Another day, another Warrior bites the dust. Before the game, the Warriors got the news that Mikki Moore will need surgery for the bone spurs in his ankle that have been plaguing him this season. Moore struggled as best he could on this injury for several weeks, unwilling to leave the team while it was so desperate for big men. But apparently it got too bad to continue. As a fan, I am greatly appreciative of what Moore did for the team this season. He gave everything he had, playing through pain.
As for the game, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Warriors’ effort and competitiveness, given the fact that they no longer have any option but to start Vlad Rad at center and Corey Maggette at power forward. I loved Don Nelson’s game plan in this game. He began the game by putting the ball in Stephen Curry’s hands, and emphasizing ball movement. The Warriors tried to get all of their players involved. Vlad Rad in particular was the beneficiary of several wide open looks. Unfortunately, his wretched shooting slump continued. He went 0-8 in this game.
Monta Ellis once again wound up with over 30 shots, but that doesn’t indicate the kind of game he played. He really picked his spots in this game, and bided his time. I felt that Nelson was holding him back a little for the fourth quarter, the way that the Lakers sometimes hold Kobe Bryant back. And sure enough, in the fourth quarter Monta turned it on. He made the first two Warriors buckets of the quarter, and cut the Spurs lead to 7. Unfortunately, the Warriors got absolutely nothing from their big men down the stretch. Both Vlad Rad and Anthony Randolph continued to come up empty on open jumpers, and Randolph couldn’t hold off Tim Duncan in the paint.
The Warriors really competed in this game. Watching them play, I got the feeling that having either Biedrins or Turiaf, let alone both, might have been enough to get them over the hump against one of the best teams in the league. So unlike after watching that miserable Sixers game, I wasn’t depressed by this game. As dispiriting as it can be to watch the Warriors lose game after game right now, their play continues to give me hope that once they return to full strength they will be a surprisingly good team.
Monta Ellis: Monta looked like a fully developed superstar in this game. He laid back when he was supposed to, and took over when he was needed. He poured in 35 points, but it was a quiet 35, if such a thing were possible. His 1 turnover, against 5 assists, indicates how little he forced his offense. He just seemed in complete control of his game. His teammates simply weren’t there for him.
Corey Maggette: Maggette also had a beautifully efficient offensive game. He was extremely effective in picking his spots, as indicated by his 8-10 shooting, and his 5 assists. He tortured Matt Bonner, in what turned into an excellent matchup for the Warriors.
Vlad Rad: We’ve been watching the Anti-Vlad in the last few games. Is there any other way to put it? Vlad is known for his outside shooting. He’s not known for his defense or rebounding. But the Vlad of the last few games has been giving a spirited and surprisingly effective effort on defense and on the boards, without being able to hit the side of a barn with his shot. Tonight, you could again see how much his shooting slump is messing with his head. The Spurs were actually daring him to shoot open threes. I wonder if that’s ever happened to him before.
Don Nelson rotated Vlad and Randolph in and out, trying to find some kind of consistent contribution. It didn’t work. And when Nellie pulled Vlad for good in the fourth quarter, the Oracle crowd rained boos down on him. I absolutely hated that. The fans who booed him are simply ignorant. Straight up ignorant.
Two kinds of players deserve boos. Selfish players and players who don’t work hard. Since he’s become a Warrior, Vlad has been neither of those. In this game, he drew the toughest assignment on the floor, guarding the much bigger Tim Duncan in the post. And he did a heck of a job guarding him without fouling. Duncan went 3-10 in the first half with Vlad guarding him exclusively.
Vlad Rad is a player the Warriors need to hit shots. He’s in a shooting funk right now, which happens. His career shooting percentage from 3, which is near 40%, suggests that he won’t be in a funk forever. But in the meantime, he’s doing everything the short-handed Warriors are asking him to do on the defensive end, and doing it well.
That’s more than enough for this Warriors fan.
Anthony Morrow: Morrow has been an invisible man for the Warriors for several games now. The league has scouted him, and he’s just not getting left alone at the three point line. Nellie said before the game that Morrow has to work harder to become a more complete basketball player. Which means, on the offensive end, do more to make himself open. Nellie tried to help him out by running a few plays for him, a little two-man-game action. It worked exactly once. But left to his own devices, Morrow remained invisible.
The problem with Anthony Morrow, as I noted in my pre-season analysis, is that he’s just too slow and unathletic to ever be anything but a spot-up shooter in a half-court offense. Now that the Warriors are missing their top 3 centers and are regularly getting outrebounded by 20, their fast break has disappeared. So half-court offense is what they’re left with. That’s bad news for Morrow. He thrives on open jumpers in transition. In the half court, he’s been wearing a blanket.
Some commentators have been suggesting that the Warriors run plays for Morrow. Run him around 2 picks to set up his jumper, a la Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton. I have news for these commentators. Anthony Morrow is too damn slow for those plays. By the time he clears two picks and runs out to his spot, not one, but two shot clocks will have gone off.
The Warriors miss Biedrins and Turiaf terribly. But they are also badly missing Kelenna Azubuike right now. A shut-down defender, and a player capable of enforcing his will on offense every night. Two things that Anthony Morrow, for all his effort, can never be.
Anthony Randolph: Randolph was brought into this game to play against DeJuan Blair at back-up center in this game (Yes, the Spurs have been playing the 6-7 Blair at center — as I happened to predict). I know all about what Blair did to the 7-2 Hasheem Thabeet in the NCAA tournament. I don’t care. In the NBA, Anthony Randolph should eat DeJuan Blair alive. And that’s just what happened in the first half. Randolph used his speed to get around Blair and force him to foul. In the second half, Randolph suffered from mental lapses. He settled for his jumper too often, when the drive was wide open. And he failed to box out Blair on at least two occasions, causing Nellie to yank him and get in his face. In general, Randolph was terrible on the boards in this game. 4 rebounds in 25 minutes. That’s not getting it done.
In the fourth quarter, when Nellie gave up on the downcast Vlad Rad, Randolph battled extensively with Duncan in the post. He did a decent job, but just doesn’t have either the strength or the savvy to stay with Duncan at this point in his career.
Stephen Curry: Curry’s game didn’t make much of an impression in the box score. But he always manages to do something good to surprise me. In this game, his defense on Tony Parker was a revelation. He had very little trouble staying in front of Parker, and successfully stripped him on several occasions. Take a look at Parker’s line: 5-11 for 12 pts. 3 assists against 5 turnovers. That’s a pretty great defensive game. Either Parker has slowed considerably, or Curry is a lot quicker on his feet than people give him credit for.
One thing Curry has on defense that cannot be denied is a phenomenal intelligence. He’s barely a quarter of the way through his first season, and he appears to know exactly where his man wants to go, and how to keep him from getting there. And there’s that nose for the ball: 4 steals.
Curry was hampered by foul trouble in this game, which has been a frequent problem for him. One was a silly offensive foul at the end of the first half, which denied Monta his first quarter ending bucket of the season. Another was on George Hill. So three fouls while holding down Tony Parker. I’m impressed.