The Warriors Bet Ends and Pre-Game Jitters: Suns at Warriors

Um, the Warriors are -2.5 FAVORED against the Suns tonight?  For those following along, The Warriors Bet is off, and now that I see this line I think it will remain off.  Bookies never remain behind the curve for long, and they have had ample time to size up this Warriors squad and review their mistakes. I don’t see any edge in this bet, and will be following Feltbot’s First Law of Sportsbetting:

Never give a bookie an even break.

For what it’s worth, this injury-shortened play was 3-1 for me, earning me 1.8 units. (I lost the juice an extra time when I got late notice that Lee’s arm was in danger of amputation and was forced to cover [thanks Aperacer!].)

Before I even initiated the bet, the Warriors were 3-1 against the spread. So they opened the year 6-2 ATS. A fact that I am going to file in my notebook for future reference. When you know for a certainty that a team is grossly undervalued coming into the season, the time to start betting them is the very first game. There is a temptation to wait to see your vision confirmed on the court first — which I succumbed to — but it should probably be resisted. You may take some lumps while the team establishes chemistry, but if your initial judgement was correct, catching the first run ATS will more than make up for it.

One other thing I’m filing in my notebook: The Miami Heat entered this season as the antithesis of the Warriors. They were possibly the most over-hyped team in history, and their lines reflected it. Quite obviously, if you had bet against them you would have netted a lot of steak dinners. I don’t want to be results-oriented here, which is the enemy of clear thinking in sportsbetting as well as in poker, but I think the same basic principle applied to the Heat as applied to the Warriors. Mispricing due to media expectations. There was edge in betting against them.

I never considered betting against the Heat because I was rooting so heavily for what I wanted to see from them on the court.  If only someone had told me beforehand that Eric Spoelstra was planning to make what could be the greatest running team in the history of basketball walk the the ball up the court and play half-court offense with no shooters! If I had known that, the Thaiblonde would be up to her neck in ribeyes, black and blue, please.

Oh yes, is there a game tonight? Lets get back to the Suns.  I am astonished at how well they have been performing, with Stoudemire surgically excised from the team, and the bleeding wound being stuffed alternately with a Lopez imposter, someone who resembles Hedo Turkoglu, facially, and Hakim Warrick. This is a testament to the extraordinary powers of Steve Nash. He is still playing like an all-time great, even at the age of 36, even with a bad back, and even though he can’t play a lick of defense. This is partly because he is a basketball god (and should be worshiped accordingly), but also partly because under the great Alvin Gentry he plays in the right system. A system that accentuates all of his great attributes, and masks his worst.

If only the same thing could be said of the system Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis currently play in. I will lay 100-1 on the proposition that this is a principle that Kirk Lacob, Director of Basketball Operations — and coordinator of The Dividing Rebounds by Minutes Played Research Project — will never grasp.

This game will be an interesting test for Keith Smart. San Antonio ran the Warriors off the court. Will Smart allow the Suns to do the same?

The Suns play a spread-center in Channing Frye. How will Smart guard him out at the three point line? Biedrins? Lee? That will pull one of the Warriors best rebounders out of the lane and open the floor for Nash.

Don Nelson guarded Frye with Anthony Morrow. A brilliant move that completely threw off the Suns offense, and kept the Warriors big men in the lane to protect the basket. I’m pretty sure that Keith Smart, in contract mode, doesn’t have the cojones to try something similar. But maybe he’ll surprise me.

Hakim Warrick will be an interesting player to watch. Recently promoted to the starting lineup, he has rapidly established chemistry with Nash in the pick and roll. As Warrick is quicker than Lee, Biedrins might be the best answer here.

And of course, old friend JRich will be in the house. He’s getting a lot more looks now that the ManChild is gone, and responding with a career year. Monta will have to stick close, and avoid those brain dead touch fouls.

But Nash of course is the key. Nellie beat him last season by asking Curry to sag off him, and force him to take his own shot. Nash lit the Warriors up for over 30, but tired down the stretch and lost the game. Did Keith Smart absorb that lesson? Does he have that kind of genius in his repetoire?

This game will be all about small ball and matchups, and which team is best and fastest at pushing the ball up the court. It’s the kind of game that Nellie and Gentry delight in and excel at. How will Keith Smart feel about it? Will he loosen the reins of his racehorses?

I can tell you this: if at any point in this game you see Dan Gadzuric playing alongside Biedrins or Lee , the Warriors will lose by double digits.

20 Responses to The Warriors Bet Ends and Pre-Game Jitters: Suns at Warriors

  1. god oh GOOOOOD PLEEEEEEEASE fire Smart ASAP…PLEEEEEEASE

  2. Come on Felt, tell the world how that cheap Lacob hired Smart, how that cheap Lacob is ruining the Warriors.

    Tell the world, Feltbot, tell the world.

  3. Not going to recap this game, because with both Biedrins and Curry getting “scratched,” what I have to say would carry little weight. I will note, however, that every strategy described above that Nellie used successfully last year to neutralize what was then a greatly superior Suns team was completely ignored by Smart in this game. David Lee guarded Frye, pulling him out of the lane, bingo, the terrible rebounding Suns outrebounded the Warriors. Nash was chased rather than zoned, forcing the defense to collapse, leading to 16 assists, ballgame.

