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.
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.
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?
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.