Add Curry and Stir: Warriors 109 Raptors 102

I guess things were going too well for the Warriors 7 games into the season, what with only two major injuries so far. That Monta Ellis injury looked scary. I’m going to put the Warriors fan hair-pulling on hold for now. I just hope he’s ok.

If it weren’t for that injury, I would have been beyond pleased with this win. Monta Ellis had a beautiful game on both sides of the ball, and his efficient offense — 28 points on 10-17 — was largely the reason the Warriors surged to a 19 point lead in the third quarter.  And Stephen Curry’s extraordinary playmaking ability and supernatural clutchness down the stretch sealed the win. His rustiness showed in some bad turnovers.  His bad ankles showed in his matador defense on Jarret Jack, who abused him for 24 points on 7-13.  But Curry’s ability to pour in 34 points on 12-21 shooting, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter when it counted the most, while playing hurt is…  I mean what can you really say about it?  You just have to watch. Curry scored in the fourth quarter in almost every fashion imaginable, spot up threes, pull back Js off the dribble, crafty slow-motion forays into the lane.  On one leg.

I know I’ve said it before, but what else is there to say?  Stephen Curry is a basketball genius.  Not just a special player, but Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, John Stockton and Steve Nash special. (The athletically challenged savants that Curry resembles most.) We are indescribably lucky to be able to watch him in a Warriors uniform.

Keith Smart: If it weren’t for Monta’s fall, and Curry’s extraordinary fourth quarter, I would have led with the job that Keith Smart did in this game. I’m pretty sure that Keith Smart has never heard of me, and I’m dead sure that he doesn’t read this blog, but when I watched the Warriors offense in the first quarter, it was as if Smart had taken to heart every criticism I have written so far this year, and in particular the criticisms I posted in the comments after the last loss.

I have been begging Smart to stop posting up Biedrins to start the game, and get David Lee involved instead.  I have been begging him to scrap the Jerry Sloan motion offense and simplify.  I have been begging him to initiate the offense with simple high picks and isolations, and let his Big Three — three of the most offensively gifted players in the entire league — do their thing.  And lo and behold, that’s what happened in this game.  Watching the first quarter was for me like…  well, although my love for great basketball is unbounded, I should probably stay away from sexual similes… let’s just say it was an intense experience of spiritual bliss.

Here’s a rundown of the Warriors’ opening possessions:

  • First play: Curry and Lee pick and pop (airball — who cares?)
  • Third possession: ISO Lee, missed J (who cares?)
  • Fourth possession: Curry and Lee pick and pop. Curry threw the pass away. Note that Lee should have rolled instead of popping, but also note that Biedrins wasn’t properly spaced.  But regardless, the play was wide open. (OK, someone please make a shot. Warriors down 8-0)
  • 9:45, after the timeout, Monta gets a simple high screen and bingo, wide open layup. (Yes!)
  • 8:10, same high screen for Monta, same layup.

It was not until 7:20 that Biedrins got a play called for him.  When it was unpredictable. And after the Warriors had already established their offense. And after David Lee got the feel of the basketball.  Lee went on to make several sweet jumpers in this game.  And then it continued:

  • 4:10 Monta iso’d on Barganani, drive and dish for a DWright three.
  • 3:15 Curry/Lee pick and roll, Curry layup (missed).
  • 2:40 Curry/Biedrins high screen, Curry open J (made).
  • When Jeremy Lin came in, the Warriors used simple high screens to spring him free for two beautiful drive and dishes.
  • 0:15, to close the quarter, high screen for Monta.  LAYUP.

yes, yes, yes, Yes, Yes, YES, YES, YEEESSSSS!

The Warriors followed this simple offensive game plan throughout the game, and when Toronto made its run and the game got tight in the fourth quarter, these were Keith Smart’s playcalls:

  • 2:40 High screen for Monta. Drive and dish to wide open Curry in the corner for three.  (How easy was that?  That play will be open all day long, all season long.  Unguardable.)
  • 2:15 Vlad Rad high screen unleashes Curry in the middle for an acrobatic finish.
  • At 1:05, after the Ellis injury stoppage, and with the game on the line, a simple top of the key iso for Curry, who feints penetration and pulls up for the wide open J.  Money.

