The Dark Side: Thunder 104 Warriors 88

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.

17 Responses to The Dark Side: Thunder 104 Warriors 88

  1. Wow, felt, you make a lot of terrific points here. This is your best work, I think. The only point I quibble with a little is re Randolph in this game. I think Smart should have started him. I agree with you that I would have liked to see Smart let him play some point center like the other night. I totally agree with you re Monta’s selfishness coming out. It’s been building and you can see from the other players’ body language and cold shooting that it’s really starting to bother them. Nellie and Smart clearly have taken the ball out of Curry’s hands to help simplify things for him and let him concentrate on his scoring/shooting/driving. It seems to be working for him over the past several games. But that means putting the ball in Monta’s and CJ’s hands and that’s death to any ball movement. I can’t wait for Curry’s confidence to grow sufficiently for NelSmart to put the ball back in his hands so ball movement can return to the team. I also agree with you re Smart’s lack of (basket)balls tonight. He needed to take charge and take the ball out of Monta’s hands.

  2. Curry is definitely getting the rookie treatment. I think that he needs to be more assertive offensively so that defenses respect that part of his game–which will open up his passing.

    Ellis is trying to hard.

    Agree with you on Smart. Not sold on him yet calling the shots.

    Poor Randolph… He is not ready yet, but to his defense, the coaching staff has given him the most inconsistent minutes in the NBA. Kinda hard to find a rhythm that way…

  3. You need to give into your “Dark Side” more often! Very insightful & lessons could be learned from this if only the Dubs were paying attention.

    Monta’s playing like a bulldog, giving it everything he has & its tough to see criticism of him. But you’re right he’s getting more & more selfish, the ball movement we were seeing is gradually disappearing.

  4. California Dreamin

    feltbot…some great points, and I too am becoming concerned that Ellis is becoming too much of a one man team. He may not realize it but he is not at the precipice and can go either way…simply become yet another selfish “me first” shooting guard who never wins, or becomes a “team first” leader that ultimately lifted players like Bryant and Jordan to the heights they have achieved. Not insinuating that Monta has that kind of talent, he certainly doesn’t, but to really elevate your game in the NBA you must show that you can make your teammates better…and shooting 28 times with only 2 assists is a very disturbing development.

    Agree with just about everything else you said, this team seems incapable of ever taking two steps forward to one step back, it always seems the other way around.

    One more thing… certainly don’t understand the seeming Curry “hate”, he is learning on the job and is growing in his game every day. My guess is that he will not ever truly shine until he is surrounded by teammates who understand how he plays and work to get open. I am quite certain the team made a good choice in Curry and believe he is the least of the teams problems right now.

  5. CD my guess on Curry is its more about who he isn’t than who he is that draws the criticism?
    (See Evans-Jennings-Harden-etc)

  6. Rater than selfishness, Monta feels he has to do it all ( 48 minutes of scoring and playing frenetic defense against a 6′ 9″ all star) and has taken on the hero role. For the good of the team and Monta, the coaches have to rest him before his heart bursts. Monta has to see the team can operate without him. When he does, the team and ball movement will improve

    When you’re perceived a loser, a passive cellar dweller, the refs feel they have licence to give you a jobbing, especially when you’re the the visitor. You’re right, Smart and Nelson have to step up. If the coaches don’t care, the players won’t, and the refs will continue the jobbing.

    Monta’s goes too deep to pass back to the 3-point line so a teammate (s) have to converge on the basket, a la Utah’s offense if they want a dish. DN hates bringing defenders into the middle, but they’re collapsing on Monta regardless and there’s nobody there to get the ball so TO is the likely event.

    The game became unwatchable for me in the middle of the 3rdQ and I turned it off. I’m glad you have an alternative place to Adam’s blog so we can do bb.

  7. Boy, it would have helped had Radmanovich found his shot. 1-9? Each miss was like a turnover. And that was my other beef: 9 turnovers again from Ellis? Holy shinola.

