Let’s just call this one B minus two. B as in Beans. The Warriors are counting down the games until their starting center returns to action, and they never missed him more than they did on this night. Because with Biedrins in the middle for this game, the Warriors might very well have come away with the win. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph steamrolled the Warriors front line for a combined 55 points and 27 rebounds, and came within one of fouling out both of the Warriors “centers,” Chris Hunter and Anthony Randolph.
Despite this huge disadvantage, the Warriors were competitive in this game. With about 6 minutes to play, the Warriors were down 7, and Monta had the ball in his hands and was headed up court. Unfortunately, he forgot to dribble. That moment of ineptitude kickstarted an avalanche of ineptitude that buried the Warriors down the stretch. Monta was unable to take over the game when it counted, and the exhausted and fouled-out Warriors were unable to hold off the Grizzlies’ interior assault.
Biedrins minus two.
Monta Ellis: Monta got himself into early foul trouble, which if the Warriors hadn’t been pummeled so mercilessly inside, would have been the story of this game. A couple of the offensive foul calls were questionable, but the bottom line is that the Warriors rely too much on Monta for him to allow this to happen. He needs to play smarter, and even back off a little, in order to keep himself on the court. Don Nelson said post-game that Monta’s fourth foul, which occurred in the second quarter, had the double effect of costing the Warriors a large stretch of minutes without him, and taking Monta out of his real game when he did return.
Monta has been a revelation so far this year. He is an elite scorer, and a surprisingly effective defender. He has also begun demonstrating some leadership qualities. But what he isn’t, at this stage, is a closer. He has been unable to close quarters and games effectively. This game was no exception. When the Warriors needed him to take this game over in the fourth, he once again came up flat and turnover prone. Blame the refs if you like, but I see a larger pattern. This is an area where he needs to grow.
Stephen Curry: Curry may have played more minutes than Nellie wanted him to, because of Ellis’ foul trouble, and CJ Watson and Morrow’s ineffective shooting. He played a solid game, but seemed to tire in the fourth quarter. Still, 14 and 8 represents a continuation of his steady improvement.
He was robbed of one assist on a play that Jim Barnett and I thought was sensational. He ran a high pick and roll with Hunter, that he finished with a left handed pass, off the dribble, that hit Hunter right on the hands. Hunter failed to finish the bunny, but picked up a foul. That high pick and roll play is one that I have been predicting since the beginning of the year would be a staple for the Warriors. But with the injuries to Biedrins and Turiaf, it has been buried.
Matt Steinmetz has opined that the return of Biedrins and Turiaf won’t do much to improve the Warriors offense. I think he’s nuts.
Beans minus two.
The Blackhole: Maggette was the Warriors’ best player in this game. He got the start at small forward, as Nelson opened the game playing big. I’m sure that pleased him no end.
Maggette did everything right in the first half. Drove the ball and got to the line. Moved the ball well. Defended on Gay. His fourth quarter was not as good. He made a bad turnover on a 2 on 1 break. But that turnover I place squarely on Monta’s shoulders. He gave up the ball too early, hoping to get it back, rather than driving it all the way, and then giving it up.
Maggette also settled for jumpers on two possessions in the fourth quarter that cost the Warriors. Again, I don’t really fault him for that. On both of those possessions, the Grizzlies were sagging off of him, and basically triple-teaming the drive. The jumper is what was open.
The Warriors needed better play calls in that spot. Either that, or for Monta Ellis to take over the game. You decide.
Chris Hunter: Hunter was terrific in this game, in all phases except rebounding. He is at his best when playing against larger opponents like Marc Gasol. After the game, Nellie was asked if Hunter would see minutes after Biedrins and Turiaf returned. Nellie, replied yes, that he foresees the need to play a third center in the future. He also said something that I have been fearing: that the Warriors’ are unsure just how well Turiaf will be able to play on his knee. We learned before the season that Turiaf has a cartilage problem, and I have a bad feeling that he will be the next Warrior to submit to surgery in this season.
We also learned from the broadcast team that Hunter was limited by shin splints during the road trip. Which explains why he played so little. This might be of interest to Adam Lauridsen and Geoff Lepper and the other commentators who hammered the Warriors’ coaching staff for playing small lineups on the road trip. Actually, what am I thinking? Of course it won’t interest them. They have an agenda that is blind to reality.
Anthony Randolph: This was not a good game for Randolph. He got steamrolled on the boards, even letting the rookie Thabeet outmaneuver him for an offensive rebound off a free throw. Randolph is in the game, first and foremost, to rebound. He has a tendency to forget that at times, as Don Nelson has pointed out.
Randolph also wanted nothing to do with Marc Gasol in the paint, as I predicted. 5 fouls in 20 minutes. He’s not going to earn minutes with this performance.
Vlad Rad and CJ Watson: Both of these guys had off games. Vlad got eaten alive on the boards by Zach Randolph. And neither was very effective offensively.
Anthony Morrow: Who?