Yes.  Thank you, Keith Smart.

For what it’s worth, I also think Smart did a masterful job dealing with the Warriors’ foul trouble and matching up in the fourth quarter.  But I’m trying to keep this to a recap, not a novel.

David Lee: Finally broke out that sweet J.  But this Warriors offense won’t really start clicking until he starts building chemistry with Curry in the pick and roll.

The Warriors held Toronto to 19 points in the first quarter.  Did David Lee have anything to do with that?

Another 12 rebounds, like clockwork.  It will never, ever, get old.

Andris Biedrins: Another good performance from Biedrins, albeit against a lousy front line. The 6-6″ Reggie Evans had no chance rebounding against him (nice cross-match by Smart).

A good performance, that is, until Triano broke out the Hack-a-Beans, and we were treated to a little glass-shattering.  A note to small-ball haters:  The Warriors will never be able to play Biedrins in fourth quarters of close games.

Brandan Wright: There was some good to go along with the bad tonight from Wright.  We saw the late rotations, the fumbled passes, the outside brick, the offensive foul.  But he also had some contested rebounds, some nice finishes, and a couple swats.  I won’t mention that he was playing against a lousy front line.  Oops.

Unfortunately, what never changes for Brandan Wright is the miserable defensive rebounding. If you want to know why I persist in believing that Wright will never be a playable NBA player, rewind your tape to 11:45 of the second Q and watch him blow a point blank defensive rebound with inside position.  And then he did it again almost immediately.  At 10:10, Wright blew his second point blank defensive rebound, with inside position, when he let Amir Johnson stuff him in his baby carriage and walk him under the basket.

It’s a mystery. A mystery of the human heart.

Lin looks at loose balls like the Thaiblonde looks at steak.

Jeremy Lin: Never having seen him play, I had some built-in expectations for the Asian kid out of Harvard.  I expected an extraordinary basketball IQ and an advanced skill set.  Both of which Lin has.  What I didn’t expect was that he would be a tough-nosed competitor.  Lin is one tough hombre, the diametric opposite of Brandan Wright.  Which he showed at 10:00 of the second Q by ripping the ball out of Amir Johnson’s powerful mitts, and starting the fast break.

Lin likes to stick his nose in on defense. 2 steals and 2 blocked shots(!).  And he is already proficient at running a couple of sets off the high screen.  He made some beautiful dishes off drives.  What he can’t do is hit shots or finish.  But that might not matter to Keith Smart, given his intangibles.

I fear for Reggie Williams’ minutes.

Rodney Carney: Hit some big shots, but I continue to question his basketball IQ on the defensive end.  He needs to make better rotations, and become a bigger factor on the boards.  Nevertheless, Smart clearly favors his length and defense over Reggie Williams’ superior offense at the three.

Vlad Rad: When he’s on his game, Vlad doesn’t need to hit a shot to help the Warriors.  He has a total floor game.  Vlad helped the Warriors big time in this game with some key minutes at center in crunch time.  His defensive flashouts were fantastic, his rotations superb: he even blocked a three point shot leading to a Warriors possession in crunch time.  On offense, he handled the high screens, and his ability to spread the floor contributed directly to the ease with which Ellis and Curry penetrated the Raptors defense down the stretch.

One more great call by Keith Smart.

The Warriors Bet: The Detroit game didn’t do anything to change my mind, but this game should have made it completely obvious to all that the bookies don’t have a line on this Warriors team yet.  And then, of course, Monta Ellis went down.

Stay tuned.  The Warriors Bet will be a game-time decision on Wednesday.

14 Responses to Add Curry and Stir: Warriors 109 Raptors 102

  1. What a game by Lin! He should only get better as his confidence grows. Is it just me or should they rest Curry another game or two? He has routinely aggravated that ankle…remember Grant Hill before his chronic ankle injuries? I’m loving BWright’s ability to alter and block shots…although it is obvious he is far from polished and needs more game experience.

  2. RGG, how do you know Monta is out for Wed?

  3. Actually, CSN (link above right) said he won’t travel to NY with the team but will stay in Toronto tonight, waiting for X-ray results. I guess that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play? Hard to imagine, though.

    About the Curry dunk: I’ve never seen him go up that high with such authority. The kid’s still developing physically.