  8. And how could I have left out the job the refs did to Maggette on that non-existent foul that turned the game. I’m not going to dump on Maggette. Crap, if the refs continue to make calls like that against the Warriors wins are going to be even harder to come by.

  9. Excellent analysis, felt. A very nice read…well done!

  10. Feltie, you’re right, the Ws need to quit giving Monta cart blanche and start demanding team play. Despite all his positives, Monta’s 9 horribly stupid turnovers added up to the point differential in the loss.

    Randolph doesn’t have the physical or mental strength to be a center, even an unconventional one. It’s too easy for opposing teams to handle him around the hoop. The Thunder (and Lakers, and others) demonstrated how to do it – bang him and crowd him relentlessly until he goes goofy with frustration and takes HIMSELF out of the game. It’s actually easier to pull off with smaller, more mobile players than with a hulk like Dwight Howard, but the technique works best around the hoop because players can get away with more bumping there. In any case, any opponent can make Randolph wacky because he always responds to rough treatment the same way. Nelson would probably say it’s a maturity issue, and he’s probably right, but I suspect “maturity” is not a word that Randolph would be receptive to. I wonder when he’ll figure out how he’s being worked, but even when he does, he’s still not even an average quality center because he’s simply not physically strong enough, and he apparently doesn’t have ANY post-up moves. He’s just being used as a 5 for now because he’s an available “big.” When the Ws are at full strength again, Randolph will be playing behind Vlad. VR doesn’t have Randolph’s hops, of course, but right now he has everything Randolph doesn’t have (and, sad to say, may never get: maturity, professionalism, low turnovers, an outside shot, an inside go-to move…).

    I’ve been impressed with the effort and professionalism of Corey Maggette this season. I think he came to the Ws as a nearly one-dimensional player, but has really tried to fill in the blanks this year, especially on D. It was surprising to see him get tossed, he’s usually calm on court. Maybe he doesn’t get much respect from refs because he ALWAYS tries to act like he’s being fouled, even at the expense of finishing his drives with the ball in the hole. He should try bringing more “game” and less theatrics. Actual scorers get more respect than hams.

    Curry is slowly building skills and confidence, but like Jim Barnett I’d like to see him avoid the circus passes and dribbling tricks while he adjusts to the pro game. They get wows when they work, but they fail too often. If and when he can reduce his turnovers, he’ll be a great teammate. Until then, we’ll continue to get too much CJ. Talk about a one-dimensional player.

  11. Randolph’s comment to the announcement that he would be the back up center was something like, “I won’t last a half season. I don’t have the body to do it.” He’s right. More importantly, he sees himself as a “Magic Johnson” type, a tall BB player with handles that can do everything. He’ll never be an effective low post player if he feels he doesn’t have the body and if he sees himself as something else.

  12. Feltbot,
    Very good breakdown. You make several good points, and you make them well.

    I do think you were a bit harsh on Randolph, though. I believe he was pressed into service as a 5 mostly because of injuries. That’s not saying he’s ready to start at 4 yet, but he needs to get some PF time when we have more healthy bigs.

    Overall, the team has been making progress on the court. They’d done a lot of good things in the prior 2 games, in spite of losing them both. We’re a team still in search of an identity. Hopefully, this game was just an aberration, and there won’t be too many games like this.

  13. Felt, congratulations for writing a nuanced post that isn’t just a denunciation of everyone who doesn’t visualize the dynasty in the making that you seem to. I’ll become a regular visitor if you show some actual analysis when it comes to Don Nelson and not just sycophancy.

  14. your finest hour,Feltbot.Thank you.

  15. I second the motion for more “dark side,” if that means excellent critical analysis like this. Bravo, Felty.

  16. felt… you need to be able to interview some of the team members to get the real story out to your fans…your work is exceptional imagine that…the warriors owe you….keep the pregame post going…thanks

  17. abbaby, would that mean I would have to get off of my couch?

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