“A coward turns away, but a brave man’s choice is danger.” — Euripides
In the recent Warriors game against the New Orleans Hornets, the Hornets had the ball and were up by 2 with 0:36 left in the game, when they called timeout. This was the key possession of the game. If the Hornets could run the clock down and make a shot, the game was over. The Warriors needed to get a stop.
New Orleans broke the huddle with David West, Peja Stojakovich, James Posey and Bobby Brown, in addition to Chris Paul. All players who were capable of burying an outside shot if left open.
Don Nelson countered with a lineup of five guards. Corey Maggette took David West at “center.” Stephen Curry guarded Chris Paul, as he had done all game. The other Warriors players were CJ Watson, Monta Ellis and Anthony Morrow.
New Orleans, as expected, ran a high pick and roll with Paul and West. Maggette trapped Paul on the pick. At this point, Paul could have elected to drive left, and wind up in isolation against Maggette. He also could have hit West when he rolled to the basket. West looked wide open to my eyes. But Paul looked West off and elected to wait out the trap. When Maggette retreated to pick up West again, Paul was left isolated against Stephen Curry at the top of the key. With the clock now down to 18 seconds, Paul worked his way into the lane, and tried to get by Curry for a layup. But when Curry stood his ground nicely, Paul settled for a turnaround 12 footer with 13 seconds left. Which he made.
Many Warriors fans and writers were furious with Don Nelson over this play. They could not understand why Nellie left Anthony Randolph, the Warriors’ best shot-blocker, who already had 8 blocks in this game, on the bench. In the comments section to my Warriors-Hornets recap, I gave my thoughts on this decision to two posters who raised the same question. I said that I thought that Don Nelson knew that New Orleans would run pick and roll with West and Paul, and that he did not want to wind up with Randolph matched up in isolation with Paul. That matchup would be a disaster for the Warriors.
The posters I was conversing with would have none of this. They refused to accept that Anthony Randolph could not have blocked or challenged Chris Paul’s shot on that last play. I gave up trying to persuade them. I decided that if they couldn’t understand intuitively what I was talking about, then I wasn’t going to waste my breath arguing about it.
I changed my mind when I watched the third quarter of the Phoenix Suns game. Everything I needed to illustrate my point was right there in front of my eyes. If you have the Suns game on tape, and are interested in understanding why Don Nelson made the decision he did at the end of the Hornets game, then follow along with me:
6:47 third period: High pick and roll leaves Randolph isolated against Nash at the top of the key. Nash sets Randolph up with a hesitation dribble, then dribbles right around him for a lefty layup off the glass.
3:27 third period: Pick and roll leaves Randolph isolated against Goran Dragic on the right wing. Dragic beats Randolph baseline, then shows Randolph the ball under the basket, faking him out of his socks, and calmly reverses direction to lay the ball up on the other side of the rim. A perfectly executed “Dream-shake” by a 6-3″ Serbian backup against the 7′ Randolph, right under the basket.
2:20 third period. On the high pick and roll, the still freshly singed Randolph sags back and refuses to come out and guard Nash. Nash buries a three in his face. This gets Nellie off the bench and yelling.
1:50 third period. Pick and roll leaves Randolph isolated against Nash on the right elbow. Nash breaks Randolph’s ankles with a between the legs dribble, then goes around him for the lefty layup. And One.
Can you watch these four plays, and still think that Don Nelson made a bad decision leaving Randolph on the bench at the end of the Hornets game? Do you really think that Chris Paul couldn’t have done to Randolph what the 35 yr. old Nash and the Serbian backup Dragic did to him so effortlessly? Because that is exactly what would have happened if Randolph took the floor. New Orleans would have run high pick and roll, and this time Paul would have elected to take the mismatch. Randolph would have wound up isolated against Paul in the closing seconds.
If you still want to argue this point, AFTER having watched those four plays, then go right ahead and leave your thoughts in the comments section.
But if you hate to open your mind and actually think about basketball, and prefer to simply spew vitriol, then there are other blogs for you, that cater to that.