This game highlighted a lot of the things that the Warriors are currently lacking. The Warriors lack, quite obviously, a long wing defender who could have been used to guard Kevin Durant. No Stephen Jackson, no Kelenna Azubuike, not even a Cartier Martin. Durant went for an effortless 45 and 11. The Warriors lack, at least at the moment, a starting center who can rebound and defend the paint. The Thunder out-rebounded the Warriors by 14, and Russell Westbrook went to the line for 17 free throws, making 14 on the way to a 28 point 8 assist performance. The Warriors lack a power forward who is capable of matching up against the Jeff Greens of the league. Like, perhaps, Anthony Randolph. The Warriors were forced to give Anthony Tolliver help on Green, which exacerbated their problems on the boards.
And the Warriors lack Monta Ellis, superstar. Monta is back, but he has not been the star of any of the three games he has played since his return.
Monta Ellis: It was a theme of mine earlier this season, while Monta was struggling to get into game shape, that the Warriors as presently constructed cannot win unless Monta is the best player on the floor. On this night, he was very far from the best player. His mid-range jumpshot was flat and short, and he seemed a step slow. His handle was uncertain, and he had a tough time creating for his teammates. 2 assists against 5 TO’s. In short, Monta looks a lot like he looked to start the season. Either he’s rusty, or his surgically repaired left ankle, errr… his sprained right foot, is still bothering him.
He also got his fingerroll blocked twice from behind. Perhaps he needs to either start dunking those, or take a page from his below-the-rim rookie teammate and finish them off glass with the rim for protection? Just a thought from a guy who’s always played below the rim. Way, way below.
He nearly redeemed his game with two big crunch-time threes. But I think he made a bad decision with 1:00 left and the Warriors down three. On the fast break, he had an open three to tie, but he also had a wide open CJ Watson 12 feet from the hoop. A pass to CJ there sets up a layup for either CJ or himself on the give and go.
Corey Maggette: Looked more like himself in this game, with an efficient 26 points on 14 shots. He also assisted nicely in the first half. Unable to guard Durant, and perhaps unwilling to guard Green, Maggette was matched up for the most part on Sefolosha and Harden. The problem with that was that the Warriors’ missed his presence on the boards.
Stephen Curry: Had a very poor game. Like Monta he was turnover prone against the quick defense of Westbrook and the Thunder team. His legs also seemed to desert him in this game. He had a tough time keeping Westbrook out of the lane and off the boards. But a lot of that had to do with the fact that Nellie used him to give help on Durant and Green, and Biedrins was ineffective. In the second half, Curry came up short on most of his shots, going 1 for 5.
Nellie pulled him down the stretch, going with CJ Watson and Coby Karl. Matt Steinmetz tried to make a stink about that post-game, which is his predilection. I think it was simply a case of going with the hot hands over a rookie who was out of gas and struggling.
The Centers: Turiaf was very good in this game, tying his season-high for points with 8 in the first half, and pulling 8 boards. Biedrins was another story, once again failing to show up to start the game. He had 0 rebounds in 9 first half minutes. He started the third quarter just as poorly, getting a quick hook from Nellie after getting beat down court and giving up a silly foul. He finally began to play in the fourth quarter, helping to trigger a last-gasp Warriors run with his defense.
But it’s clear that Biedrins is still a long, long way from the player he was at the start of last season. Stamina issues, rust, or continued injury are slowing him considerably.
The Little Three: CJ Watson played a very solid game. Its nice to see him start to hit his open shots again. He also finished some tough layups, which is uncharacteristic. Progress or anomaly?
Vlad Rad is completely lost in space. Nellie went to him in desperation in the second half. After a particularly Vlad Radian turnover, dribbling into a half-court trap, followed by an airballed 15 footer, he got the quick yank. That’s three games in a row in which the inactive Anthony Morrow has outplayed Vlad Rad.
The D-League All-Stars: Anthony Tolliver didn’t make much of an impact in this game. We’re beginning to get a picture of what he can and can’t do. With his sound defensive fundamentals and strong body, he is quite effective against bigger players. But he will struggle against the quicker and more athletic power forwards in the league. Jeff Green made him look slow, as will Carl Landry in the next game, I’m guessing. His poor rebounding totals (3) weren’t all his fault. Green is a stretch four, and pulled him out of the paint.
On offense, Tolliver is turning into an interesting player. Nellie is starting to use him in the high post, and he has proved to have nice vision and a nice passing ability. He had three assists feeding slashers to the basket.
Sadly, Cartier Martin is no longer with the Warriors, resuming his lonely exile in the D-League. The Warriors are not allowed by rule to sign him to another 10 day contract, and don’t have the roster flexibility to sign him for the season. They could have really used his defense on Durant in this game.
His D-League replacement, Coby Karl, had a nice game in his place, though. Karl is a player with a terrific basketball IQ. He moved the ball quickly, decisively and beautifully. So well in fact, that Nellie was comfortable letting him run the team down the stretch in place of the struggling Stephen Curry.
Karl’s problem, of course, is a pronounced lack of athleticism. Which is why the crafty Don Nelson will be playing him at small forward, rather than his natural position of point guard. He appears to be a smart and decent defender on bigger players, although naturally Durant dipped him in cheese and ate him like fondue.
6 points, 6 assists, 6 fouls. The mark of the Karl?