was Maggette wasn’t being left to score in isolation, he was being run around picks and getting the ball on the move so he was in a better position to score. I have been wanting them to do this for a while, treat Mags like a PF, run screens for him weakside, let him come ballside with a step so he can go up and score.

    In any case, looking forward to see how they respond tomorrow.

  4. PJ, I welcome your informed viewpoint, but I will defend myself on one point. If you think that Randolph and Gay had the edge over Maggette and Jackson, just go back and watch the end of the third quarter, when the winning got accomplished. In the fourth quarter, Gay got off 2 shots. Hard to find edge there.

    As for Randolph, I am as impatient as you are for him to crack the rotation in a meaningful way. I love Randolph’s potential, and I agree with you that on paper, Randolph is the perfect Nelson four. So far this season, however, he hasn’t played up to his potential. Whether its due to injury, or just his experience level, he has been missing his shots, breaking the offense to force his shots, committing silly turnovers, missing his rotations, making bad fouls, and most seriously in Nelson’s eyes, failing to rebound.

    I am biding my time with this. A lot of the responsibility rests on young AR’s shoulders. He needs to work hard to get better, and force Don Nelson to play him. At the moment, I think Nellie is doing a good job with Randolph. By playing Randolph according to matchups, he is trying to put AR in positions to succeed. I believe he is trying to teach him how to play winning basketball.

    I suggest we see how this plays out. Everything in Nellie’s past indicates that if the kid can really play, Nellie will certainly play him.

  5. gmoney, good to see you can still use your real handle on this blog! :>

  6. I wouldn’t worry about Monta. If you’re concerned about his quickness, explosiveness and elevation, that’s something to keep an eye on (though he looks pretty similar to what I remember from two years ago). But if it’s his shot, I wouldn’t worry. Jumpers aren’t automatic all the time, and I think he was just having an off-night Wednesday.

    Also, remember that two years ago, defenses had to key on Baron Davis, which gave Monta a lot of space to operate and a lot of open shots. For the most part, those same defenses that keyed on Davis then are keying in on Monta now. That will certainly require some adjustment.

    I do think Monta will be fine and if he can build on Wednesday’s performance, it will be very well for the Warriors.

  7. Jared, Monta had a unique jumper 2 years ago, in that he rose up so high with it before releasing the ball. If he’s not jumping with the same ease now, I’m wondering if that’s what’s throwing off his shot.

    I think he’s continuing to develop as a basketball player. But I’d like to see him recapture his past athleticism as well.

  8. Couple of comments. Monta’s jumpers were wide-open, almost uncontested. And though it seems to be barely remembered, it was Maggette who answered the call when the dubs were stinkin’ up the joint to the tune of a 20 to 2 run by the Grizz. It looked like Phoenix all over again and I was thinking the same dire thoughts. Enter Maggette, he wide-bodied his way to 6 of 8, and the Warriors were on their way to victory instead of defeat.

    ‘Unsheathed their long knives’? Feltbot, that’s pure poetry.

  9. Felt, come back to the Fastbreak blog once in awhile. Meir is the new you. Poor old guy needs a break from being the new whipping boy.

  10. Good call OG. I think Maggette is an underrated asset in Nellie’s system.

    BG, are you saying you miss me? C’mon big guy, no shame in admitting a little man love :>

  11. Sure, with the caveat that you ignore the first 3 quarters when Gay was the best player on the court, you make a valid point. But considering the entire game and Mike Conley’s ineptitude to deliver the ball to the 2 guys scoring at a 60% clip I’m not sure I saw the same thing as you:

    Gay + Randolph – 16/27 ~ 60% ~ 45 points 18 reb, 4 ast, 3 to

    Maggette + Jackson – 16/33 ~ 48% ~ 40 points, 5 reb, 6 ast, 5 to

    It’s not a good matchup for the Warriors. Not last night or ever. Gay matches up well with Jackson. He’s longer, more athletic, more skilled…just a better player. Meanwhile Maggette against Zach Randolph is basically a wash since they are both going to score on each other often without defensive help.