Hope Blazes: Warriors 108 Blazers 94

Aaaaaaaarghh.  That is the sanitized version of the noise I made when I returned home from my no-limit poker game only to find that I had recorded the wrong channel.  Instead of enjoying a glorious Warrior win with a snifter of Lagavulin, I suffered a melted brain.  Someone must pay, and that someone is DirectTV.  I’m switching to Comcast tomorrow.

So what follows comes to you courtesy of the box score, Tim Kawakami (dare I admit that?), and a few kind friends.  I won’t blame you if you decide to skip this recap, but I do want to throw in my two cents on this game, handicapped as I am by not having seen it.

Obviously, Monta Ellis was the star of the game, and I’m going to give him full credit down below.  But I want to begin with the other star of this game, a man who I know will receive absolutely no credit for this win from the Bay Area media.  That man, of course, is Don Nelson.  When I noticed that Nellie started Corey Maggette at power forward, over Anthony Randolph and newly acquired Vlad Rad, I thought I could hear the outraged screams of Adam Lauridsen and other Bay Area writers over the cacophony of poker chatter, chip splashing, and calls of the board girl in the Lucky Chances Casino.  Nellie’s small ball drives them absolutely batty.  Slaves to convention, they simply can’t grasp the rationale behind it. And they also hate when Nellie plays veterans ahead of 20 year olds, because they’ve already given up on this season.

I hope you don’t make either mistake.  I hope that you, like myself, are still holding out hope that the Warriors can produce some beautiful music this year.  And I hope you are willing to open your mind enough to read a fan of Don Nelson basketball attempt to explain why he thinks Nellie deserves the credit for this win.  The biggest reason is simply this: if in a basketball game the worse team attempts to match up conventionally against the better team, the worse team is asking to lose. Don Nelson, almost alone of NBA coaches, is simply not willing to do that.  He is not willing to concede a game before it begins, no matter how big the disparity in talent.  He will look at his roster of players, and look for something, anything, he can use to create an edge for his team.  Don Nelson wants to win.

Hence Corey Maggette versus LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward.  We all know in our heart of hearts that matching up Anthony Randolph versus Aldridge, at least at this point in Randolph’s career, would result in conceding the edge at power forward to Portland.  We know this is true of Vlad Rad as well.  But what about Corey Maggette?  Does playing Maggette at power forward concede the edge to Portland?  The answer is unequivocally no.  We know that Maggette will be extremely difficult for Aldridge to guard.  We know that Aldridge will find it impossible to run with him.  So unless Aldridge can dominate Maggette on the offensive end and on the boards, Portland cannot win the matchup.  Now we have a ballgame.

We already know from watching the two play against each other last year, that Aldridge has difficulty playing against Maggette, let alone dominating him.  And in fact, a glance at the boxscore tells me that Maggette won this matchup again tonight.  Statistically, he played Aldridge even. So why did Maggette win the matchup? First, because Aldridge is a difference maker for the Blazers, and Maggette played him even.  Second, because playing him at power forward allowed Nellie to get Morrow in the game, and match him up against the non-scorer Andre Miller.  Advantage, Warriors.  And third, because he got Aldridge out of the game early in the first quarter with foul trouble.  That set the stage for the Warriors fast break that took over in the second quarter.

Nellie also made other subtle matchup decisions in this game that helped the Warriors win.  I lazily predicted this morning that Morrow would have trouble guarding Roy.  I should have known better.  Nellie refused to concede the matchup, and decided to guard Roy with the quickness of Monta Ellis, rather than similar size. This allowed Nellie to cross-match Morrow with Miller. Unconventional.  And brilliant.

What else?  How about Randolph against Pryzbilla?  By not falling prey to conventional thinking, and starting Randolph against Aldridge, Nellie was free to use him against the Blazers’ backup center.  And thus convert a major Warriors disadvantage in size into a major Warriors advantage in speed and skill.

