One game after heaping praise on Keith Smart, I’m going to take some back. First the disclaimer: There is not a team in the league that should be able to beat these Lakers except the Miami Heat. Once they picked up Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, their last remaining weaknesses disappeared. It is unfair how great they are. The Warriors as presently constituted should NEVER beat them.
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to beat them. And I’m sorry, but Keith Smart did not try to beat them, not in the way that Don Nelson would have. I’m not saying that a Don Nelson team has never been blown out. What I’m saying is that Don Nelson never laid down for anyone. Don Nelson always gave his team a chance to win.
Just as there is only one way to win a war that is unwinnable, there is only one way to win a basketball game that is unwinnable. Unconventionally. Keith Smart failed to give his team a plan to beat the Lakers, and that is why you saw them quickly get dispirited when their shots weren’t falling, and that is why you saw them simply quit. Whatever else you might say about them, Don Nelson teams never quit. Even down to a 5 man roster, they believed. Why? Because they knew their coach and leader had given them a plan to win.
This Warriors offense got everything they wanted in the Clippers game. It was quickly apparent that they would get nothing they wanted in this game. But Keith Smart failed to adjust, failed to do what Nellie would have done: simplify. The Warriors had one, and only one, matchup that they dominated in this game. Reggie Williams against Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Yes, Reggie struggled coming out of the gate. So what? Don Nelson would have iso-ed him play after play, pick and roll after pick and roll. Don Nelson would have demanded that Reggie Williams take over the game. He would have demanded that Reggie Williams get up 20 shots. He would have given Reggie Williams the belief that the game rested on his shoulders. He would have given Reggie Williams the green light.
And under those circumstances, great scorers — which Reggie Williams is — have responded for Nellie. Game after game. Year after year. Decade after decade. The ball in the hand. The demand to be aggressive. The green light. It works.
But whether it worked or not last night, one thing you would not have seen is Reggie Williams put his head down and quit. He would have played 40 minutes, and played hard.
What else would Nellie have done? Well, what besides Monta Ellis and Reggie Williams against Fisher is the best weapon on this team without Stephen Curry? David Lee in the pick and roll. Go back and watch the first quarter, if you have the stomach for it. Did the Warriors run even one pick and roll for David Lee? Did the Warriors even once go to what is their most unguardable play? They did not.
Keith Smart believes very strongly in getting Andris Biedrins going at the start of the game by running some post-up plays for him. But he apparently doesn’t believe at all in getting his best offensive big man going. Curious. The Warriors paid the price for that in this game. David Lee also put his head down and quit.
What else would Nellie have done? We all know the answer to this. He would have scrambled the game, trying to take the Lakers out of their comfort zone, looking for something that worked. In the common parlance, he would have gone small. David Lee at center guarding Pau Gasol. Vlad Rad, Dorell Wright and Rodney Carney at power forward against Lamar Odom. Yes the Lakers would have a dominant inside edge and a dominant rebounding edge. But the Warriors would have the edge in speed, and in spreading the floor.
It wouldn’t have worked. Not against Captain Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. But it would have been a try. It would have been a plan, that if nothing else, would have given the Warriors team the belief that they could compete. And then, if the last three years are any guide, they would have competed.
Keith Smart did not try. For whatever reason. Perhaps a belief, common among inferior coaches, that systems should never be altered to circumstance. Or perhaps a fear of being labeled a Nellie acolyte, and of losing his job. For whatever reason, he didn’t try.
Keith Smart tapped out.