Why is it that the Warriors always play so well when they are down to 7 players? At the end of last year, also fielding a 7 man skeleton squad, the Warrriors earned themselves a “Magnificent Seven” nickname by reeling off several impressive wins. On this night, with Vlad Rad playing his first game in Warriors uniform, and more bitter break-up rumors swirling about the team, the Warriors once again came through with a very nice game. They didn’t get the win, but they played unselfishly and gave a good effort. A small victory, but small victories go a long way towards soothing the savage beast that is raging at this moment in the breast of every true Warriors fan.
Let’s start the player analysis with the two new Warriors:
Raja Bell: You may be surprised that I’m starting with a guy who only dressed for show, and didn’t get in the game. He did get off the bench, though, and that’s why I want to mention him. In the break between the 3rd and 4th quarter, according to Jim Barnett, Bell stood up and got vociferous in Anthony Randolph’s ear. A little pep talk, if you will. And voila, the Anthony Randolph who had virtually sleepwalked through the first three quarters, allowing Hickson to dominate him, suddenly woke up and took over in the fourth quarter.
How nice is it to have a gamer and a leader like Raja Bell on our team? If only he could play this year…
Vlad Rad: Radmanovich looked like a heaven-sent gift in the first quarter, when he made his first three shots. I’m not sure he made an outside shot after that, but he still played a pretty decent game, particularly since he hasn’t played with the team yet. I was particularly impressed with his passing ability. He never got to show that playing catch and shoot for the Lakers. He is also clever at spacing the floor, and cutting without the ball. As an offensive player, he really knows how to play the game.
Coming to the Warriors is a chance in a lifetime for Vlad. If there is one coach in the league who is able to maximize Vlad’s strengths, and let him play his wide-open game, it is Don Nelson. And Nellie is also the one coach in the league whose system is designed to hide Vlad’s weaknesses on defense. Don Nelson is going to do his best to turn Vlad into Dirk Nowitzki. Is the 29 year old Vlad, who is notorious in the league for “not caring,” finally ready to embrace this new situation, and give his all for a coach who is ready and willing to use his all? I’m beginning to get interested in this story line.
Monta Ellis: After hammering Monta in my Pre-Game Jitters, he showed me up in this game. I was pretty impressed by Monta’s floor game. First of all, it was nice to see him actually caring on a day in which the national media was lit up by rumors of him being on the trading block. He gave a great effort, playing all but two minutes of the game. His defense was strong. And at one point, he and Nellie actually slapped hands as he was taken out of the game. What was up with that?
The selfishness that I saw in Ellis in several games this year was not evident in this game. He actually created several nice passes to Stephen Curry and Anthony Morrow, which was practically a first for this season. In fact, the backcourt of Ellis and Curry worked together quite nicely. Monta got 8 assists and Curry 7, and the Warriors’ 24 assists matched the Cavaliers. Chemistry like that could go a long way towards making the Warriors a winning team. Could the absence of Jackson have anything to do with how Monta approached this game? Is there a possibility Monta will remain with the Warriors? Questions for another day.
Stephen Curry: Curry was back in the starting lineup, but with Jackson gone, his role was subtly different. He appeared to be the point guard on most possessions. In fact, Nellie started the game with him running the pick and roll. Curry responded with a quietly great game. He didn’t force his offense, getting 14 points on only 10 shots. And he ran the offense beautifully, with an array of passes that continues to make my jaw drop. Tonight we saw a laser of a left-handed behind the back pass that hit a stunned Anthony Morrow on the hands. We saw a beautiful lock and lob to Monta Ellis that received a rare Ellis acknowledgement. And we saw a beautiful pick and roll with Anthony Randolph. I don’t believe I have ever seen a rookie run the pick and roll as well as Curry has. Nor have I ever seen a rookie who can drive and finish with his left hand as well as he can with his right.
Don Nelson stated that he would have taken Curry with the second pick in the draft. Despite the great performances we have seen so far from Evans and Jennings, I am in agreement with him. I see a very special player in Curry.
The Blackhole: Maggette actually got to play some small forward in the third quarter of this game, perhaps because he got matched with Lebron James, who is as big as Karl Malone. He continues to be the Warriors’ best front-court player. His 10 rebounds led the team.
Anthony Randolph: As mentioned above, this was not one of Randolph’s better games, until the fourth quarter. He simply didn’t compete in the first three quarters, which is something I haven’t seen too often. He dominated in the fourth quarter, though, and was instrumental in the late run that saw the Warriors pull to within a point. He continues to make silly fouls, which leads to camera shots of Nelson making silly faces on the bench.
Chocolate Rain: made an appearance tonight. Morrow drained several nice threes. His teammates appeared to be looking for him a little more. Even Corey Maggette got involved, hitting him in the corner with a nice drive and dish. And Morrow did not get noticeably beat on defense. I’m not sure whether that was because Cleveland failed to target him, or the zone that Nellie played hid him effectively. Or perhaps he’s become a great defender. You decide.
Mikki Moore: I like Mikki Moore. Sue me. He’s not blocking shots or rebounding, but he is willingly holding off bigger players in the post, and giving desperately needed minutes to the undermanned Warriors. He’s a surprisingly effective offensive player. He understands the pick and roll, and has the good hands to catch and finish. He passes surprisingly well (4 assists!). And then there’s that jump shot.