Whew. Props to Bob Fitzgerald for never panicking in this game. After that 17 point first quarter performance, I have to admit I had my doubts that the Warriors would win.
It’s not usually my way to nitpick after wins. But it’s also never been my way to put on false optimism, or sugarcoat what I’m seeing. I write about what I see. And I’m seeing a lot more negatives than positives on the court right now.
The Fastbreak: This game was played at the TWolves pace. The Warriors never ran the ball, except after turnovers. They never ran after a rebound. Never used the great outlet passing ability of Biedrins and Lee, never used the blazing speed of Monta Ellis.
I’m sorry, but Milicic, Love and Beasley are all but begging teams to run on them. Don Nelson would have run them right out of the gym.
The Post-up Offense: Keith Smart just gave an interview in which he stated that he likes to run post-up offense instead of pick and roll because he’s afraid to “feed [the other team's] fastbreak.”
In other words, Keith Smart is forcing the Warriors big men into positions they are uncomfortable in, taking them away from catching the ball on the move, which is their greatest strength, because of a fear of failure.
And at the same time, Smart is not self-aware enough to realize that the Warriors’ fastbreak, potentially the best in the league, might put the fear of failure into the other team. Might cause the mediocre coach on the opposite bench to take his team out of what they do best, to avoid having the Warriors run the ball down their throats.
Does Smart’s philosophy make any kind of sense? Is it a winning philosophy?
Andris Biedrins: At any rate, Keith Smart did not live by his words in this game. Thankfully. One game after continually attempting to post Biedrins up in the teeth of the Utah defense, and continually getting him stuffed, and continually watching Utah run the ball down the Warriors throat as a result, as if to spite his philosophy — Keith Smart finally changed the way he used Biedrins. Instead of posting him up, he got him the ball on the move.
It started on the Warriors’ first play of the game — which by this time every opposing advance scout, head coach, assistant coach, trainer, ball boy, color man and even Director of Basketball Operations in the league knows is going to be a play for Andris Biedrins. Reggie Williams entered the ball to David Lee in the mid-post, then ran by him for the handoff, drove the baseline and fed the cutting Biedrins under the hoop. That is the way you use the light and mobile Andris Biedrins offensively. That, or giving him the ball on the right mid-post, with room to face up and drive by his man. (Remember that? It used to work beautifully didn’t it? We haven’t seen it once this season.)
I would give Keith Smart props for this, if it hadn’t taken him 25 games to get back to what Don Nelson discovered 4 years ago.
Monta Ellis and Reggie Williams: 34 and 26 points respectively. Both got 2 points in the first quarter. Two.
Why must the Warriors wait until they are in desperation mode to throw off the shackles of Keith Smart’s offense, and let these two great offensive players create with the simple use of high picks?
How many more 17 point first quarters are we going to suffer through? There are not a lot of NBA teams as forgiving as the Timberwolves of these kinds of starts.
By the way, has the debate over whether Reggie Williams is a great scorer ended yet? And can anyone figure out why Smart preferred Rodney Carney to him, and refused to call his number on offense, earlier in the season?
Three point shooting: If you are looking for a single reason why the Warriors won this game this is it. The Warriors shot 11-22 from the arc, the TWolves 5-18. Many if not most of the Warriors threes bailed them out of failed possessions.
Can we agree that the Warriors are not just a good, but a phenomenally good three point shooting team? Reggie Williams, DWright, Curry all over 40%. Monta and Vlad Rad mid-30s.
What is the best way to create open threes, and reap the harvest of this phenomenal offensive efficiency?
Early offense. Run.
David Lee: Kevin Love was held to 13 points on 6-18 shooting.
A question for the pundits: Did picking up David Lee help the Warriors defense?
Dorell Wright: Other than Milicic, whom Smart chose not to double team in this game, the TWolves two best offensive players were Michael Beasly, 19 points on 9-16, and Martell Webster, 17 points on 6-8.
Did DWright’s defense have anything to do with these pretty lines?
Not a stopper.
Lou Amundsen: The player Joe Lacob calls the best per-minute rebounder in the NBA got 3 in 26 minutes last night. His season averages are 3 per 18 minutes.
What’s to account for this precipitous decline? Could it be that his past rebounding totals had something to do with playing for a team whose goal is to shoot the ball in the first 7 seconds of the shot clock? Or with beating opposing centers down court for putbacks?
Amundsen is yet another example of a botched signing as a direct result of having an incompetent number-crunching stat phreak as your GM, errr… owner. A stat phreak who has no idea what the stats he’s looking at actually mean.
I like Lou Amundsen. What’s not to like? He has a huge heart, a huge engine, a huge appetite for dirty work — in short, he has everything that Brandan Wright lacks. Amundsen’s an inspiration to the working man.
He’s also a losing NBA basketball player. As his own Phoenix team as well as every other team in the NBA knew when they refused to offer him a contract this off-season.
Let’s break it down: He’s a 6-9″ 225 lb. backup center who can’t shoot. He’s not a power forward, because, well, he can’t shoot, and NBA power forwards have to be able to shoot. His poor shooting extends to the free throw line, from which he is an absolutely wretched 48% for his career. This is a devastating handicap for a player who makes his living in the paint.
What else? He’s too small to defend centers in the half-court. The Warriors were forced to switch him to Love and Beasley.
What else? He’s most effective against bigger players when allowed to get out in the open court. But under Lacob and Smart, that will be taken away from him.
What else? His past rebounding stats? In this system, a mirage.
What else? He can’t finish inside against bigger players.
What else? He can’t catch the ball, dribble or pass.
The sooner the Warriors find a way to keep him off the court, the better. He’s the player you want the other team to put on the court. The player that hands you wins.
Night Watch: Unfortunately, any hope that The Nightmare would be ready to step right into this Warriors team (and send Amundsen to the end of the bench) is apparently misguided. Judging by the scraps of playing time he received the last two nights, Udoh looks lost and uncertain on the court.
Which shouldn’t be too surprising, since that’s how the players who did go through Smart’s training camp look as well.
We got a glimpse of his passing ability. Smart used him in the high post, which displays confidence. Udoh made an on-the-money swing pass to Vlad Rad for a three. But then botched a high-low feed to David Lee for a turnover.
The powerful, hungry, leaping, defensive presence that I had been expecting? So far missing in action.
Acie Law: Law is a very hard-nosed, up-tempo point guard, who can finish his layups. All of which the Warriors need badly. He gave the Warriors great minutes last night.
Unfortunately, despite his made three, he cannot shoot. And I suspect, although I could not tell last night, that he has difficulty running a team.
There is a reason why the league treated him like they treated Lou Amundsen.