“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” — Macbeth I,i.
Bill Spooner, Jason Phillips and Mark Ayotte are the three refs that cheated the Warriors out of this win tonight. If they are going to take it on their shoulders to change the outcome of an NBA game in the final seconds, then I think it’s only right that they get full credit.
What happened at the end of this game was obvious to all that watched: With three seconds left, and the Warriors up 1, Corey Maggete fell to the floor to secure the game-sealing defensive rebound, and called timeout. The refs turned a blind eye to Maggette’s timeout call, and a blind ear to the Warriors’ bench, who were also calling for it. On the ensuing jump ball, they gave George Karl an instantaneous timeout as soon as J.R. Smith touched the ball. And then, on a J.R. Smith desperation heave from 40 feet, Bill Spooner, Jason Phillips and Mark Ayotte decided to call a phantom foul on Monta Ellis and award this game to the Denver Nuggets.
An abomination. Unfortunately, a fact of life in the NBA. What can you do? Nothing but make a record.
Before the repugnant ending, this was a pretty good basketball game. The Warriors overcame a lot of adversity to get in position for this win. Once again, they got next to nothing from their big men. Biedrins and Turiaf got a combined 6 points and 7 rebounds. Anthony Randolph was putrid on offense, and completely invisible on defense. The Warriors got outrebounded by 12, while giving up a ridiculous 19 offensive rebounds.
Once again the Warriors got next to nothing from their little three, Morrow, Watson and Vlad Rad. They got a combined 14 points on 6-16.
But the Warriors’ big three were magnificent. Particularly Corey Maggette, who scored 38 points on 12-16, with 7 rebounds. And Stephen Curry, who had the game of his young career: 26 points on 10-13, including an incredible 6-6 from three, and 6 assists against 2 turnovers. Along with Monta Ellis, who contributed 32 and 6, the big three were responsible for close to 3/4 of the Warriors’ points. They put the Warriors on their shoulders, and it looked like they were on the verge of putting this game away, until Bill Spooner, Jason Phillips and Mark Ayotte decided otherwise.
Monta Ellis: Monta is as good an athlete as exists in the world today. He knew he could get to J.R. Smith’s shot, and he knew he had the body control to avoid fouling. That was the problem. Monta’s self-confidence gave a bad ref the opportunity to steal the game.
There is little question that Monta would have been better served by backing off. There is no reason to challenge that closely a running 3 point shot 40 feet from the basket with no time left. But I don’t feel it is completely fair to blame Monta for this play. Because he made the play.
Which is not to say I don’t find fault with Monta in this game. I do. With less than a minute left, and the Warriors up 1 with possession, Don Nelson put the ball in Monta’s hands, and asked him to make a play. And once again, as has unfortunately been the case all season long in crunch-time, Monta came up short. He tried to split a double team, and lost the ball. Turiaf, who got his hands on the ball for a moment, was credited with the turnover, but it was Monta’s.
For me, this turnover spoiled what was otherwise a splendid performance. It was, I believe, Monta’s second of the fourth quarter, and another of the many crunch-time failures that he has suffered so far this season. At least at this stage of his development, Monta has not displayed the decision-making ability, nor the handle, that you would want from a crunch-time playmaker. Is he the player that the Warriors want to initiate their offense at the end of the game? Don Nelson made a very interesting choice at the end of this game, that put that in question.
Stephen Curry: So many things were impressive about Curry’s performance in this game. The incredible shooting. The beautiful cross-over to escape a double team, drive and left-handed behind-the-back dish to Maggette. The great look up court to find Morrow cutting to the basket. The perfect lock and lob to Monta Ellis. The great control with which he played, on both ends of the court. Only 3 fouls this game.
But nothing was as impressive as how Curry ran the Warriors’ team in crunch time. After scoring 20 in the first half, Curry took all of 2 shots in the second half. Both in crunch time. Both exactly when the Warriors needed them. And both 3 pointers. And he buried both of them. He also came up with a huge steal, and blocked a Joey Graham shot, for which he wasn’t credited.
And all of this came before he made the play of the game.
