Gut Check: Warriors 107 Timberwolves 101

The Warriors stumbled over the finish line last night, nearly obscuring just how much better they are than this ridiculously bad and mismatched Timberwolves team.  The Warriors lost their legs in the third period, but were able to dig deep in crunch time to preserve the win.  A gritty performance on a road back-to-back in Minneapolis in January.    

Monta Ellis: Monta was clearly exhausted in this game, which may be one of the reasons he did such a great job running the team.  Monta ran the Warriors plays to perfection, had great court vision, and nailed every pass. He would have gotten more than 6 assists if his teammates had the legs to finish their open shots.  This is one of the best games I have seen from Monta as a point guard.

And, he was clutch in the fourth quarter.  Hit a key turnaround J, had a beautiful soaring putback of a choked Morrow open three in the last minute to ice the game.  Never forced anything, ran the plays down the stretch.  Has Monta made a mental leap?  Here for your pondering is one of his post-game comments:

“That’s what we’ve been lacking this season, the fourth quarter, closing games. We’ve got to continue to run our plays….”

Stephen Curry: Curry looked like an accomplished veteran next to Jonny Flynn last night.  Here’s how Jim Barnett put it during the game:

“Jonny Flynn is a different type of point guard than Stephen Curry.  He just doesn’t have the skills, or the basketball knowledge that Curry has.”

Here’s how Corey Maggette put it after the game:

“Curry is going to be a wonderful, wonderful player in this league.”

I continue to pinch myself that we have this player on our team.  A player that simply radiates basketball intelligence.  Always moving to the perfect spot, always seeing the open man, always one step ahead.  As a rookie.

And those skills.  The incredible ambidextrous handle. The crossover. The reversal of direction with the live dribble.  The money J.

Has this kid studied tape of Steve Nash?  I would bet my bottom dollar that he has, even before Nellie gave him his library.  Because he looks more and more like Nash with every passing day.

Don Nelson stole the draft.

Corey Maggette: A gutsy 28, 9 and 4 performance from Maggette, on a night in which his legs deserted him.  Like Monta, he was unable to hit his outside shot, and even had trouble finishing his layups. But he got himself to the line 14 times. And he unflinchingly took up the challenge of guarding the much bigger Kevin Love in the fourth quarter, and once again led the Warriors in rebounds. Maggette has simply put the Warriors on his back.

Feel like booing?

Anthony Randolph: Randolph got absolutely eaten alive by Kevin Love last night.  Randolph got 5 rebounds, Love got 16.  Randolph got 3 defensive rebounds, Love got 7 offensive rebounds.

Why is Anthony Randolph in the game?  You know the answer.  Don Nelson has said it to the press, with regard to both Randolph and Brandan Wright, over and over and over again.  Rebounding.  They are in the game to rebound, and if they refuse to rebound, Nellie might as well play a player with more offense.

The Warriors were outrebounded in this game by 9.  Anthony Randolph was outrebounded by Kevin Love by 11.

The Play That Got Him Yanked: Tonight’s play occurred in the fourth quarter.  Nelson, no doubt to the shock of many, was attempting to play a big lineup of Turiaf, Randolph and Maggette.  And Randolph had just finished making a beautiful soaring putback slam at the offensive end.  Do you know what play I’m referring to, home-gamers?  Did you watch the ensuing play on the defensive end?  If not, cue it back up at 3:15 of the fourth quarter, and follow along with feltbot:

The Warriors, for once, played 20 seconds of great defense on Al Jefferson. And Jefferson, for once, missed his shot.  But there was Kevin Love, slipping inside Randolph, for another offensive rebound and easy tip in.  The ever-eloquent and understated Jim Barnett:

“Randolph had no other job on that play but to block Love off.”

Anthony Randolph has been the biggest disappointment of the season for me so far. Last year it looked to me like he had a ferocious heart to compete at the defensive end, and rebound.  This year, he is repeatedly getting run over. He has looked, dare I say it…?

Like a ragdoll.

Beans and Turiaf: Beans took a big step forward in this game, with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 5 BS.  Great to see.  Turiaf didn’t do much statistically, but he was the only man standing between Jefferson getting 50, and Love 40. I pray to Buddha daily for his knee.

The Little Three: Who?

Paging CJ Watson.  Your jumper is needed on aisle 3.

