Foul Odor: Warriors 101 Rockets 111

Just as the story of the Denver game could be read from the three point line, the story of this Warriors loss in Houston can be read from the free-throw line. The Rockets received an amazing 51 attempts at the charity stripe, to the Warriors 18.

Whom do you blame for this incredible disparity? If you say the refs, you will get no agreement from feltbot. I have a different theory.

31-21:  That is the difference in free throw attempts between the Warriors opponents and the Warriors so far this season (Before this game it was 30-22).

29-25: That was the difference last year, when the Warriors were playing 7 man lineups of rookies and D-leaguers, with virtually no big men.

29-28.6: That was the difference in the 29 win season of 2008-09, when the Warriors got only 25 games from Monta, and had a similarly decimated front line.

Eye opening, isn’t it?  Keith Smart is currently fielding a team that is FAR healthier than the teams that Don Nelson fielded in the last two years. With Biedrins and Gadzuric healthy, he has two legitimate NBA centers at his disposal. In DWright, Carney and Williams, he has three healthy small forwards — exactly three more than Nellie had to work with for most of last season. If you add Vlad Rad to DWright and Carney, you have three players who Nellie would have willingly played at power forward in his small ball unit.

And don’t forget, Smart also had a healthy David Lee and BWright for the first 10 games of this season.

So why is this Warriors team getting worked so badly in the free throw department? To me, the answer is quite obvious. It is exactly the same answer I gave a few posts back, when I asked why this Warriors team was 26th in the league in turnovers, while last year’s skeleton crew, led by a rookie point guard, was 4th.  The answer is Keith Smart.

More specifically, the answer is that the Warriors are a team that was built to run, but are not being allowed to run. Keith Smart has the Warriors walking the ball up the court, and turning down early offense. Keith Smart has the fastest team end-to-end in the entire league tethered to a leash with an iron choker.

The result is this: the Warriors are not putting opposing teams under pressure. They are not running them ragged. They are not forcing them to defend BEFORE their defense gets set. That is why the Warriors are not getting to the free throw line.

And because the Warriors are not pushing their opponents into a faster tempo, and forcing them to match up small, they are finding themselves perpetually in half-court defense, against bigs.  That is why they are giving up more fouls.

This game was a perfect case in point. The Warriors could have and should have run this decimated Rockets team (no Aaron Brooks!) right off the court. Can Biedrins outrun Scola? Can Dwright outrun Hayes? Can Carney outrun Battier? Can Monta and Curry outrun Lowry and Martin?

The answer to the riddle of this game was so obvious that virtually any reasonable Warriors fan could have figured it out before hand.  But how did Keith Smart start the game? With Biedrins and Gadzuric both on the court, despite the fact that the Rockets’ center was 6-6″ in high heels. Walking the ball up the court. Vainly looking for driving lanes, despite the fact that the Rockets only had to guard three players.  Bam, Warriors down 12.

Madness.

Even though Smart yanked Gadzuric when the Warriors went down 12, and played small ball for the rest of the game, he never had the Warriors push the tempo. Even the Warriors small ball units walked the ball up the court, and ran motion.

Madness.

In his post-game interview, Smart delivered this gem: “We didn’t have the start we wanted…. You want to get off quick, get off to a 10 point lead.”

Is Keith Smart in possession of all of his faculties? Can this Warriors team really be expected to get off to a 10 point lead by walking the ball up the court, and looking for half-court offense with Andris Biedrins and Dan Gadzuric polluting the lane?

Madness.

That foul odor? It’s coming from the end of the Warriors’ bench.

Monta Ellis: As a coach, what do you do when you have a short-handed team, but you still have a superstar, who happens to be the fastest player in the league? Do you put the ball in your superstar’s hands, and ask him to carry the team? Or do you pour concrete around his feet, and ask him to run motion?

Do you remember last year when the Warriors went into Dallas with 6 active players, and led by Monta Ellis’ 37 and 8 ran the 10-3 Mavs off the court?  Keith Smart should remember it, he was the bench coach, running Don Nelson’s system.