    Oh, and Stephen Curry got his first shot of the game at 7:20 of the 2Q. He was chastised openly on the court for taking a quick three (this is the kid who shot 44% from three as a rookie). And then once again he was punished by benching in the fourth quarter of a winnable game, for a turnover.

    Do you think he misses Don Nelson?

  4. Very good recap, Felt. I totally agree with you re this game. Did you see Nash’s defensive strategy on Curry? Completely overplayed him to take away the middle of the court and dared him to drive to the hoop where help D was waiting. It was as if Nash, the assist savant, was saying–I know where you want to go and where you are effective bc you’re mini-me. I know you. And Smart did nothing to counter it. No effective picks or other sets to allow Curry to take back the middle of the floor or open up the lane under the basket where Nash was daring Curry to go. And, of course, there’s “the Leash”.
    I’ve called Nellie a mad scientist before, but at least he was a scientist. Smart is a lab technician, I’m afraid. Although to my view Nellie had a couple of overriding flaws that undermined his effectiveness, he had areas of brilliance as well–particularly, on O. Now, we have no brilliance on O, the same lousy defensive scheme, and none of Nellie’s in-game adjustments. Yes, I am sure Curry misses Don Nelson. You can see it in his body language on the court. I think Smart will remain the coach for the rest of the season but then be moved to a FO position.

    If things keep going like this, I see JL getting a real FO BBall person in here to oversee Riley sooner rather than later. Reports last week said maybe Steve Kerr. Although Kerr started his reign at Phoenix with some very poor decisions (Shaq; Porter; the first round draft of what’s his name who never plays?), he then made a number of excellent moves. Getting Frye and JRich/Dudley, Gentry…I’m not sure where I stand on Kerr, frankly.

  5. First round pick of Earl Clark, who never plays

  6. http://www.contracostatimes.com/warriors/ci_16766135

    “We did all we could possibly do,” Smart said. “At some point, our defense breaks down because they space the floor and normal help positions are not there. When you also have a great facilitator like Nash, he’s going to find your mistakes.”

    Whose mistakes, Keith? Has anyone else noticed Smart’s facility with post-game excuses?

  7. You’d only be repeating yourself, FB, if you recapped. Just point to previous posts. What a dreary game.

    Why aren’t they passing more, moving the ball around? Set offenses only work for Ellis.

    I don’t think Smart is going to get anywhere by treating Curry like a puppy who isn’t housebroken.

    Take away their spontaneity and speed, and you pull the heart out of this team. You’ve said this before — the best cure for defense is a good offense, and this would get players into the whole game more. Nelson could have scored 110 plus with the same squad–except he wouldn’t have pulled Curry and subbed Lin (I don’t remember Curry getting benched at all last year after the first month or so of play.) I think the main problem fourth quarter is that the guys are falling asleep from boredom. I was.

  8. Two words: outcoached again.

  9. OK, I’m officially depressed. It’s your job, Feltbot, as a highly paid blogmaster, to do something to cheer us up.

    I predict:

    Smart will be fighting for his coaching life this year and only get more cautious. If he has an inventive streak in him, we won’t see it.

    The team will win 30-35 wins, tops, not enough to satisfy anyone, especially Lacob, who will then bring in the best candidate who fits his conception of basketball. If he isn’t a big name, the next coach only lasts 1-2 years (the big name gets a longer contract because because he is a big name). That’s as far as I want to go now.

    Ellis will put up big numbers which again won’t bring him the respect he deserves.

    Smart will rely on Ellis more and more as a “sure thing” (at the expense of the rest of the offense? I still have this debate).

    Curry/Ellis arguments resurface.

    Amundson and Udoh won’t do anything to improve offensive woes, unless the latter is a very pleasant surprise.

    My newly bought flat screen tv will suffer irreparable damage.

    Could Curry’s performance in this system degrade (degrade only in interpretation, which can be everything) that it’s decided he is expendable and can be traded?

    Maybe Nelson would only have brought 5 more wins, but most of the games would have been exciting, at least watchable.

    Talent is a terrible thing to waste, to paraphrase somebody.

  10. What makes the coaches influence obvious to me is when you can see that the natural instinct of the players is to run. I lost count of the number of times that the ball instinctively got pushed into the frontcourt only for the ball to be pulled back to wait for an offensive set.

    The leash is well and truly on.

    @rggblog : Nellie did bench Curry from the starting lineup 3 consecutive times last year. Culminating in one game having him play only 2 minutes. It was the turning point of his season, in my opinion. Nellie then had the sense to totally hand over the keys.

  11. berko — yes, but that was early, right? The two minutes in NY were mysterious — that was during the last hours of the SJax saga.

  12. Went to the game. Saw an offense (except for first few minutes) that lacked any fluidity. Also saw the head coach giving constant direction while standing on the sideline. Given the earlier comments about the HC’s poor coaching, I’d add that he’s also overcoaching. A deadly combination. The team is thinking too much — overpassing in some cases, underpassing in others. No flow because they’ve always got the HC’s voice in their ear.