Vlad Rad: What’s the next level of invisibility after invisible?  Is it possible to be enigmatic when you’re invisible?  Vlad Rad is inspiring me to new levels of metaphysical inquiry.

Anthony Morrow: Made a few shots.  But once again choked the one that counted, the wide open corner three with 1 minute left that would have iced the game.  Fortunately, Monta’s putback covered up for him. This late game choking has become a theme for Morrow this season.

In the pre-season, Morrow challenged Reggie Miller to a shooting contest in a post-game interview. Miller responded: “I’ll be your huckleberry.”

Who would you like to have your money on when the chips are down?

11 Responses to Gut Check: Warriors 107 Timberwolves 101

  1. California Dreamin

    feltbot…good analysis but I have one question for you in regards to AR. While I may agree that he is not playing as well as he might, I submit for your approval that it might just be the fact that he fears being yanked for trying to do too much. What say you?

    It is quite well known that AR never has gotten the rope that some of the other players have, and even Curry seems to get more patience from DN than does Randolph. My guess is that he has lost much of his mojo, and it was often an unrestrained kind, simply because he fears being pulled for making a “rookie” mistake.

    While I understand your frustration, what I hope Nelson does is allow AR to play through his mistakes and allows him to grow. If he moves Randolph before doing this, he will go down in Warrior history as the coach that not only allowed Webber to get away, but Randolph also.

    The only way that DN’s treatment of AR will ever prove justified is if he allows the young and talented forward to play through his inconsistencies that will either ultimately make or break him in the eyes of his biggest supporters…people like you and I.

    • “[H]e will go down in Warrior history as the coach that not only allowed Webber to get away, but Randolph also.”

      This assumes three things. First of all, that Randolph is going to be an impact player in the league. That is a major question mark at this point. If he continues to ignore his coaches, and ignore his defensive and rebounding assignments, then he will struggle to get playing time, no matter what team or coach he plays for. Second, that Nellie “allowed” Webber to get away. He didn’t. Webber got away because of a silly rule that allowed rookies to opt out after their first year. As soon as it happened, the NBA changed the rule. And Webber has since stated that he acted foolishly, and that if he remained with Nellie he might have won a championship. Third, that Randolph will somehow get away. Randolph is locked up for a long, long time. He is not going anywhere, unless Don Nelson decides to send him packing. And if Nellie makes that decision, it will be a good bet its because he fully understands Randolph’s upside, and has decided he’s not worth keeping.

      “It is quite well known that AR never has gotten the rope that some of the other players have.”

      This is only quite well-known among media pot stirrers and fans who are more interested in seeing Randolph play than in his development as a winning basketball player. Starting veterans in the league are not yanked for mistakes. That is just not how its done in a players league. You know that, and MT2, Kawakami and Lauridsen know that, though you’ll never see them admit it in print. Nellie’s veteran role players, on the other hand, are frequently yanked for poor play, which you can see by Nellie’s handling lately of Vlad Rad.

      Among the young players, can you honestly say that Nellie’s leash on Randolph has been shorter than the leash he’s had on Azubuike in his second year, or Morrow this year? Is it shorter than the Suns leash on Earl Clark? The leash McMillan had on Jerryd Bayless? Del Negro’s leash on Joakim Noah in his second year (after four years in college)? Del Negro’s leash on Tyrus Thomas last year? Take a look at Andrew Bynum’s playing time. He doesn’t play in the fourth quarter, and he and his agent are squawking loud and hard about it. Is Phil Jackson’ leash too tight? Are you worried that Phil Jackson might go down in history as the coach who lost Andrew Bynum?

      Stephen Curry has a fabulous basketball mind. His coaches have frequently mentioned that “he only needs to be told things once.” And yet, even he has struggled to comprehend certain things: to wit, the need to keep from committing silly fouls, and how easily lazy passes turn into turnovers in the NBA. And guess what? Nellie has lately started planting the ass of his favorite basketball player since Steve Nash firmly on the pine whenever he makes one of those silly mistakes. And if the last two games are any indication, the message got through.

      Anthony Randolph is not Stephen Curry. Whether through slowness of basketball IQ, or sheer stubborness, it simply does not work to tell him to do something once. As a result, Nellie is teaching him through the carrot and stick of playing time. Just like every other coach in the NBA does with their immature 20 year olds. If Anthony Randolph wants to increase his playing time, what he has to do is very simple: play defense, box out, and rebound. That’s it. He knows that, and yet has not been willing to do it.

