I am a firm believer that there is nothing wrong with an ugly win. That belief was tested a bit in this game, in which I was unable to discern many signs of cohesive team play on either side of the ball. In my eyes, this game was won by the extraordinary individual efforts of a few very talented Warriors players. I think you know who. But it was a win.
And it was a win against a very, very good team that knows how to play together. Upset that the Warriors gave up 128 points? Well, consider that the Rockets put up 110 last night against the Lakers. The Lakers, one of the best defensive teams in the league, in the walk-it-up system of Phil Jackson. This Rockets team can really put the ball in the basket, and in all sorts of ways. And of course this Warriors defense has played very little together. So I’m shelving my read of the effectiveness of Keith Smart’s defensive coaching for another day.
As for the offense, I am unable to understand the point of a lot of the sets that the Warriors are running. They are using a lot of motion, which sometimes results in good shots, but to my eye is essentially pointless. It seems to me to be a lot of wasted effort, eventually resulting in the ball being dumped off in a spot with no real edge, from which a one-on-one move is still required to get a shot. But I am also willing to say that the fault for that perception may not lie with Keith Smart. It might in fact be my own fault: as a devoted follower of Don Nelson’s teams, I don’t know a heck of a lot about motion offenses (except that they tend to take the ball out of the point guard’s hands). I am in the process of trying to educate myself. As are the Warriors players. It could be that at some point in the season this offense will start to click like clockwork. At which point poor Feltbot might experience a eureka moment, and stop seeing the pink elephants of his Nellie D.T.’s.
Hard as it might be on my bitten tongue, I aim to give Keith Smart a real chance to win my admiration. I’m rooting for him. And will continue to root for him so long as he keeps finding ways to win with this extraordinarily talented team.
Even if it’s winning ugly.
The opening tip: Curious as to why David Lee jumped center to start the game? I can only guess that it was related to Smart’s decision to guard Scola with Lee, and the 6-6″ Chuckie Hayes with Biedrins. Which to me was a very curious decision. I can’t think of why Smart would do this, unless it was related to the team’s scheme to control Aaron Brooks. The Warriors did a great job on Brooks for once, holding him to 4-15 shooting. But of course Scola rampaged. As did Hayes, who was too quick for Beans.
Monta Ellis: Let’s see, the Warriors put a complete team with multiple options on the floor, and suddenly Monta’s offensive efficiency returns. Shocking! (Don’t bother trying to explain this concept to snake-oil salesman John Hollinger).
This is what an all-star looks like.
I do have one quibble though: Last year, and indeed for his entire career, Monta has been decidely unclutch in crunch time. His three blown free throws at the end of this game did little to dispel that concern. I don’t like his form at the line. Starts his shot too high, not enough legs, too much wrist. Too susceptible to fatigue and nerves. He needs to stop practicing over-the-shoulder circus shots and get with Mark Price.
Stephen Curry: Thank god Keith Smart finally started calling his number in the second half. It saved me from a fit of apoplexy. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Pick and roll watch: I noticed three involving Curry and Lee. The first, at 6:50 of the 1st Q, was an absolute beauty. Curry went away from the pick, drawing the double team, hit Lee at the free throw line, who touch-passed to Biedrins for a layup. Did someone envision this play the day after the Lee trade?
The play even works for Brandan Wright (9:15 of the 4th Q). Isn’t that a sign that the play really, really works?
David Lee: Lee really blows at defense. Right? Anyone watching him try to guard Scola in the 1st half would be excused for having that thought.
But what happened in the 3rd Q, when the Warriors and Lee got serious on the defensive end? Lee started really laying his body on Scola, and held him to 3 pts. on 0-3 shooting. What was up with that? (Scola got free again at the end of the 4th, but most of that came with Biedrins out, and the Warriors leading and trying not to foul.)
All I know is this: The Warriors have not had a power forward who could even put a body on Luis Scola, let alone hold him to 3 pts. on 0-3 in a quarter, since Tyrone Hill.
The rebounding is a beautiful thing to behold. But equally beautiful in my eyes is the passing ability. 6 assists in limited touches. His catch of that long Curry outlet and over the shoulder touch-pass to Dorell Wright was simply mind-boggling. Too bad that the mind-boggled DWright fumbled the pass.
What an extraordinary talent Lee is. Just get him the damn ball.
The Rebounding: We were told by the pundits that Biedrins and Lee would cannabilize each other’s rebounds. In our first sample, Beans had 11, Lee 15, and the Warriors outrebounded the rugged Rockets by 6.
To quote one of my favorite authors, G.B. Shaw: “40 million Frenchmen can’t be right.”
Andris Biedrins: Hate to have to say it, but he needs to go back to the hair gel. Immediately. Otherwise, nice effort.
Small Ball: I detected at various times Vlad Rad at 5 and 4 (and never at the 3), DWright and Carney at 4, and BWright at 5. None of these lineups was effective, but it was interesting to see Smart experiment with them.
Dorell Wright: Looked pretty good on offense. But he was largely unneeded on defense in this game (against Battier). That’s where the Warriors need him to shine.
Brandan Wright: Did some nice things, a nice offensive rebound and putback, an even nicer (to me) blockout and defensive rebound, and some blocks. Did some ugly things too. Got isolated on the wing against Scola but couldn’t beat him to the basket, and ate his shot (5:10 of 2nd Q).
I think it’s obvious that he’s best played on the second (or third) unit, against the other team’s softer players. He’s well out of Smart’s preferred rotation at the moment.
Rodney Carney: Love the athleticism, but the lack of hoops IQ was alarmingly evident. Particularly on the defensive side, which is what he’s in for.
Vlad Rad: It is beyond comprehension that a 6’10” player with great athleticism, and the talent to be a great 3 point shooter, could never learn to make a layup.