    The earlier reference to Curry’s body language is an understatement. The kid looked positively demoralized. DWright and RWilliams looked out of it. Only Monta and DLee were into it. I’m joining “rggblog” among the officially depressed. What a letdown.

    One other observation: Joe Lacob left at halftime. The rest of us should have followed him out the door.

  13. A number of posts ago, someone commented: “Why are you guys blaming Lacob?…” There are a number of reasons one could speculate without in fact knowing how heavy a hand the new owner is exercising over style of play. But the first and foremost reason is very, very simple. Lacob dismissed a superior coach and replaced him with an inferior one. For a season that could have been very, very good and certainly very exciting. So it is clear: Lacob’s first report card is an F.

    Simple.

    Some will say he needed to do this to pave the way for better choices down the road. The price for this misguided approach: wasting what should be Monta’s coming out party year as a dominant superstar (we may know it, but the entire basketball world should as well); possibly retarding Curry’s growth such that he doesn’t reach greatness until after deciding to leave this team. Thankfully these things may not happen. But Lacob has made them more likely.

  14. You guys built my recap for me, thanks for the excellent analysis all. And welcome to the blog Our Team and Berko, nice posts.

  15. I’m being offered Kobe Bryant for Raymond Felton in my fantasy league, and I do believe I’m going to turn it down. Did you ever think such a thing could be possible?

    My ranking service currently has Felton #5 in the league, adjusted per game, with Kobe at #24, believe it or not. But will Kobe get stronger, or is this the beginning of his decline? And is Felton’s breakout (and the Knick’s) real?

    I’m going to take a day to think it over… Thoughts welcome!

  16. feltbot, question for you:

    Like others, I’ve been both surprised and greatly impressed with how Popovich has adopted a fast paced style of play now that the Spurs have a roster for which it makes so much sense. Is this simply Pop showing his greatness by recognizing the roster he has and demonstrating the versatility he’s always had, or is it something even more? Have he and the Spurs braintrust actually recruited such a roster because they see this style of play as the most likely to defeat the Lakers? Your thoughts?

  17. GM, Pop is absolutely brilliant both as a coach and a GM. And yes, I believe he’s the de facto GM of the Spurs, just as Nellie was here. The thing that makes him so brilliant is his dynamism, his ability to incorporate any strategy at any time, which I have to think Don Nelson had a hand in teaching him.

    I’m not sure the braintrust decided that Nellieball was the best strategy to beat the Lakers. (Altho it is, as the Thunder convincingly demonstrated to me last season. They were just a couple of shooters short. And still are.)

    It’s just that they looked around and didn’t see any Pau Gasols or Andrew Bynums available. And they looked inward and realized that Tim Duncan is too diminished to carry the load. And so they decided to go all-in with their best players, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and play to THEIR strengths, not Duncan’s.

    A brilliant move by a brilliant basketball strategist.

  18. FB, thanks for your view.

    “Altho it (Nellieball) is (the best strategy to beat the Lakers)”

    Kobe Bryant on the Ides of March (after deep sigh of exhaustion following razor thin victory over Warriors in Lakers’ last game against Don Nelson): “You just want to get the hell out of here…You’re not going to see anything remotely close to (the Warriors’ style) in the playoffs. Not even close.”

  19. Guys if you would allow us this brief interlude…

    Feltbot, I think you have fallen in love with one of your fantasy players, a cardinal sin. I’m not convinced Raymond Felton has joined the likes of Chris Paul and D. Williams (although the year they were drafted the three were often mentioned in the same breath.) I would have snatched Kobe before the sucker had a chance to change his mind. And of course you are in first and I’m not. So take that advice for whatever it’s worth. Oddly it is A.Randolph that is killing me. I picked him specifically to give me decent block numbers and tho I dropped him ASAP, I, until today, hadn’t noticed that that one category is what’s killed me. Balance, felty, balance. And I think you get more categories from Kobe.

    Back to real basketball, the Trailblazers being in freefall is delighting me. I think I should be able to get cheap tickets to the Warriors game here in Portland the week before Xmas. I just hope the good guys aren’t so demoralized going into the Rose Garden that they stink up the joint (usually the refs do that for them here.)

    National Championship game! Go Ducks!

  20. OG, your remarks make sense, but I’m not sure they apply in this case. I’ve never been in love with Felton, but I am in love with his fantasy production this year. He’s probably the biggest reason my team is in first place at this point.

    In Fantasy, it’s not always about who is the best basketball player. Sometimes its about who is in the best system to produce fantasy stats, which Felton definitely is. Also, it is frequently better to play for a bad or mediocre team than it is for a great team. Both Kobe and Lebron’s stats are suffering this year because they are frequently rested in blowouts (Lebron is currently #13 in fantasy, and I drafted him #2). The Lakers are so good this season, so deep, and Kobe increasingly fragile, that I think Kobe may be rested even more than normal. (By the way, in my second league I drafted David Lee ahead of Kobe, a prescient move I think, but one that I’m obviously getting killed for.)

    I turned down the trade, and was immediately offered Rudy Gay instead, currently ranked 9th. Hmmmm…..