The difference between that game and this game is pathetic.

Stephen Curry: What goes for Monta goes for Curry as well.  Do you remember the last game of last season, when Curry went into Portland’s lion’s den with only 4 healthy teammates and delivered a 42-9-8 performance in a glorious victory?

I fear you may never see a better game from Curry while Keith Smart is coaching. And maybe not ever, if Joe Lacob has anything to do with it.

Andris Biedrins: Want to know another reason the Warriors never get to the free throw line?  Biedrins came into the game averaging .6 free throws a game. That number went down after the game.

It’s a pathetic stat for a starting center, a stat for which Biedrins should rightly be ashamed. It’s a stat that purely and simply tells a tale of cowardice.

Do you think Keith Smart’s philosophy of whispering happy thoughts in Biedrins’ ear is working?

Dan Gadzuric: It’s not his fault.

Vlad Rad: This was a completely characteristic performance for Vlad. He did some nice things defensively, particularly when guarding Scola. And on the other side of the ledger, he let off at least five gigantic brain farts. Standing out of bounds while waiting for a pass. Standing too close to the basket waiting for a rebound, with no one near him. Running over stationary players. Fouling at the end of the shot clock with the opponent not even looking at the basket. Passing up a 5 footer to pass to no one. That’s our Vladdy.

I’d still take him over Brandan Wright in a heartbeat.

Dorell Wright: I threw up in my Lagavulin when Smart opened this game by posting up DWright against Shane Battier. I mean, seriously?

It got better from there, as Wright went on to have a very nice floor game.  On offense.

On defense, he was once again terrible.  Every one of Hayes’ 16 points that wasn’t scored against Gadzuric in the first quarter came against DWright. For two characteristic examples see 2:35 of 1st Q, and the first play of the 3rd Q.

Not a stopper.

Reggie Williams: The question of whether Reggie is a “great” scorer has been a topic of much discussion here lately.  After a nifty move to evade a block on a layup in this game, Jim Barnett had this to say: “Reggie is a natural scorer.”

I’m with Jim.

Jeremy Lin: Actually made a jumper!

Take a picture.

30 Responses to Foul Odor: Warriors 101 Rockets 111

  1. Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) just tweeted this:

    “GM Riley said the FT disparity was not refs, but the Warriors defense. He said they fouled a lot because they were forced to go small.”

    I think my analysis disproves Riley’s statement conclusively. Didn’t the Warriors play small virtually every game of the last two seasons under Nellie?

    What do you think?

  2. GovernorStephCurry

    You lose so much credibility with your constant attacks on Brandan Wright, and your continued support for Vlad. Your “mentor” couldn’t disagree with you more, calling Wright the best player in training camp, and Vlad, a disgrace. Stop telling yourself you know what Don Nelson’s thinking. You aren’t on the same page completely.

    I do agree Keith Smart sucks though. Bring back Nellie!

  3. GovernorStephCurry

    And that’s not meant to be an attack, i’m just pointing out you do actually disagree with Don Nelson completely on that issue.

    And Monta Ellis is not a superstar. Don Nelson knew that. Nellie really didn’t think that high of him. He gave Steph and Jackson tons of praise when they played under him. He merely said nice things about Monta…

  4. The foul disparity is still mysterious to me, especially as the Warriors are driving more, especially this game, but somehow not getting fouled. And a lot of the fouls were of a defense minded team (obsessed?) team overdoing it or overcompensating for size difference — a lot of reach in fouls, over the backs, etc., or in many cases just poor execution for a team still not together — late to block out, missing a rotation, etc. (Correct me on this and argue.) They set up this expectation in the refs.

    But I kind of don’t care about defense. Or rather I’m sick of the word defense the way people have been using it, especially for a squad that physically isn’t built for that kind of game (as you say).

