Just Short: Hornets 108 Warriors 102

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.

Finally.

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.

13 Responses to Just Short: Hornets 108 Warriors 102

  1. Thanks for the positive update; it’s getting harder and harder for some of us to spot the potential silver linings and keep the faith. Maybe an interesting parallel: Portland is undergoing the same type of devastating injuries now with Roy out, joining Pryz, Oden, Batum and others and they got a scrappy win last night against San Antonio.

    I remember some Portland bloggers got crucified on another site by GS fans for suggesting a trade of Channing Frye (Aldridge’s backup)and Jared Bayless (stuck behind Brandon Roy and others) for Turiaf. Frye and Bayless got starts last night and 55 points between them. To be fair, I didn’t want to give up Turiaf for anybody, but…

  2. CURSE OF MULLIN

    I hope you’re right about Nellie playing AR and CM next to AB/RT. I didn’t understand Nellie putting in CJ for AR for the Hornets critical offensive play. We needed a shotblocker and rebounder back there, not CJ. Without AR in there, SC had to back off CP3 a bit and CP3 ended up hitting the turnaround jumper. What is your take on Nellie’s strategy in removing AR and inserting CJ on defense in that spot?

  3. I was as surprised as you were, COM. So because I know Nellie is pretty sharp, I began thinking about it. I’m guessing that Nellie knew that NO wanted Paul to take the last shot. And I’m guessing that Nellie knew that NO would run pick and roll to get Paul in a mismatch against Randolph. And I’m guessing Nellie countered by putting 5 players on the floor who could guard Paul in case of a switch.

    Once I settled that in my mind, I began thinking about why Nellie didn’t put Monta on Paul on that final possession, which also surprised me. Nellie said post-game that he thought Curry had done a fine job on Paul, and that it would be “unfair” to Monta given that he’d played all 48.

    I think this was true, but didn’t say everything that was in Nellie’s mind. I’m guessing that he felt that Curry was now more familiar than Monta with guarding Paul, having guarded him all game. It would be unwise to put Monta in that spot cold. And, as Nellie put it, “unfair.” I think Nellie didn’t want Monta to get shown up there, having already done so much for the Warriors in this game.

    And by the way, the shot that Curry forced Paul into, a midrange turnaround fadeaway, wasn’t as easy as Paul made it look.

    What do you think?

  4. Curry did the best he could on that play, Paul was clutch. He could have played him even tighter if he knew he had a shot blocker backing him up!

    That said, Nellie 100% blew it…No way you don’t have your 7′ shot blocker in…give me a break on your convoluted switches.

    Plus if Paul missed NO probably would’ve had a put back without AR rebounding…how would that have felt felty? Guess you preferred CJ’s rebounding?

    CJ “fricken” Watson defensely over Randolph.
    Nellie of course used to leave Crawford in for defense also. Have you noticed any end game strategies winning any games lately felt?

  5. CURSE OF MULLIN

    Felt and Scotch: I think Nellie left Curry on CP3 for the last sequence for the same reason he had him defend him the entire game: when you practice against a guy every day, the familiarity favors the defender. I agree that Curry did a nice job on CP3 on the last sequence. I think he could have been closer if AR was behind him. The only reason I can come up with for Nelson to remove AR for CJ is as you state–screen switches. But I agree with Scotch–bad move. I’ll take Randolph’s length and quickness on the screen switch. Nellie underestimates the effect of Randolph’s length and quickness on the other team’s shooters. This showed itself on that last play.

  6. CURSE OF MULLIN

    Felt: have you noticed that Nellie is starting to put the ball in Curry’s hands for end of quarter plays? And we’re scoring for a change. Curry ran a beautiful play last night with a pass to CM cutting down the lane. Not Q4 yet, but it’s progress. Curry makes much better decisions with the ball in the clutch than Monta simply bc he can quickly assess all of the options and adjust. With Monta, it’s two options: either jump shot or drive and shoot.

  7. I’m pretty sure Paul could make mincemeat out of any 7 foot player, including Randolph: if he switches, Paul will draw him out in isolation, then drive right around him.

    And there was no way that NO would let Randolph be a shot-blocking factor in the play. They would either draw him away from the basket to guard West, or involve him in a pick and roll.

    Nellie got the matchup he wanted. If he’d put Randolph in he wouldn’t have. Every once in a while it would behoove you guys to consider that the NBA lifer might have a clue.

    As for the end of quarter plays, COM, I didn’t notice that. All I ever remember seeing is Monta in isolation, and Monta missing. I’ll keep my eyes open for that.

  8. “…it would behoove you guys to consider that the NBA lifer might have a clue.” Just like your commitment when you started your blog you’d call out Nellie when approriate…hasn’t happened yet…ahhh 7-21, Nellie is perfect to you so far? When was the last time they won a close game because of Nellie’s strategies?

    BTW there were no screen/switches on the play, just straight up Chris Paul…they musta laughed all the way to the locker room Warriors going with no shot blocker & trying to out quick the quickest player in the league with a munchkin lineup…back to my eggnog ;o)

  9. CURSE OF MULLIN

    Felt: Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, Nellie stinks at endgame strategy. Just look at his results over the past year? Clearly, it is not Nellie’s strength. Curry is about to make him look alot smarter at it, though.

  10. Well, you just contradicted yourself. Is it Nellie, or is it his players?

    I’ve watched Nelson coached teams for a long time. Hardaway’s Run TMC and Nash’s Dallas Mavericks and the Baron Davis Warriors were pretty darn good at the end of games.

    So what has been different the last two years?

  11. Finally felt nails it with a spot on declaration…

    Nellie can only win close games when he has high caliber players that don’t require his end game strategies!

  12. I don’t get it. All this quibbling whether Nelson is a good coach or not when if Radmanovich and Morrow were hitting shots the Warriors win a ton of games. Of course to some even the Warriors winning games they’d still cling to the belief that things would be better with someone else in charge. To me that’s nuts. Long term problem: The owner. Medium term problem: The injuries. Short term problem: Morrow and Rad disappearing. Why get your underwear in a bunch over Nelson?

  13. CURSE OF MULLIN

    Yes, felt and scotch, that’s exactly my point. Nelson looks good in close endgame situations when he not only has a star running the show, but a star with a high bball IQ. Monta can’t do it. Curry will be able to, just like Nash could.