      “The only way that DN’s treatment of AR will ever prove justified is if he allows the young and talented forward to play through his inconsistencies.”

      Again, I see this statement frequently thrown around the boards, and I’m sorry but I just think its nonsense. There is not an NBA coach in the league that allows young players to play through their inconsistencies, unless those players are already stars and consistently productive players. Not one. Young players have to learn to be consistently productive. Only then do they earn consistent minutes.

      I am very content to watch Don Nelson yank Randolph’s leash whenever he plays as poorly as he has been playing. I am hopeful that Randolph takes it the right way, the way Stephen Curry has been taking it, by increasing his determination to play the right way, every game. But if he doesn’t take it that way, and spends his time pouting and switching agents, then I will be very content to see him go. Disappointed, but content.

  2. California Dreamin: How does AR’s fear of being yanked relate whatsoever to his failure to box out on a rebound?

    Otherwise, I agree with you that Felty’s analysis is superb, as usual.

  3. California Dreamin

    Fair enough, you answered my questions in a thoughtful and concise manner. The only point I vehemently disagree with you on was the Webber situation. I recall the situation very well and could not believe that DN was so stubborn. Webber was actually living in the Bay Area and yet Nelson never once set up a private meeting between the two to try and smooth the situation over when it was clear to everyone that the Warrior forward was talented but very immature.

    It is also not accurate to say that Webber forced his way out, actually all he did was opt out of his contract. The Warriors still had refusal rights and could have waited till the cows came home for CW to come to his senses, especially when the Dubs started the season 5-0 and looked for all the world like championship contenders, provided they had Webber on board. Hardawy was healthy, Sprewell was a star, Mullin was still playing well, and Seikaly for all his inconsistencies was there to promise that Webber would never have to play center again.

    That team had Ricky Pierce, a young Carlos Rogers, Chris Gatling and even Victor Alexander. I always felt Nellie drew a line in the sand and Cohan chose DN. It was stubborn, childish and was probably the single biggest reason that Nelson A] has had the reputation, deserved or not, that he can’t coach bigs and B] is not in the HOF.

    Otherwise, your response to my question is completely acceptable and as always, much appreciated.

  4. Cal Dream, I also would like to respond to your ‘playing through inconsistencies’ comment. I suspect it is possible that some who consistently make mistakes are grooving their muscle memory and could become irretrievably flawed players.

    I remember my nephew played high school basketball for a coach who had a short lease, pulling players who created bonehead blunders–including my nephew–for a little bench time. He hadn’t a player over 6’3″ and only 6 contributors and molded that bunch into Hawaii High School State Champions. When I see that same behavior from Nelson, I say good on you!

  5. IQofaWarrior

    If you want some Turiaf fun, check out “orangino”‘s highlights of this game on youtube, check out the 3rd qtr, and wear headphones, or turn the audio up pretty loud so you can hear what Turiaf says. You will LOVE it.

  6. mwlx and OG, thanks for the input.

    And IQ, that is hilarious, thanks. Here’s the link:

    Do you think Rony’s infectious enthusiasm will have a positive effect on the team’s defense? Hell, yes! Double block!

    Feel free in future to post any link you wish yourself.

  7. “Seikaly for all his inconsistencies was there to promise that Webber would never have to play center again.”

    You seem to have contradicted yourself, CD. Nellie capitulated to Webber’s desire to be moved to PF. He traded for Seikaly purposefully to appease Webber. And yet Webber opted out. What more was Nellie supposed to do?

    And why are you so sure that this wasn’t Webber’s doing? Even he admits that it was. Allow me to quote from Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball, p. 183: “Webber didn’t care; he had an opt-out clause and wanted out.” I have also seen reports that Webber and his agents wanted him in a bigger market. Do you know for a fact that this isn’t true? If so, please share your sources with me.

    As for the Warriors’ decision: Webber was threatening to opt out and sign elsewhere. If he had done that, the Warriors would have gotten NOTHING for him and the three draft picks they traded for him. Instead, they got Tom Gugliotta and three number ones back. Can you honestly say they were at fault for seizing this fall-back option?