    I want this damn team to score. I want to see Curry shoot. While Curry didn’t drive much last year and I’m glad to see him doing better here, he took only 5-6 outside shots tonight, 2 threes, 2 or 3 of those in desperation time, 2 or three early where he penetrated and had to force up some tough shots from 10-15 feet or so. I can’t recall a situation where anyone passed around to set up Curry or set a screen for him. Why is the best shooter on the team not shooting? Who wants to see Curry penetrate to kick it out to VladRad? His performance reminded me of a Rondo performance — except Curry can shoot and this is not the Boston Celtics.

    And I don’t see Ellis looking for Curry when he runs the offense. What is the advantage of having Curry and Ellis on the floor at the same time with the offense they are running? It’s like they are separately taking turns playing point and doing nothing together. Why aren’t their individual talents being combined in some way to take advantage? (And is the best way to use their talents to get the team running?)

    It’s not just bad. It’s boring.

  5. GSC:

    Support for Vlad? Read closely.

  6. I just checked — Curry is averaging under 4 three point shots a game.

  7. “Now, whether because of his ankle, fatigue, frustration or all of the above, he’s hanging back and playing the more passive style that’s cost the team. In every game during this losing streak the Warriors have had long stretches of lifeless basketball. As one of the leaders of this team, Curry needs to up his energy level to combat those stretches, not fall victim to them himself.”

    Utter bullshit. I’ve been watching Curry since Davidson and have never seen not play all out. Look at his energy levels last year when he had to play 40-48 minutes a game. It’s not fatigue. The kid is wearing a harness.

  8. About Keith Smart:

    Smart is not an idiot. He also has been on the bench the last years and has seen what these guys can do. Here’s the question I want answered that will probably not get answered and Smart will probably never tell but wear around his neck however long he coaches here: How much is Smart getting directions from above? His coaching fits to a T what Lacob has been telling us.

    Fair is foul and foul is fair.
    I guess I’m not in a good mood tonight — I’m quoting Macbeth.

  9. What we drafted. (This took a while to load for some reason, and no, I’m not going to compare Chattanooga to any NBA team, or NCAA for that matter, but then again we have NBA players who can set screens):

  10. feltbot: very well said. I agree with just about everything you say here. Is it tougher to watch Curry walk the ball up court hanging his head or watch them run motion in Q3 resulting in Vlad, RW or DW take a shot and Monta never touch the ball? I can’t stand to see what’s going on with Curry and Monta right now. They are not happy campers; not on board with this offensive system. You can see it.

    I don’t agree with your stance on Vlad or JLin. I think JLin is showing amazing development from game-to-game. Watch the subtle things he does on D, especially. He traps the bigs with the ball at just the right moment, he moves his feet and cuts off penetration better than anyone else on the team, he knows which players he can cut below the screen with and which ones he can’t. He’s going to be very good once he works on his shot in the offseason. By the All-Star Break he’ll be a good bu pg.

    Vlad is just awful. Nothing more need be said. I’d rather see BW in there; at least there we get to see some offense.

    Anyway, we can play big AND run the fast break and early break. We have some challenges with this lineup and injuries but that’s no excuse for playing the way we are playing right now.

  11. I find it hard to believe that Keith Smart, a smart man, didn’t learn a ton about offense as Don Nelson’s right-hand man for four seasons. I also find it hard to believe that Smart, an honorable man, would dishonor Nelson by junking his offensive strategies.

    Which is added reason to believe Smart is doing the bidding of the meddling new owner who thinks he knows the one and only correct system for winning basketball. The question now becomes: how long will it take for the meddling owner to recognize that imposing a system on a set of players built for a different reality will lead to failure? When David Lee was healthy, the system appeared to work more often than not, but inconsistently. With Lee (and the other PFs) out, there’s been very little adjustment to a new, albeit temporary, reality. Think back to when Nelson had to adjust, and we saw some of his most brilliant creativity. Not now, and it’s a bad sign.

    Last year, even with the many losses, the Warriors were exciting to watch in all but a handful of games, mostly road contests. This year, they’ve already surpassed the boredom threshold a number of times, scoring less than 100 points seven times and losing six of those games.

    What upsets me as much as anything is when they show frequent signs of not competing, a sad reminder of many years in the wilderness (the ’80s and ’90s) when I didn’t and couldn’t watch a single Warriors game. I have a bad feeling about where this is going.

