Once again, fate intervened to prevent the Warriors from having more than a 6 man rotation. This time, it wasn’t injury, or swine flu. It was the weather in North Carolina that caused Anthony Morrow’s flight to be delayed too long to make this game. Crazy.
I suppose the Warriors have every reason to mail in a few games after going for so long with so few players. They must be on the verge of exhaustion. Still, I’m feeling a little curmudgeonly after this loss. In stark contrast to the last game, I saw a lot of things that I didn’t like in this Warriors’ performance, so I’m going to give in to my dark side, and get a few things off my chest.
Monta Ellis: It may seem a little out of line to rag on the Warriors’ best player on both sides of the ball, but that’s what I’m going to do. After this 2 assist 9 turnover performance, it’s time for Monta Ellis to look at himself in the mirror. He is playing extremely selfishly on offense. Exhibit A is his simple refusal to learn how to run the pick and roll. Every game, when Anthony Randolph is brought into the game, the Warriors’ coach du jour calls for a high pick and roll with Monta and Randolph. This play has, to my recollection, never been completed by Monta. Tonight was no exception. They ran the play, Monta got trapped, Randolph rolled into the lane wide open, and Monta threw the ball away. What is going on with that? Does it have something to do with the rift between Ellis and Randolph that occurred earlier in the season? It is an easy pass, and it is perplexing in the extreme that Monta has never found a way to complete it so far this year. The high pick and roll is the single most devastating play the Warriors can run, on paper. With highly mobile big men with good hands, and an unguardable ball-handler with a deadly mid-range jumper, this should be a go-to play for the Warriors. Curry already has it mastered, in the first 20 games of his NBA career. If Monta continues to refuse to run it, the ball should be taken out of his hands.
Exhibit B is Monta’s refusal to look for his teammates on his drives. It is quite obvious to the rest of the world, if not to Monta himself, that he is getting double and triple-teamed on his every drive to the basket. It should be very easy for Monta to identify the open man, and get him the ball. But Monta never considers passing until the last second, when he is up in the air and about to hit a brick wall. His last-second desperation dump-offs are what lead to most of his turnovers. Jim Barnett pointed out that Monta needs to change his mind-set. If defenses are insistent on trapping him, he needs to look for his teammates FIRST. If he proves able to get his teammates easy baskets, his own drive just might open up again.
Exhibit C was garbage time in this game. Losing by 20, there was simply no excuse for Monta to continue looking off his teammates and working one-on-one for his own shot. And yet that’s exactly what happened. It was almost as if he were concerned about getting to 30 points. Was he? Selfish. Disappointing.
Corey Maggette: Midway through the third quarter, in a very competitive game (I believe the Warriors were trailing by 1), Maggette got whistled for a ticky-tack foul, and immediately got himself ejected with 2 quick technicals. The Thunder went to the line for 4 free throws, and the Warriors, now down 5, were forced to go with a disastrous 3 big lineup. Ballgame.
I can sympathize with the feelings of frustration that led to Maggette taking those technicals. No player in the league takes more punishment going to the hoop, and no player in the league, at least in the last several games, gets less respect from the officials. And the foul he got whistled on was a ridiculous brush foul. But Maggette simply cannot take himself out of the game like this when he gets frustrated. Particularly when the Warriors are so short-handed. It is, need I say it…? Selfish.
This is also the third time Maggette has done this to his teammates so far this season. The other two times he committed frustration fouls in crucial situations at the end of the game, that got him yanked, and quite possibly cost the Warriors both games.
Is Maggette a competitor, or a quitter?
Anthony Randolph: Randolph didn’t do anything to raise my ire in this game. He simply demonstrated, quite thoroughly, that Nellie is correct in making him a back-up center. He is just not ready yet to play any other position. Against the quick front line of the Thunder, Randolph was unable to create any of the advantages for himself that he had against Gortat and even Howard in the last game. The power forwards of the Thunder were able to guard him more closely on his jump shot, and deny his penetration. This resulted in Randolph forcing up a mess of awkward and off-balance gunk.
It would help, of course, if Randolph had a point-guard who was intent on working with him to create easy dunks. But so long as the Warriors have Monta dominating the ball….
Stephen Curry: Curry also has a well-documented turnover problem that he needs to work on. He made another couple of lazy passes that resulted in turnovers in this game. The difference between Curry’s turnovers and Monta’s, though, is that Curry’s are the exact opposite of selfish. Curry is actively looking to get his teammates involved.
Curry was the only Warrior on this night who had his shot going. But he rarely got the chance to shoot it. If Monta continues to refuse to look for him, the coaching staff should simply take the ball out of Monta’s hands, and give it to Curry. Watching this game, I’m pretty sure Keith Smart doesn’t have the guts to enforce that, so we’ll have to wait for the return of Don Nelson.
Keith Smart: I was disappointed in Smart’s performance in this game. I’m not sure that’s fair in a road game that had so many factors stacked against the Warriors, but there it is. Smart did nothing to try to impose his will on Monta and the Warriors in this game. After watching Monta blow one high pick and roll with Randolph, he never went back to it. After seeing that Curry was the only Warrior who had it going from outside, he did not take the ball out of Monta’s hands, and put it into Curry’s. One game after watching Nelson play Randolph at the point to great effect, Smart left that play in the playbook. And after seeing the ineffectiveness of isolating Corey Maggette against the quick and athletic Carl Landry, Smart insisted on isolating Maggette against the quick and athletic Jeff Green. This led to a terrible stretch of basketball in the third quarter that resulted in Maggette getting himself thrown out in frustration, and the Thunder sweeping into the lead.
And one more thing that’s been bugging me about Smart. When is he going to demonstrate that he has his players’ back? Both Maggette and Monta have been the victims of some horrible officiating in games that Smart has been coaching. But not only has he never taken it on himself to draw a T, he has never even gotten into an official’s face.
In the final minutes of this game, Curry got absolutely hammered on a drive to the basket. He got hit so hard he couldn’t move his arm for a full minute. The officials swallowed their whistles. And Smart swallowed his pride.