    I don’t know for sure what is keeping Nellie out of the hall of fame, but I’m pretty sure it’s not this. And the record is pretty clear that Nellie can coach big men. At Milwaukee: Bob Lanier and Terry Cummings. Heard of them? From the first GS stint, and at Dallas, at least three all-stars off the top of my head: Hill, Gatling, Nowitzki.

    And let’s not forget Beans and Turiaf, both of whom were nothing before Nellie got his hands on them. Do they count as big men? I’m kind of happy with the steps they’ve made under Nellie. How about you?

  8. California Dreamin

    Didn’t contradict myself at all. I fully acknowledge Webber’s immature behavior…every Warrior fan knew this. But Rich Bucher had written a very troubling story during the playoffs the year before about how much Webber hated Nelson and predicted there would be trouble. That Webber was going to opt out was a forgone conclusion, but Nelson exacerbated the situation by being as stubborn as Webber was being instead of being the peace maker.

    Everyone in the Bay Area kept waiting for Nelson to make a private visit to C-Webb’s home and bury the hatchet and instead he kept making incendiary comments to the press, comments that he had to know Webber was reading.

    Look, you know I have been a Nelson supporter and am prepared to say that DN may have learned a lesson from this…afterall, he made a point of visiting both Monta and AR’s family personally, something he never did back in 1994.

    But Webber was going nowhere but home unless the Warriors decided to move him…and Nelson pretty much made it a him or me standing…Cohan admitted as much at his press conference announcing he was taking full control of the team…a press conference that Nelson attended. I remember it well…DN was standing in the back of the room and the press asked him about it and he said he appreciated the new bosses support.

    Had he sent an olive branch to Webber, things could have been resolved, there is no doubt about it. C-Webb loved playing with Sprewell and knew the team was headed for greatness, he admitted it himself.

    As for the HOF, I didn’t mean to infer that this is the only reason, I am suggesting that Nelson’s poor handling of the situation gave the appearance of not knowing or wanting to know how to handle big men.

    Until Webber, Nelson never had that reputation. Instead people bemoaned his lack of luck in never truly having one. After Webber, people began to view him differently…a view that remains to this day. I agree that he has done well with some big guys, and was an absolutely marvelous coach with the Bucks, Mavs and Warriors.

    But I still believe Randolph will end up being his test case…like it or not, many people think with the proper coaching AR can be a top 15 star, we all heard the comments this summer.

    I am not so sure, but in my mind the onus is on DN on this one, because of the Webber fiasco. I hope you are correct and that Randolph listens and trusts Nelson because if he does, and if it works, the team will be very good for a long time. Most of the other pieces are in place and I have always completely concurred with you about Curry…he has star written all over him.

    Thanks again for the reasoned responses.

  9. I know that Nellie has stated that he wishes he had handled Webber differently. That doesn’t mean he was at fault for the Warriors’ reaction when Webber decided to opt out. I’m not sure that there was anything Nellie could have done at that point to walk things back. Bill Simmons, my pick for the most knowledgeable, and certainly the most sound, basketball journalist in the world, seems to think there was nothing that could be done at that point. Why are you so sure that there was? Ric Bucher?

    And Simmons doesn’t place the blame for this fiasco on Nellie. He places it firmly on Webber. Allow me a couple more quotes (p. 316, Book of Basketball):

    “Armed with that opt-out clause, [Webber] wanted no part of Don Nelson’s abrasive style, even though there’s never been a better big man for Nellieball.”

    “Poor Nellie learned a valuable lesson: you can’t ride rookies when they’re making ten times as much money as the coach.”

    The NBA rules have changed. Rookies are no longer running the league. And Don Nelson is making 10 times the money Anthony Randolph is. Thank God.

    I’m glad that Don Nelson has the power to be demanding with Anthony Randolph. And I’m glad that he is in fact demanding. Maybe the young man will turn into the champion that Dirk Nowitzki became, but that Webber never was.

  10. CURSE OF MULLIN

    California Dreamin has got you on this one, Felt. Simmons’ statements (what was Simmons 5 yrs old when this happened?) do not at all contradict CD’s point above, that Nelson needed to take the high road, be the adult, and extend the olive branch in the Webber situation–for the good of the franchise. That was part of his job as the coach, and he failed. We lost a lot of great playoff victories–possibly a championship–as a result.