I’ve got news for Warriors fans. This Warriors team is better than the Utah Jazz, and will remain better than the Utah Jazz for the forseeable future. The Warriors played just about as bad an offensive game as they possibly could, and yet dominated this game in every way except on the scoreboard. 52 rebounds to 46. 21 offensive rebounds to 10. The last time it was mentioned, late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors had 24 second chance points to Utah’s 8. But the biggest disparity of all was this: 93 shots to 76 shots. The only reason Utah even stayed in this game was that the Warriors couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. They finished the game shooting 38%.
The Warriors are now bigger than the Jazz, and at the same time faster, better skilled and far better shooters. If Keith Smart can ever figure out how to run the offense efficiently, the Warriors should beat the Jazz blue every time they play, home and away.
Something is afoot in the Western Conference.
Monta Ellis: For most of the game, Monta couldn’t hit a jump shot, and was in my opinion given far too few opportunities to drive the ball by Keith Smart. Virtually every time he did drive the ball, something good came out of it.
And yet, Monta still managed to dominate this game. He did it with his defense. He managed to turn over Deron Williams 8 times. That is simply a fantastic performance going against one of the two best point guards in the league. And one more way in which Monta Ellis is becoming a superstar.
We also saw signs in this game that Monta is beginning to take the final step towards superstardom: CLOSING. Monta ended the first half with a beautiful driving layup off an isolation. (And the reason why he was virtually never isolated against the much slower Utah guards is what?) And his clutch dagger at :55 of the fourth quarter effectively ended the game.
Stephen Curry: An incredibly gutsy performance by Curry, coming off a layoff, with not one but two gimpy ankles. Curry is just one of those players who finds a way to win. A basketball savant.
Andris Biedrins: There’s going to be a lot of gushing over Beans’ 20 rebound performance in this game. But it won’t come from me. Andris Biedrins should destroy the 6-9″, slow as molasses, and glued to the floor Al Jefferson and his munchkin counterpart, the 6-6″ Paul Milsap, every single time he meets them. He should pwn them. He should snack on them, with fava beans and a fine Chianti.
And he did. He did his job. It was nice to see, after two long years of not seeing it.
He is still terrified of going to the free throw line. He is still fading away on his hooks, and releasing them out of his effective range, in order to avoid contact. It would be nice to see this cowardice end as well.
He did make a fine spin move and right-handed and-one finish at 3:25 of the 3rd that brought back memories of the old Biedrins. But that was his only free throw of the night.
David Lee: Lee effectively neutralized Paul Milsap, who was averaging 21 and 11 coming into this game.
If he had the support of his coach, though, he would have destroyed Milsap. Keith Smart either does not know how, or is completely refusing to get Lee the ball in position to score. The Warriors did not run pick and roll with Lee until late in the fourth quarter. Curry started it at 7:40, with a fantastic left-hand behind the back pass for a slam. They ran it again at 3:05, which resulted in free throws. And then finally, at the key moment of the game, Lee set a pick for Monta at the free throw line, the Jazz adjusted by going under to defend the roll, and Monta stepped back and nailed the clutch jumper.
Virtually every time the Warriors run pick and roll with Lee they get something good out of it. And yet they never run it. Even when their offense is completely falling apart, as it was for most of this game, they never run it. Why?
Keith Smart is obsessed with getting Andris Biedrins early touches and early looks. But he never gets those early looks for his truly gifted offensive big man. Why? Keith Smart has got this ass-backwards, and it is completely perplexing. Does it have something to do with his extraordinarily close relationship to Biedrins? If so, it’s getting in the way of him coaching to win.
Because the number one reason why David Lee is struggling so badly on offense right now is Keith Smart.
Dorell Wright: Wright had a nightmare matchup in this game, going against the freakishly long if somewhat slowed Andrei Kirilenko. And yet Keith Smart’s motion offense kept finding him at the end of the shot clock in isolation against Kirilenko.
Wright’s 3-13 performance cannot be laid entirely at his feet. Like David Lee, he was not put in positions to succeed in this game.
The Bench: Were you perplexed to see both Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry on the bench to start the fourth quarter? So was I. That should never happen.
Gadzuric was the only star off the bench in this game. In his prime, when he was healthy, DG was a highly energetic and highly effective backup center. Could the Warriors be lucky enough to keep him healthy all year?
Vlad Rad came in and immediately blasted off two enormous brain-farts. A silly lazy pass directly to a Jazz player. And then he gave away a rebound right after snagging it, which is a specialty of his. I was happy that Smart yanked him. Is there a cure for Vlad’s brain disease?
Reggie Williams didn’t get much run in this game, and didn’t get many shots while he did. He was the only Warrior in this game to hit his first jump shot. And then he was never given another. Why?
Keith Smart: You could tell I was building to this point, couldn’t you? In a season in which I have been like clockwork alternately pleased and disappointed by Keith Smart, this was my turn to be disappointed.
I simply don’t believe that Don Nelson would have let this slow, soft in the middle Utah Jazz team take the Warriors out of everything they wanted to run, the way Keith Smart did. Nellie would not have wasted time and possessions on a motion offense stuck in wet sand. He would have attacked the Utah Jazz where it hurt, over and over and over until their ears bled. David Lee against the smaller Paul Milsap in the pick and roll. Monta Ellis isolated against anybody. Reggie Williams given the green light.
I think it’s highly likely that Nellie could have unstuck one or more of the struggling Warriors players, and blown this inferior Jazz team out.
But there was one thing that Keith Smart did in this game that pleased me enormously. It was when he removed Andris Biedrins from the game a scant minute into the third quarter, in order to take care of business. And at 10:25, on the Warriors first possession after his insertion, Dan Gadzuric took care of business. He ran to the free throw line and intentionally flattened Raja Bell. Oh yes he did. And then Andris Biedrins came back in.
Thank you, Keith Smart.
The Pundits: The pundits told us that David Lee and Andris Biedrins would cannibalize each other’s rebounds. Remember that? Well they picked up a measly 35 in this game. And the Warriors have now won the rebounding battle in 4 out of their first 5 games.
The pundits told us that David Lee would not help the Warriors defense. Remember that? The Utah Jazz were averaging 107 ppg coming into this game. They scored 120 ppg in their last two games, including against the defensively voracious Thunder on the Thunder’s own court. The Warriors held them to 78 points.
Did David Lee have anything to do with that?
Monta Ellis was asked after the game if Keith Smart was emphasizing defense more this season. Monta responded: “We have been focused on defense for the past few years. It’s just that we have more guys that feed into it and guys that are willing to play defense.”
I will lay you 1,000 to 1 on a dollar that that quote doesn’t show up in Adam Lauridsen’s recap.
The Warriors Bet: The Warriors covered this spread, and did so in a fashion that convinced me it wasn’t luck: this spread was dead wrong, and the Warriors are very seriously undervalued. The Warriors are now 4-1 ATS on the year, and 1-0 for The Warriors Bet, which is about to take its show on the road.