This much was made clear by this game: The Golden State Warriors have passed by the New Orleans Hornets in talent. They are the better team. All that is needed now is for the Warriors to get their team back.
In this game, the short-handed Warriors were playing on the road on a back-to-back. They played a 7 man rotation, while the Hornets got contributions from 11 players. They played their power forward at center, their small forward at power forward, and a back-up point guard at small forward. And they gave the Hornets everything they could handle. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the depleted and undersized Warriors couldn’t keep the Hornets off the boards, they may well have won this game going away.
The Hornets got a ridiculous 18 offensive rebounds in this game. They outscored the Warriors 22-5 in second chance points. Do you think that Andris Biedrins and Rony Turiaf might have helped even up that disparity?
This game was B minus one. Saturday at home against Phoenix, the Warriors will welcome back Andris Biedrins and Rony Turiaf. Hopefully for good. And we will finally, FINALLY, get to watch some Warriors basketball. I don’t have high expectations for the next few games after they get back. It will take time for the Warriors centers to get their legs and conditioning back, let alone get back into the flow of the game. But we will be watching Warriors basketball again.
Mr. Anthony Randolph: What a difference 3 inches and 10 lbs. (I think it is actually 20 or more lbs.) can make in the NBA. Marc Gasol is a player that Anthony Randolph wanted no part of, and couldn’t do anything with. Emeka Okafor is a player that Anthony Randolph ate alive, with a side of fava beans. Credit Don Nelson for understanding this difference, and having the creativity to start Randolph at center in this game. Nelson withheld his announcement of the switch in starting lineups until right before game time, thus denying the New Orleans coaching staff the opportunity to game plan. Vintage Nellie.
Randolph was absolutely huge in this game. No doubt energized by the start, he was ferocious in the paint. He blocked 8 shots, 6 of which came in the first quarter, when the Hornets were trying to force the game-plan that they saw Memphis work against the Warriors: force the ball inside. Randolph absolutely stoned Ekafor at the basket, forcing him into a humiliating 4-17.
It helps of course that Okafor is slow as an ox, and has the shooting touch of a rusty robot. The trade that brought Okafor to the Hornets for Tyson Chandler is the chief reason why they are so much worse as a team. Did you see how the Warriors literally waltzed to the rim in the first quarter, until the Hornets decided to help Okafor out by packing the paint and daring the Warriors to shoot from outside? Could the Warriors have run that lay-up line with Chandler guarding the rim instead? NBA snake-oil salesman, err… statistician, John Hollinger has written that the Hornets ripped off the Bobcats in this trade. He also hated the Bobcat’s pick-up of Stephen Jackson, predicting that it would result in a net of -1 wins this season. Take my advice: the next time that Larry Brown and John Hollinger disagree on a player evaluation, bet on Larry Brown.
Randolph did several other nice things in this game. He rotated well, and rebounded decently despite going for every shot block. He ran the break exceptionally well, with the result that he essentially ran Okafor off the court. Because of Randolph, the Hornets were forced to give up on their game plan, and wound up playing West and Songaila for long minutes at center.
This is a nice confidence booster for Randolph, coming as it does right before his impending switch back to power forward. Oh my goodness am I excited to see a frontline of Biedrins/Turiaf, Randolph and Maggette. Will that frontline get outrebounded? Will it block some shots? Will it trigger any fast breaks?
The Natural: Stephen Curry played all but one minute of this game, and guarded Chris Paul every minute he was on the court. Let’s compare the lines of the rookie and the all-star:
Curry 6-13, 3-5 from three, for 17 pts. 10 reb. 7 ast. 2 to. 2 stl.
Paul 8-17, 1-3 from three, for 20 pts. 5 reb. 7 ast. 0 to. 1 stl.
Curry was phenomenal in a game in which most of his energy was expended on containing Paul at the defensive end. And he did a fantastic job running over picks, and keeping himself between Paul and the basket. But he also did a great job running the offense. Take a look at his 3.5 to 1 assist/t.o. ratio in this game. Curry now has his ratio above 2 to 1 on the season, and climbing. His rebounding savvy and grittiness are out of this world. His steal numbers are among the league leaders. And his three point percentage is now nearing elite status.
I wonder what his assist totals will look like when he gets to play pick and roll with a big man who can finish with a dunk? We’re about to find out.
Tyreke Evans may turn out to be a more valuable player than Stephen Curry. Evans has the look of a superstar on the order of Dwyane Wade. But there is no doubt in my mind that Stephen Curry was the best point guard in the draft, and is shaping up to be one of the best point guards in the league. Do me a favor and look up Steve Nash’s stats in his first year as a full-time point guard under Don Nelson, which was his third year in the league. The comparison of Curry’s stats in this, his first year, to Nash’s in his third year are eye-opening. Curry is a simply incredible talent.
Don Nelson stole the draft. Again.
The Blackhole: Corey Maggette continued his streak of superb basketball in this game. His offensive efficiency continues to stand out. But what has really been impressive has been his willingness and ability to battle much larger power forwards in the paint. In this game, Maggette’s grit and heart going head to head with David West, an all-star power forward, was a key reason this game was so close down the stretch.
Take a look at these lines:
Maggette: 8-12 for 22 pts. 10 reb. (+8).
West: 6-13 for 14 pts. 8 reb. (-8).
Feel like booing?
Monta Ellis: What does it mean that I am placing Ellis fourth on my list for discussion on a night when he went for 35 points on an efficient 15-26 from the floor? I think it means two things. First, that performances like this are becoming routine for the Warriors’ emerging superstar. And second, that this Warriors team has some real talent, and can be pretty darn good once they get everyone healthy.
Monta and Curry are looking more and more comfortable playing together. Curry is clearly the point guard now, and Monta is playing off the ball. Nevertheless, Monta is developing a feel for feeding his teammates off of his drives, as his 5 assists indicates. His turnovers remain high, but they may simply be a fact of life for a player that is relied on so heavily to create his own offense. They are for Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.
CJ Watson, Anthony Morrow, and Vlad Rad: Nellie has been alternating the roles of these three players, in a desperate attempt to find someone who can provide some outside shooting. Quite perplexingly, it has not been working. Tonight was CJ Watson’s turn in the starting lineup, playing small forward. He did a credible job harassing the much bigger Peja Stojakovich. But he simply cannot find his outside shot, which has been so reliable in the past.
Morrow was somewhat less invisible than he has been in the last few weeks. But 4-9 is not going to keep him on the court once the Warriors get to full strength.
Vlad Rad was simply terrible, again. 0-3 and clearly lacking for confidence in his shot, and completely ineffective on defense and on the boards. The Warriors were -19 in Vlad’s 10 minutes on the court. That’s ugly, but not as ugly as actually watching him get punked by Darius Songaila. Vlad has been letting his ENIGMA flag fly.
These three players, who between them have a lifetime 3 pt. shooting percentage of close to 40, shot 1-10 from 3 pt. range in this game. Obviously, if they had simply made two more, this game could have had a different outcome. Perplexing. Frustrating. But help is on the way, in the form of more traditional roles, and more open looks.
B minus zero.