And how about using the rookie D-league call-up Chris Hunter against Oden to start the second half?  Apparently Hunter’s terrific game was a big surprise to everyone.  But how many coaches in this league could have pulled the trigger on using him in this way?  Wouldn’t most coaches have used him as a backup, and played him against other backups?  Nellie had a game plan, which was to use his big bodies on Oden, and get Randolph as many minutes as possible against the Blazers’ backups.  And he stuck to his game plan, to the point of using a D-leaguer without so much as a practice under his belt, against a front-line center.

I give Don Nelson some credit for this eye-opening win against a Western Conference power.  How about you?

And now, a couple thoughts on the Warriors backcourt, who also had a slight impact on this game (that’s a joke, Nellie-haters):

Monta Ellis: Monta was the clear star of this game.  To which I have to say: Finally!  I have frequently stated that I don’t believe that the Warriors will have much success in games in which Monta isn’t the star.  In this game, he was able to put the Warriors on his back, and that got the whole team going.  Particularly remarkable was his defense on Roy. Who would ever have thought, especially watching him play last year, that Monta was capable of this kind of defensive performance? I wish I had seen it.  Obviously his 6 steals were key in starting the Warriors fast break.

Offensively, he carried the load as well.  34 points and 8 assists will get the Warriors a lot of wins.  Can he do it every night?  Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it.  It must be pointed out that the Blazers backcourt of Miller and Blake is probably the most pathetic defensive backcourt in the NBA.  Neither they nor Roy have a hope of staying in front of Monta.  But this performance nevertheless gives us hope that he and the Warriors may be starting to click.

Monta’s post game quotes were also encouraging. Suddenly, since Jackson left, Monta has been saying and doing all the right things. Simply a ploy to increase his trade value, as Monte Poole and Kawakami are suggesting?  Or does he genuinely believe now that he can work alongside Curry, and make this Warriors team something special?  You decide.

Stephen Curry: Obviously the 8 assists against 1 turnover is impressive.  The kid learns fast.  His scoring was down, and his wrist injury is a concern.  I happened to see one of the plays he made, leading the fast break and hitting a moving Morrow in stride at the perfect moment to allow him to step into a three.  That play may seem unremarkable to some, but to me it spoke of tremendous vision combined with perfect understanding of a teammate and the game. Others may like Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans ahead of Curry. I might grant them that, for this season. But I will take the Curry I believe we’ll see two or three years down the road ahead of them in a heartbeat.

14 Responses to Hope Blazes: Warriors 108 Blazers 94

  1. Felt, you needed to see the game. Maggette was minus 12 for the night. He and Moore were pulverized by Oden and Co. You’re right that Maggette got Aldridge in foul trouble, but even after that, at the end of Q1 Portland was up by 8. The game turned when Nellie stayed with Randolph (despite making several bumbling mistakes) and then also put in Vlad Rad in Q2. Oden and Aldridge were out with 2 fouls, Randolph was defending and getting rebounds, and we started running. Nellie did a nice job adjusting in this game, though. Staying with Randolph, for a change, was smart and starting Hunter in Q3 against Oden was smart. Nellie looked engaged. He even got T’ed up at one put and swore at the ref. Nice change.

  2. COM, sometimes +/- must be taken within the context of the game. I noticed Maggette’s +/- before I wrote my take. But I felt that it did not tell the story of his performance, for a couple of reasons.

    One of the things that small ball does is get big players in foul trouble. Especially small ball featuring Corey Maggette. In that way, Maggette was like the first wave on Omaha Beach. He didn’t fare well personally, but successfully opened things up for those who followed.

    Secondly, when I read the post-game interview, I noticed Nellie say that when he stopped double-teaming Roy, and let Monta play him straight up, the Blazers stopped getting open shots. Since the bulk of Maggette’s minutes came when the Warriors were still double-teaming, I’m guessing that had a big effect on his +/-.