  12. I was very happy Smart got the job, and only wished he got 3 years instead of the 2 or (now it appears 1) year contract. Talent does mask coaching deficiencies. But Smart should play to his players strengths rather than the players fitting into his ‘motion’ system. The last two games where the interior defense is strong, we cannot wait for a half court set, particularly when we have four guards who can push, while our weakest offensive positions are at the 4 and mediocre 5 (who fn wont shoot free throws). Any team must run with this deficiency.

    Lacob should focus on personnel acquisition. It took Miami one day to get a seven f0oter (albeit a stiff) to get help for their roster. Why does Lacob not pick up a competent backup at the point (and put Lin at the NBDL)!

    If you have ever run a fixed motion offense it is very predictable, and teams are packing it in the key. Not a recipe for Warrior success. OKC fortunately, does not have a strong interior defense, so maybe we can steal one there, although it will be difficult Saturday Night.

    Finally, what is up with David Lee? I mean has he got BWright contagion? Its been over two weeks! Put on an old fashioned taped bandage, wrap it up with an old school elbow pad, and get in there! This is not rocket science. As many others have already implied, Devean George, Chris Hunter and certainly Anthony Toliver would all be playing (cause their hungry!). And they are damn more productive and exciting to watch (than B Wright and Radmonovich).

  13. Happy TG FB!

    Obviously, the Ws will be better once Lee returns. But just as the former coach found ways to mask the deficiencies of his injury-ravaged team, it seems that, at best, this dynamic lineup (once healthy) will mask those of its coach. Is it too early to pronounce Smart a bad coach for this team. I know many of us are hoping he will get better, but it reminds me of my hopes for a political leader to change when, in fact, he simply has different beliefs than I do. He is who he is.

    Many have postulated that the problem is Lacob, not Smart. This, of course, may be the truth. I read that he may be considering bringing in Mike Brown. I don’t take the report as reliable, but at this point it wouldn’t surprise me. As we know, Lacob isn’t going anywhere. If he is the real problem, I should probably consider shopping for a new team. I would take no pleasure in it.

  14. Oh, and just because I forgot to say so above:
    Painfully astute recap. Thanks, as always, for your knowledgeable insights.

  15. Alter-FB — Excellent points except for questioning Lee’s layoff. Modern-day infections are nothing to mess with. I’d stick with the doc’s recommendation on this one.

  16. Happy thanksgiving everyone! And thanks for your thoughts. Many of you stated the issue better than I did.

  17. There were several rebuttals to Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on Vivek Ranadivé’s success with girls basketball in Palo Alto (reported here, if you can access it:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell

    From TNY mail:

    Malcolm Gladwell explains how underdogs succeed strikingly when they “innovate” by violating social norms or leveraging extraordinary effort (“How David Beats Goliath,” May 11th). But in some of his examples the underdogs simply define “success” differently (winning youth basketball games versus developing long-term basketball players). And there is some danger in adopting a philosophy of achieving short-term goals at the expense of the organization’s long-term health. Of course, guerrilla armies and startup companies have little to lose—they either win or die, so the lesson for them is clear. But should those lessons be applied to the rest of us? Real innovation lies not in David-like strategies but in recognizing the right contexts in which to use them. We must hope such contexts are the exception and not the rule.

    Ben Jacobson
    Chicago, Ill.

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/letters/2009/06/08/090608mama_mail1#ixzz16KsUccSV

  18. (I have another comment coming which will have links, being moderated because of them)

    There were several rebuttals to Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on Vivek Ranadivé’s success with girls basketball in Palo Alto, such as:

    Malcolm Gladwell explains how underdogs succeed strikingly when they “innovate” by violating social norms or leveraging extraordinary effort (“How David Beats Goliath,” May 11th). But in some of his examples the underdogs simply define “success” differently (winning youth basketball games versus developing long-term basketball players). And there is some danger in adopting a philosophy of achieving short-term goals at the expense of the organization’s long-term health. Of course, guerrilla armies and startup companies have little to lose—they either win or die, so the lesson for them is clear. But should those lessons be applied to the rest of us? Real innovation lies not in David-like strategies but in recognizing the right contexts in which to use them. We must hope such contexts are the exception and not the rule.

