Big City? Important audition? Or did Don Nelson catch Private Stephen Jackson’s attention with his benching in Indiana? For whatever reason, Jack was back playing full bore last night. Certainly Nellie communicated strongly that he won’t leave Jack on the floor when he’s hurting the team. And if Jack wants a trade sooner rather than later, he knows he’ll need to play hard.
Jack was back playing hard-nosed defense against Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington. And he pulled 8 rebounds playing power forward. Although he reverted on offense to jacking up ridiculous threes (He was 2-10 from three, while Anthony Morrow was 1 for 3), his defensive performance was in my opinion the biggest factor in this win.
The other major players:
Monta Ellis: With no shot blocker lurking in the paint, and frequently finding himself matched against a big man since the Knicks were switching every pick, Ellis found it ridiculously easy to drive the basketball last night. And to his credit, he kept at it all game. Did he look quick? After watching games like this, I’m not sure. But I note that he’s been able to drive the ball this year against precisely two teams. The Timberwolves and the Knicks. And I saw him get his pocket picked on his first step by Toney Douglas, a rookie. And I saw him pick up an offensive foul on his first step against Danilo Gallinari, a 6-10″ 20 year old Italian.
His ball movement continues to be horrible, and I believe there are signs that this is intentional. His blowup with Nelson in which he said “I won’t do it,” is one sign. Another is what an acquaintance of mine, who was sitting at center court in the club seats last night, reported to me: During timeouts, Monta would distance himself from Nellie, and frequently draped a towel over his head, tuning him out. And on the court, he repeatedly blew off plays called by Nelson and called his own number.
Anthony Morrow got one shot in the first half. One. The line of the night on this goes to Jim Barnett. As the half ended, Morrow grabbed a defensive rebound and heaved a full court try at a buzzer beater. Barnett: “Morrow finally gets a shot!”
Don’t be surprised at this point if Monta follows Jackson out of the door. And at this point, I’m ready to see him go.
Azubuike: Buike had a monster performance last night. Like Monta, he was able to get to the rim at will. And man, does he finish strong. While the Warriors are overmatched physically on the front-line most nights, it is worth noting that Buike gives them a physical overmatch against most off-guards.
CJ Watson: CJ has been the forgotten man so far this season, so much so that Nellie told him during the shootaround yesterday that he hadn’t forgotten about him. And he proved it last night, playing CJ ahead of Curry. CJ had a great game, shooting lights out, playing great defense and only turning the ball over once.
This kind of performance demonstrates why I have CJ rated as one of the best backup point guards in the league. He does everything well but see the floor. But if he could do that, he would no longer be a backup. He’d be a starter.
Do you remember a guy who played alongside Michael Jordan, by the name of BJ Armstrong? (Yes, the same guy who Anthony Randolph fired as his agent.) As a player, Watson reminds me a lot of Armstrong. But I think I’d take CJ over BJ.
Curry and Randolph: One of the story lines last night was how few minutes the Warriors youngsters got. I believe Don Nelson when he indicated after the game that he thought his team needed a win, that this game was winnable, and he went with his veterans in order to get it. But it was probably also a good thing for Curry, who has been struggling, to step back and watch a veteran unit get it done.
Randolph, who has been struggling with foul trouble, got pulled in the first half after picking up his second foul in four minutes. In the second half, he was pulled after tweaking what is apparently a sore shoulder. Other commentators believe he had blown an assignment or two. But the bottom line is that the Warriors just didn’t need him in this game, and he will be needed badly on the back-to-back game against the Bucks tonight.