  3. Mikki Moore was whistled for 2 ticky-tack fouls within seconds of the start and was on the bench. Oden, for the rest of the quarter looked like Wilt Chamberlain, dominating the play. Then within moments of the second quarter he was whistled for 2 fouls, neither very blatant, was on the bench, the game changed and the Warriors never looked back. Make-up calls?

    Portland screwed up in two big ways. They decided to go small by keeping Aldridge on the bench with Oden. Advantage Nelson. They also failed to keep track of Morrow. Funny how when he’s blanketed for a whole game the Warriors lose. Were they so confident they didn’t bother to scout the Warriors? I lay that one at McMillan’s feet, again advantage Nelson.

    Dare I say it? .500 would be the 8th seed.

  4. It was really interesting to see how such a good team as Portland literally wilted under the barrage from the Warriors. At one point in the 1st qtr Aldridge was just shaking his head and smiling after receiving several foul calls against him. There is something that really bothers them with the matchups. This is Nelson at his best. Let’s hope this carries forward…
    And cudos to Hunter. I thought he was quite polished for such a quick callup. Definitely something we need (big body, basic fundamentals). I believe the new asst coach suggested getting him…

  5. Thanks for the recap Felty. The story tonight had to be the maturation of Monta Ellis. I haven never seen him play this brand of composed yet intense ball in his tenure here. He absolutely dominated Roy on both ends of the floor and managed to get his 34 without dominating the ball. He and Curry worked very well together taking turns bringing up the ball and initiating offense. In his post game comments, Monta showed further maturation in taking charge of the team and telling the press that they are going to work hard to win and make this one big happy fam. Monta, I was tough on you, I apologize. It was all Jax. You’re off my shit list. The Warriors may not make the playoffs, but with this kind of effort, I will be watching them happily either way.

  6. Pingback: ESPN on Randolph, Nellie and more – Warriors Wire - The Press Democrat - Santa Rosa, CA - Archive

  7. Maybe we win because you didn’t get to watch it!!

  8. Hey feltbot – I enjoyed some of your commens on Adam and like your blog here. I lost total respect for Adam when he suggested that he and a couple of his best commenters could meet with the Warriors and the guy he suggested was CC. That is the worst on the Adam blog and they both just rant on Nelson…. As if… they, with all of their basketball experience really know so much more the Nellie.
    I used to go to the old STH meetings with Nellie during Run TMC days and Nellie was fabulous working the crowd…
    BUT – feltbot – you have to go to a friends house and watch this game. You have no idea how strong Monta’s defense was on Roy – overpowering. Also – the ball movement was beautiful….
    PLAYOFFS!!!!!
    I always wondered why Nellie even with the We Believe team wanted so many 3′s shot when there were no good 3 point shooters. Now we have Morrow, Buke, and I expect Curry will add to that group, along with Bad Vlad.. This game was a @#@$$#@#$ing revelation!

  9. Thanks, Buckaroo… love to have your input here.

    I would like to be a fly on the wall when CC meets with the Warriors :>

    I’m so sick that I couldn’t watch this game. I can’t even get a replay of it on DirectTV. This could have been the fulcrum game of the season.

  10. Feltbot – really liked your points about Nelson, particularly putting Hunter right off the bat.. The real question for Adam and CC is: How many coaches in the NBA take the Warriors roster going into that game, with the season the W’s have had so far, and win that game. Only one… and he is one of a kind.. Oh and to bring up another theme of yours from last year… I guess Adam has already said he is not posting after this win. Airplane excuse – that is # 34.

  11. Totally agree, Buckaroo. Just like Nelson was the only one who could have beaten the Mavs with the We Believe squad.

    OG, flaaron and gmoney, thanks for filling me in. Man, I wish I had seen that game.

  12. Feltbot, check out this blog-it’s video only and you’ll see some more highlights.
    http://heartofthewarriors.blogspot.com/

  13. Just realized it’s not video only, but that is the main feature. Keep up the good work. Haven’t had much time to post, but I have been reading.

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