    Ben Jacobson
    Chicago, Ill.

  19. GovernorStephCurry

    Why are you guys blaming Lacob? This is Smart’s fault. He did a crappy job subbing for Nellie last year, and he’s even worse this year. If Lacob was in charge, don’t you think he’d stop playing Rad? This is all Smart’s philosophy. Lacob’s not going to meddle with him, he needs to see if he has the ability to be an NBA coach.

  20. Agree with Governor. This is not Lacob’s issue (except, ultimately, he will have to address it). This is a Smart issue. Lacob seems to understand Bball. He’s not dictating matchups to Smart. He’s not telling Smart to slow it down. Yes, he’s made it clear that he wants to increase the focus on defense and rebounding long term with this team. That’s a good thing. But Smart is the one who is not adjusting to Lee being out. It is exposing his weaknesses as a coach.

    Smart appears to be off the charts good in terms of player relations. But you need to be able to handle the Xs and Os. Otherwise, you’re just a version of Singletary.

  21. Remember, Lacob said he ultimately wants this team to run like the Lakers on O. While that might sound funny at this point, clearly he wants the Warriors to run on O.

  22. btw, Steinmetz has recently reported that Lacob is not a Mike Brown supporter, so not to worry.

  23. OK, test time. Will Smart make needed adjustments tonight?

  24. ESPN’s JA Adande writes about Curry……PG or shooting guard?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=adande_ja&page=curry-101126

  25. Wow. Keith Smart lost the game. He sits Monta and Curry for the first 6 minutes of the 4th Q? He called a TO with 8+ mins left and I thought for sure he was bringing Curry back in, but no. He waits another 2 minutes. Then sits Curry again bc he makes a mistake (after sitting him for 10 minutes?!) with 4+ mins left and doesn’t bring him back in until it’s too late with just over 2 minutes left.

  26. Good article Steve. Excerpt:

    “Curry can take you through every step of the learning process with a nuanced discussion of the position’s finer points. Golden State Warriors coach Keith Smart believes that Curry can ‘develop into an upper-echelon point guard.’ Then the game begins, and you see Curry in action, with the defense sucked into the paint and Monta Ellis looping a pass out to Curry beyond the 3-point arc and Curry unleashing that high-arcing, smooth-looking jumper, and you wonder … why bother? Why focus on having Curry pass the ball when his greatest skill is shooting it?”

    But hey, Curry took some shots tonight.

    It seems to me that the Warriors have a unique situation with Ellis and Curry in the backcourt, both of whom can shoot and run point. The question shouldn’t be whether Curry plays point or not, but how he can best play with Ellis.

    And yes, Our Team, that was my question. We had little offense on the floor the 4th. qtr. until about 7:00 to go.

    I watched ESPN tonight, and Hubie Brown called a good game, with understanding and respect for the Warriors. One of his comments is what got to me — unforced errors, and there were a ton of them. Not finishing at the basked for sure goals. 3-4 traveling calls when not even challenged. Dropped passes. Utterly missing back door cuts. Really bad passes, of which Vlad Rad’s takes the cake. There must have been 20 of these, enough to make a difference.

    Youth I guess. Not Smart’s fault.

    Question: did the Warriors foul any more tonight than they did last night? 9 fewer called tonight, 3-4 of them intentional fouls at the end. If refs call games tight, it’s always going to hurt the Warriors more because they have to scrap and hustle to try to keep up.

  27. Look at C. J. Watson’s line tonight.

  28. DWright proves again that he’s not a great defender of 3′s. Gay owned him tonight.

    How does Smart sit Curry for his focus mistake dropping the ball off his foot at 4 minute mark of Q4, yet leave DWright in the game when he’s made mistake after mistake out there? How many bad 3′s did Wright take tonight?

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