With 24 seconds left, after having seen Monta fail one too many times, Don Nelson decided to put the ball in his rookie’s hands. For the first time this season, Stephen Curry had the responsibility for getting the Warriors a last shot. Curry caught the ball at the top of the key, and then drove right. When he drew two defenders, he reversed direction with a live dribble, and looked for the open man. It was Monta Ellis, on a dive cut. Monta converted, and the Warriors took a 1 point lead with :15 seconds left. It would have, and should have, been the game winner.
Stephen Curry demonstrated the kind of player he is in this game. I have been making the argument all year long that he is as close to a reincarnation of Steve Nash as you could ever hope to see. He is, in fact, right now, far far ahead of where Steve Nash was in his third NBA season. This kid is going to be one of the best point guards in the game.
And he just might be the player who should have the ball in his hands at the end of the game for the Warriors. Right now. As a rookie.
Corey Maggette: I’ve run out of superlatives in describing Maggette’s play as of late. Let me just add this: in addition to carrying a huge scoring load, Maggette has been the Warriors best defensive big man this season. He was the only Warriors player who was successful at keeping Kenyon Martin off the offensive boards. And his huge defensive rebound with 3 seconds left secured the Warriors’ victory. Isn’t that right, Bill Spooner?
Beans and Turiaf: They are just not there yet. They are useful for keeping big men from dunking in the paint, but very little more. Nellie has voiced impatience with Biedrins’ play. I’m adding my voice. The Warriors are desperate for him to show up.
Turiaf played the fourth quarter of this game, after suffering an ankle sprain. His heart is huge, but like Biedrins is merely a shadow of himself. And now I fear he’ll once again be casting that shadow from the bench, at least for tomorrow’s game.
Anthony Randolph: Randolph has yet to show up in any of his starts at power forward. He was miserable, once again, in this game. Kenyon Martin ate him alive, both offensively, and on the offensive glass. In his opening 8 minute stint, Randolph contributed 0 points, 2 TO’s, and only 1 defensive rebound. He managed a couple of rebounds against the Nuggets’ second unit in the second quarter, but only got one rebound in the second half. 5 total. That is just not getting it done, especially against an undersized Nuggets’ team.
Randolph was also very lazy with the ball, committing 5 TO’s. After one particularly ugly turnover, Barnett commented that it looked like Randolph hadn’t completely woken up from his pre-game nap.
The bottom line: -6.
I’m going to start a new Anthony Randolph feature, for the edification of all of those in the media, and at home, that have been howling for Nellie to give Randolph more minutes. I’m calling it:
The Play That Got Him Yanked.
Tonight’s play occurred near the end of the second half, and it immediately got Randolph yanked. Do you remember what it was, home-gamers?
At 2:20 of the second quarter, Kenyon Martin was thrown an entry pass at the free throw line. Instead of playing good position defense, Randolph lunged for the steal. He missed, and Martin ended up with an easy drive, drawing the fourth foul on Chris Hunter. Nellie immediately replaced Randolph with Devean George.
Do you think this play, or any play of this sort, will ever get reported by the mainstream media? You can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t. Not ever. Doesn’t sell newspapers.
It will be reported here.
The Little Three: Once again, a major letdown. And yet, the Warriors almost survived it.
Not sure why Vlad Rad got so little time in this game. If I had to guess it would be this: Denver Nuggets, 19 offensive rebounds.
CJ Watson has completely lost confidence in his shot. Is it contagious?
Anthony Morrow is such a hopelessly poor defender that he has lost his job to a CJ Watson that can’t hit a shot. That is the bottom line. In the pre-season, I wrote that I didn’t believe that Anthony Morrow could ever be an NBA starter, due to his defensive deficiencies. Now, after the trades of Stephen Jackson and Marco Belinelli, the loss to injury of Kelenna Azubuike, and the desperation shift to power forward of Corey Maggette, Anthony Morrow has still failed to make himself the Warriors small forward. He is getting doused with kerosene and lit on fire every single game, in every conceivable matchup.
Will his offensive contributions ever be worth that?