Did you enjoy watching this game? Does the effort that this skeleton Warriors team gave against the second best team in the West mean something to you as a fan? It does to me. Every player on this Warriors team has earned my respect this season.
I don’t think I’m alone. Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette and Stephen Curry are beginning to earn individual accolades around the NBA for what they are accomplishing. Respect for the team has come slower, which is no surprise. That will only come with wins. But I think the league is beginning to wake up to what is coming. It may happen later this year. It may not happen until next year. But when this Warriors team finally takes the floor with a fully healthy roster, they will be a force.
Meanwhile, these Warriors are fighting for, and gaining, respect. With every game, they are making their name.
Monta Ellis: This was not one of Monta’s better games. Whether his ankle was bothering him, or perhaps just the ridiculous string of minutes he’s put together so far this season, he appeared a step slow. Didn’t attack the basket. Was a step slow guarding both JR Smith (first half) and Chauncey Billups. Billups in particular ate him up in the fourth quarter. His free throws again gave him problems. Maggette makes his in the clutch. Monta doesn’t.
And then, of course, there was that ridiculous challenge of Ty Lawson at half-court with no time left on the clock in the third quarter (notice I didn’t say “foul”). Those three points, and the momentum swing they represented, may again have cost the Warriors this game.
Memo to Monta: Stop it!
On the other hand, this was another in a long string of superstar performances from Monta. Just the fact that I dared to call a 53 minute with no rest, 39 point, 6 rb., 10 asst, 3 TO performance an “off-day” gets at my meaning. And free throw woes aside, Monta rose to the occasion in crunch time, particularly with that amazing catch-and-shoot three to tie the game in regulation.
There has been a lot of discussion this season about whether Monta Ellis is, or can be, a point guard. Rewind with me and take a look at three plays that occurred in the third quarter, during the Warriors surge into the lead.
8:29 Monta drives the lane, and finds Curry in the corner for an open three. Monta saw him all the way, drove with the intention of passing, and hit Curry right on the hands. Is it time to put to rest the Monta is freezing Curry out story-line?
3:50 Monta drive and dish to Maggette for an open three. Hit him in the hands.
0:50 Monta and Maggette play a beautiful 2-man game that results in a Maggette layup.
Take a look at those three plays and tell me that Monta Ellis is not a point guard. He’s come a long way, baby.
Corey Maggette: You couldn’t design a defender more likely to slow Maggette down than either Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin. Two players with a size and length advantage, but little or no disadvantage in quickness. And when Maggette started this game 2-5 and left in the first quarter with 3 quick fouls, I felt sure he was in for a tough night.
But no, Maggette exploded in the second half, and when it was all said and done, he continued his remarkable string of games over 25 points and 60% shooting. He also chipped in 9 rebounds and 6 assists. The man is playing like God right now.
The Warriors suffered down the stretch with their failure to rebound at the defensive end. Kenyon Martin, who was being guarded by Maggette, got many of those offensive rebounds. But as Jim Barnett noted, it was Maggette’s responsibility to give help on Carmelo Anthony on those plays, which left KMart untended.
Stephen Curry: A great rookie point guard took the floor last night. It wasn’t Ty Lawson. I absolutely loved this game from Curry, on a night where for much of the game he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his shot. Why? Because he didn’t let his shooting woes get in his head. Not one little bit.
His defense on the much bigger Billups in the first half was remarkable. I noticed Billups trying to post him up four times. The first two times Curry bumped him into difficult turnarounds, which he missed. The next two times Curry drew a charge, and got a steal. Billups never tried to post him up after that. Curry did an equally adept job at keeping the lightning quick Ty Lawson in front of him.
And in crunch time and overtime, you would have never known that Curry’s shot was off. He fearlessly launched, and hit, two huge dagger threes. Take another look at the one he hit at 2:45 of the fourth quarter. Monta takes the ball on the break. Curry starts far behind Monta, but puts his head down and streaks by him at full speed down the left side. As soon as he reaches the three point line on the left wing, Monta hits him with the pass, Curry stops on a dime and launches the quick-release three. Net.
This is a rookie?
Half-a-Player: Don Nelson recently said the Warriors were playing with seven and a half players. I took the half to refer to Devean George, who is still limited in his return from injury. Half-a-Player got 39 minutes in this game, largely because of his terrific defense on Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was held to 7-22 in this game, and only 1-5 in the fourth quarter.
This performance was the reason the Warriors picked him up in the off-season. There was a lot of fan noise when the Warriors traded Marco Bellinelli to the Raptors for George. At the time, Bellinelli was stuck behind Monta, Curry, Azubuike, Morrow and Watson on the Warriors’ depth chart. (Now he’s stuck on Toronto’s bench.) Obviously, the Warriors gave up a marginal player that they had no forseeable use for, for a nice defensive piece where they had a sizable hole in their lineup (and, of course cap considerations).
Simple question: Could Marco Belinelli hold Carmelo Anthony to 1-5 in the fourth quarter?
The Centers: Beans played another good game. He’s looking more and more like his old self. Unfortunately, the 300 lb. Nene (Are you buying his 250 lb. listing? Do you really think he weighs 20 lbs. less than Lebron? I’m taking over 20 lbs. more, sorry.) was simply too much for him to handle.
Hunter gave the Warriors some great minutes. He picked up his rebounding, and took the ball to the hoop with some authority. But as his -7 indicates, he was more a stop-gap than a positive force.
The Warriors really missed Turiaf in this game.
The D-League All-Stars: Fell back to earth against this super-tough front line. Martin was largely ineffective, and looked positively panicked on the offensive end. He made two bad turnovers that got him yanked for the game.
I’m guessing Tolliver didn’t get many minutes in this game because Nellie liked the ability of Maggette and George to switch on Carmelo Anthony. No way Tolliver could stay in front of Carmelo.
Tolliver must make an awful lot of threes in practice. That’s the only possible explanation for Nellie drawing up a three for him at the end of overtime. I think he’s had a couple of in-and-out jobs, but has yet to hit a three in a game.
He wasn’t expected to hit the one he tried at the end of regulation. Nellie drew up that play for him to try and draw the foul. His size made him a good target, and he did a good job of drawing contact. The rest was up to the integrity of the refs. Did they pass the test?
Don Nelson: That play was one of several clever Nellie play-calls in this game. And in general, I think the job that Don Nelson has done this season in keeping this fractured team together, and playing hard, has been completely overlooked by the media. It will not be overlooked by Feltbot.
Lets look at what Nellie and his staff have accomplished this season:
- Begun transforming Monta Ellis into a point guard, almost without him realizing it. And in the process, into a superstar.
- Developed Curry into an NBA point guard with the “total package.” His transformation into a plus defender is particularly surprising. Because, as we all know, “Don Nelson doesn’t care about defense!”
- Found an offensive role for Corey Maggette that has transformed him into one of the most effective players in league history.
- Dealt with the Stephen Jackson mess with a minimum of disruption.
- Integrated a ridiculous number of new players.
- Put a competitive team on the floor every single night, with a skeleton roster. And by competitive, I mean competitive against the best teams in the league.
Where does this team’s belief in itself come from? Why do they think they can win every game, regardless of how few players are available to take the court? Why is their cameraderie so strong? Why is their will to improve, and to play as a team so strong? Why do they give everything they have, on both ends of the court, every single game?
Why are they so entertaining and so watchable?
You will not find the answer reading Jenkins, Ratto, Kawakami or Lauridsen.