    (Why do they pay these guys millions of dollars, then have them play 5 games in a week and have photographers, etc. sit a few feet away from the court where someone can get hurt? I wanted to pull a Dennis Rodman tonight.)

  4. “It’s a huge relief for both the Warriors and Ellis’ fantasy owners. X-rays taken in Toronto last night apparently came back clean, likely meaning Ellis is dealing with a bad bruise. His status for Wednesday’s game against the Knicks is uncertain as we await official word from the Warriors.”

    Wasn’t he out with back problems last year? Anybody know what’s going on with his hand? He’s wearing something. He shot lights out the first few games but has been off since.

  5. A couple of games ago Barnett said he had jammed his fingers at the end of the Houston game. Not a big deal.

  6. On a side note, did anyone else think Monta was fouled on that play? Fitz kept on saying it was a clean block….but it looked like he got slapped on his right arm.

  7. Feltbot: What did you think of the Warrior with a big lead in the second half running out to the key only to be burned time and time again inside, allowing for Toronto to get back in the game?

    Carney is a super athlete who cannot contain himself from committing stupid fouls when his opponent is shooting and charging when driving to the basket. If he ever learns to correct these basic errors he will be one terrific player.

    I agree with the B. Wright is not much of a defensive rebounder one cannot ignore he is a stud and the best Warrior at altering and blocking shots. Smart should run plays for him and that allows him to shoot his unblockable jump hook inside or go to the foul-line more times then not.

  8. OG, looks like you might have been right about Brandon Roy:

    It just makes it that much more amazing that Kobe can have this surgery and not have any after effects. I think Kobe’s been scoped at least twice.

    Roy ailing, Aaron Brooks out several weeks… The Warriors place in the West is getting more and more interesting. Provided the injuries stop.

  9. Feltbot (by the way, your moniker stems from playing your real game on felt with the demeanor of a robot?) this is the first article that has mentioned this that I have ever seen, but the clues have definitely been there for all to see. Your man Batum seems to be picking up the slack. It would be a shame if McMillan figures out how to properly use him–other than the Blazers wouldn’t then be so boring to watch. By the way, I’ve so far learned a valuable lesson in how to build a fantasy team: having a squad that leads in points, rebounds and assists–the big categories–means squat if you look shitty in blocks, turnovers and the percentages. Balance. Who knew?

  10. I’m actually concerned about the offense, particularly the ball movement. In the last three games, the team has been under 20 assists per game. Vs. Utah 16, 19 and 19 for Detroit and Toronto. Prior to that they were near 25 per game. Part of this is due to offensive rebounds and put backs but I’m starting to think the team is harmfully forgetting that they have the potential to be the best passing team in the NBA. My theory, extended effort on defense is costing the Warriors on offense in terms of ball movement, shooting %, shot selection and effiency (which correlate of course). Playing defense takes energy and low energy on offense usually means less passing. Once the team can restore a little more balance between defensive stops and offensive effeciency they will be nearly unstoppable. Especially on the road where they need to create easier shots.

  11. “Monta Ellis (back) said he plans on playing in Wednesday’s game against the Knicks.”

    From MT’s Twitter.

  12. Wow. I was tempted to play amateur doctor when it happened. Everyone was calling it back spasms or a strain. But it looked to me like he jammed it by landing on the heel of a locked leg. There is no muscle strain involved there, just a shock to the spinal cord (and a lot of fear). Hopefully, the recovery will rapid and complete, with no lingering soreness.

    Now let’s look at the line.

  13. OG, yes, fantasy leagues are won by making your team “pareto optimal.” Which is a fancy way (taught to me my fantasy baseball buddies, who are all U of Chicago Economics PH.D.s) of saying don’t squander strength where you don’t need it, balance it judiciously to maximize your points across all categories.

    If your team is heavy in the glamor categories and light on the dirty work, all is not lost. Now is the time to do trades. And you are in a good position. In fantasy basketball as in the NBA, it is easy to trade glamor for dirty work and efficiency. Make them pay.

    And good guess about my handle. Felt has another meaning in poker as well: to “felt” someone means to bust him. And bots, in poker parlance, are computer programs that play poker. I am guilty of insidious means of psychological warfare against my online opponents ;)