I’m depressed. It hit me hard when I saw the shots of the Warriors bench in the third quarter last night, that featured more empty seats than players in uniform. It looked like a shot of the crowd at a Nets game.
And that was before I got to watch Devean George at center.
Barely two weeks after they finally got their big men back in some semblance of action, the Warriors have been hit with a new wave of injuries. Randolph out, probably for the season. Turiaf, never completely right this season, now too banged up to play. Vlad Rad, who has been struggling with an Achilles tendon problem, unable to answer the bell in the second half. And then CJ Watson, 5 stitches to his shooting hand when Dwyane Wade spiked the ball off him? Ridiculous.
Fully healthy, I think the Warriors are better than this Heat team. Last night’s skeleton squad was stripped of rebounders, and thus unable to execute their game plan, which is to get out on the break. Most of the game was played at the Heat’s excruciatingly slow tempo. Which is why Jermaine O’Neal had so much left in the tank in the fourth quarter. Watching him prance and smirk and give the “Shhh” to the Oracle crowd made me ill. I’d like to see the kind of fourth quarter he’d have after 20 minutes against Turiaf, and with Randolph igniting the fast break against the soft Michael Beasley.
Alas, watching the full Warriors roster play is something for fantasy only.
Monta Ellis: Nate Thurmond said after the Cavs game that Lebron James made Corey Maggette look “like a junior.” That thought returned to me when I watched Dwyane Wade matched up against Monta Ellis. Monta is a very similar player to Wade, but so much smaller and less powerful. He’s Dwyane Wade lite.
This comparison of course isn’t completely fair to Monta. Monta had no defensive frontline behind him in this game. That made it easy for Wade to dominate in the paint. Monta, on the other hand, couldn’t get to the rim against the Heat’s triple-teaming. Also, with the Heat dominating on the boards, Wade was able to get out on the break far more than Monta.
But Dwyane Wade is an amazing player. Did you see the play in the fourth quarter where Wade ran down Monta on the fast break to steal the ball from him? Wade is Monta Ellis quick in a 220 lb. body.
His struggles against Wade notwithstanding, I saw a lot that I liked about Monta’s performance. One game after a complete mental meltdown against the Cavs, Monta was determined to take only what the defense gave him against the Heat. Since the Heat were determined to keep him from driving (did he make even one layup in this game?), Monta was a frequent and willing passer.
Rewind and take a peek with me at three plays that Monta made in the fourth. The first was a pick and roll with Biedrins at the 5:00 minute mark. Perfect bounce pass, convincing slam. This is the play that I have been predicting since pre-season would be a staple for the Warriors. To say that its been a long time coming would be an understatement.
At 4:10, Monta ran pick and roll with Hunter. This time he rose up for the shot, but fired the pass to Hunter over the top of the double-team. Hunter made a nice catch and finish while getting fouled.
Then at 3:45, Monta made a beautiful spinning drive and dish to Hunter.
This is how Monta played most of the game. A nice step forward in his evolution as a player.
Corey Maggette: 25 points on 11 shots. Ho hum. Standard. He also did a remarkable job distributing, even off penetration. One drive and dish to Biedrins stands out in my memory. 4 assists.
Maggette is now shooting 60% over something like his last 17 games. At what point does his season start to get some national recognition?
Don’t hold your breath. He’s still getting booed by idiots on his home floor, not to mention ripped by bloggers like Adam Lauridsen.
Stephen Curry: Curry had a disastrous first half, in which he turned the ball over several times, and couldn’t hit a shot. He rebounded nicely in the second half, picking up some nice assists and burying three threes. I like the resiliency.
Cartier Martin: Martin reminds me a lot of a player named Adrian Griffin that Nellie had in Dallas. A terrific, smart defender. You may have been surprised to see him so aggressive on the offensive end. That’s Don Nelson at work. Nellie’s philosophy is to attack the other team’s worst defender. On the Heat, that’s Michael Beasley.
Even before Vlad Rad went down, Martin filled a huge hole for the Warriors. Now he’ll probably wind up guarding power forwards. I expect him to continue to get 30 minutes a game, to get a second 10 day contract, and then signed for the rest of the season.
The Centers: Good to see Biedrins work for 32 minutes. Good to see him complete a couple of pick and rolls. That’s progress. Unfortunately, we saw little of his old dominance on defense and the boards. Jermaine O’Neal owned him.
Hunter gave some nice minutes at the end of the game. He’s a smart player, has picked up the plays and the rotations quickly. He’s got good hands, and a good shot. I could easily see Nellie keeping him next year.
Devean George. Need I say more? I wouldn’t mind seeing a healthy George play some power forward. But watching a semi-healthy George forced to play center makes me cry in my Lagavulin.
The Little Three: Chocolate Rain made a long overdue appearance in this game. One game after the arrival of Cartier Martin threatened to slash his playing time, Morrow got it right back due to the injuries to Vlad Rad and Watson. Morrow was extremely aggressive and hitting his shots. Can he sustain this performance?
Vlad Rad’s sore Achilles got the better of him in this game. The Warriors last chance of competing effectively limped off the court with him. It’s a good thing I knew about his injury. Because if I had watched him short arm all those finger rolls that he should have dunked without knowing, I would have smashed my flat-screen.
How bad are things going for CJ Watson? I wouldn’t quite say Tiger Woods bad. Maybe Brittany Spears bad.
Or Golden State Warriors bad.