There’s not much to say about this game, which means the anti-Nelson wolfpack, led by Kawakami, Lauridsen and Lepper will have a whole lot to talk about. Or should I say howl about.
Don’t be fooled. The Warriors had no chance to win this game. Ever. Starting from the moment that Biedrins was declared unavailable. With no Biedrins and no Turiaf, the Warriors had no way to match up with this very underrated Clippers team.
Here’s why, in a nutshell:
- Chris Kaman has been the best center in the league in the early going. Biedrins and Turiaf might not have been able to shut him down completely, but what they could have done is guard him man-to-man. With Mikki Moore and Anthony Randolph in the post, the Warriors were forced to double-team. That made it simply impossible to guard Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, who are difficult to guard in the best of circumstances. The Clippers offense got whatever it wanted.
- With their shooters left wide open, the Clippers had an ungodly shooting night. They were 58% for the game, but closer to 70% for the first half. That meant no defensive rebounds, and no fast break. This Warriors team is built around the fast break, and if they can’t fast break, they will get killed. They got killed.
That’s it. End of story. If you played this game ten times with no Biedrins and no Turiaf, I would venture to say you’d get the same result 10 times.
Which is not to say that this Warriors team can beat the Clippers once Biedrins and Turiaf come back. They may not be able to, because if Baron Davis stays healthy this Clippers team will be a playoff contender. For starters, they have one of the most dominant backcourts in the league. Jim Barnett said of Eric Gordon: “He’s going to be an all-star very soon.” If you watched him eat Stephen Curry alive in this game, you got an inkling why. When Blake Griffin comes back, they’ll have what Barnett called “a bigger, faster Charles Barkley.” And then there’s Kaman and Camby in the middle, and Butler and Thornton on the wings. If this team doesn’t finish ahead of at least the Hornets in the west, I’ll eat my shorts.
And there’s one more reason the Warriors may not be competitive with the Clippers, one I’ve been reluctant to say straight out so far this season. I’ve hinted about it. Mused about it. Wondered about it. But I haven’t been willing to say it.
Until now. I’ve watched 4 games, and I’m afraid I can no longer escape the truth of what my eyes have been telling me:
Monta Ellis is not a star. Not anymore.
There it is. This is not the Monta Ellis of two years ago. The player who could out-quick everyone. The player who could finish at the rim. The player who could rise up over anyone, and drain that mid-range jumper. The Monta Ellis we have now is earth-bound. His elevation is mediocre. Did you see him brick that dunk at the end of the first half? That’s what that was.
The Monta Ellis we have now is quick, but no longer Allen Iverson quick. He’s simply quick the way twenty or thirty other small guards are quick. That’s what those 6 turnovers were about. He couldn’t get around Baron Davis.
The Monta Ellis we have now can’t shoot. The same guy who shot 60% for a month two years ago, can’t shoot a lick anymore. Why? I think he’s lost his release point. He used to release his jumper higher than any guard I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Ray Allen. He’s not getting the same height on his jump now, and he can’t find the range as a result. Tonight I actually saw him shoot something that resembled a set shot. That is a major loss of confidence.
If what I’m seeing is real, and if it’s permanent, then the Warriors are in big trouble. The Warriors have no star but Monta Ellis. They have no go-to guy but Monta Ellis. The success of their half-court offense is completely and utterly dependent on him being dominant. He was dominant two years ago, pre-moped. He is completely pedestrian right now. I’m praying that I’m wrong, or that I’m right but that Monta has not yet worked himself back into game shape. But if I’m not wrong… this team is truly back to the drawing board.
In a game this non-competitive there’s not much reason to analyze the vets. So let’s talk about the young fellas:
Stephen Curry: Curry was simply taken out of the game by Eric Gordon tonight. Gordon overpowered Curry every which way, sealing him off in the lane, posting him on the low block, and simply bulling by him off the drive. Curry’s only option was to foul. Welcome to the league, rook. In Curry’s defense, Gordon does the same thing every night to established veterans. And Curry’s defense was hurt badly by the absence of Biedrins and Turiaf. Instead of being able to funnel Gordon into a trap, Curry had to play him straight up.
Anthony Morrow: What Gordon was able to do against Curry, he was also able to do against Morrow. Then Nellie tried to hide Morrow on Rasual Butler, who is like the 5th option on this Clippers team. Except when Morrow guards him. Then he becomes the Clippers’ first option. There is virtually no one in this league that Morrow can guard. Except, maybe, Mike Conley.
Anthony Randolph: On offense, Randolph gave a thorough demonstration of why Nellie has had trouble finding time for him so far this year. The jumper that was falling for him in summer league has completely disappeared. Which does not mean that he won’t jack it up every chance he gets. Even when he’s virtually under the basket, he has no go-to move. In one sequence, he tried to knock third-string center DeAndre Jordon off the low block with a shoulder, then went up with a weak shot that got jammed down his throat. In another sequence, he got a nice offensive rebound at point blank range, but got bullied away from the rim. He fumbled the ball, then picked it up and stubbornly fired a hopeless fading turnaround that had about as much chance of going in as I have of dating Penelope Cruz.
When I saw that play, I thought to myself that there is the problem with Anthony Randolph in a nutshell. He is not interested in playing winning basketball. He is interested in starring. He’s a mental case, and he is being aided and abetted in his delusion every single day by the backslappers and hangers-on, and by the columnists and bloggers like Kawakami, Lauridsen, Lepper and Hollinger, who relentlessly tear down Don Nelson for trying to impose some discipline on him.
He opened the game going 1-10. That’s not very impressive in a 7 footer. That’s not going to win you many basketball games.
On the defensive end, it was a completely different story. There Randolph gave the kind of effort that has everyone in the league, including myself, so excited about his potential. In the Memphis game, Randolph was yanked by Nelson immediately after blowing a simple defensive rotation. In this game, he made numerous lightning fast rotations resulting in contested shots. And he picked up an incredible number of charges. At least four, perhaps five. It appears that Nelson’s tough love in the game before got his attention. Thank you, Don Nelson.
In Randolph’s last several games of the pre-season, he failed to rebound. Some of that was no doubt due to his injury. But some of it was also due to his desire to be a star, and a loss of focus. You may have heard Don Nelson say over the summer that he pointed out to Randolph that as great as his scoring was in the summer league, he let his rebounding slip. And you also may have heard Nelson say things in the last week like, “Our small lineup won’t rebound well, but we don’t rebound well even with our big lineup.” That was Don Nelson lighting a great big bonfire under Anthony Randolph’s ass.
Randolph pulled down 14 rebounds in 29 minutes in this game. After going crazy on the offensive end in the first half, he settled down in the second half, stopped shooting, and started swinging the ball to his teammates. Curry and Law ran two beautiful pick and rolls for him that resulted in layups. And he rebounded, and blocked shots, and drew charges. And rebounded some more. Thank you, Don Nelson.
With a minute to go, Randolph created a turnover, dribbled the length of the court and got another layup. As he turned to head upcourt, he stumbled over the ref and sprained his ankle. The Warriors’ last two seasons in a microcosm.
But as Randolph was coming off the court, Don Nelson stopped him, and spoke to him for several moments. They were standing within earshot of Jim Barnett, who commented to the TV audience: “What Nelson told him was all positive. Nothing but encouraging words.”
I’ll make you a bet. I’ll bet you that you won’t find that reported in any other Warriors blog but this one.