A Win in the Worst Way: Warriors 108 Twolves 99

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.

Flame away.

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.

24 Responses to A Win in the Worst Way: Warriors 108 Twolves 99

  1. You’ve nailed it on Smart. He’s not coaching the team he has, he’s coaching a team he wished he had. You can bet it’s his terrible game planning that has led to so many slow starts not too mention his game management. It wasn’t until Monta took over the game that it finally turned. You could see it, he abonded what was not working and went to work, to heck with the playbook. And Amundsen is a guy meant for 5 minutes a half, tops. Plus he has one hand held together with screws and athletic tape so now he’s half bath player he was. From here on out, we should call him Hellboy for his hand made of stone and pony tail. Funny, but a lot of chatter today from the pundants in praise of Hellboy over Beans. Is there a worse FT shooting trio of Centers in the league (or High School) than Beans, Hellboy or Gadzooks?

  2. PS Riley/Lacob still want’s “more beef” in the line up and has his sights set on Ben Wallace.

  3. I think you are right on, on Smart, and Wright’s D. Not on Amundson. He was much more effective last night than Biedrins (or Lee on D). Amundson’s a decent backup, and still better than AB. Hmnn.

  4. Any criticism I might have of David Lee not being as good as I had expected I will hold until after that ghastly wound on his shooting arm heals. Saw a picture of it where it looked like a gaping oozing mouth transplanted onto his arm. The stuff of nightmares. He deserves a purple heart and some kind of a non-military medal of honor.

    Oh and I’m glad they got their shinola together in the second half last night. For a while they looked like my middle school team where they turned the ball over in every way possible and couldn’t hit their free throws. I know that team has a bad coach (me) but what is the Warriors excuse?

  5. Was it me, or did Monta not get the ball in Quarter 1. He deferred to the other four players who shot (and missed) wailing fall aways or excessivly long 3pt shots.

    It was not until Quarter 2, that Ellis ran and took open court shots to put the Dubs into the culminating 3 at the buzzer.

    Your analysis of Smart while I agree with it means we have the ‘Obama’ of the NBA (great expectations followed by disappointment and a willingness to see him replaced as soon as possible).

  6. Question for the highest hoops IQ blog on the planet:
    My thoughts are prematurely heading to the 2011 draft. I been trying to figure out what draft picks the Warriors have for 2011 but I’m confused. Here’s what Hoopsworld has:

    First Round: The Nets have Golden State’s 2011 first-round pick which is lottery protected in 2011, top 11 protected in 2012, top 10 protected in 2013.

    Second Round: Receives least favorable of Utah’s or Phoenix’s second-round pick via Chicago from the C.J. Watson trade. Receives New Jersey’s 2011 second-round pick (top-55 protected) via Anthony Morrow trade.

    So for 2011, I think Jersey (or whoever they trade the pick to) has GS’s 1st round pick unless GS is in the lottery..which seems probable at this point but if they make the playoffs, the first round pick is gone. Next they will have two late second round picks and likely to have zero players from the draft who will make an immediate impact.

    Is this correct?

  7. Ape I’ve never been good at keeping track of salaries or draft picks. Something tells me this is a question for Moto…

    But I did just read this: The Lakers apparently just received the Warriors’ 2011 2nd round pick in the Vujacic/Joe Smith trade. So with every loss this year the Warriors are improving the Lakers’ draft position (and the LA Times seems to think it likely that the pick will turn into the equivalent of a late first rounder)! How you like them apples?

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakers-fyi-20101216,0,4374901.story

  8. Dang Ape. If you are correct, what a depressing draft situation. The only consolation for me is if you are going piss away your picks, this may be the year to do it. Either way, the Warriors could use CJ or Morrow and whoever traded the #1 for Marcus Williams needs to be hung in effigy.

  9. Oregon, Aperacer, if we want to grieve over past blunders with the draft our grey cells might suffer overload. the same gent who traded that #1 for m.williams also bequeathed b.wright and k.perovic (paid well never to appear) but his fans always say, ellis! biedrins ?!

    where the team is headed, no reason to worry about NJ getting the #1 in the coming draft, and there are too many variables next season to guess about 2012′s. second round picks are pretty volatile, speculative commodities until the draft class is thoroughly scouted, and of course they’re often traded well before that. the year curry was drafted the team would have benefitted from a second round, but st. jean had traded it years before. mullin used his on bodies like lasme and hendrix. why not look at free agents who’ve done something in the d-league or europa (like adrien) and consider second rounders a long shot ?

    for what Chi pays watson for a season, a team could pay a posse of scouts including their expenses and identify not just college studs but the d-leaguers and internationals. on past performance, we should not have high expectations from draft picks — curry was a result of multiple blunders by other teams and udoh can’t be assessed until after the season or even later.

  10. Thanks for the feedback. I guess the word “protected” as in “lottery protected” is what’s confusing. After more surfing, I think a “lottery protected” pick implies that we retain that pick if (or rather when) we are back in the lottery and then traded pick carries forward as a 1st rounder the next year.

    Also, although the braintrust at Golden State hasn’t grabbed a 2nd round sleeper since Monta. Maybe there is a Ginolbi, Boozer, Okur or more recently, Blair out there this year. Regardless, I do agree that our best shot at improvement is now, in the trade market.

  11. Moto, you are correct not to agonize over past draft transgressions. My problem is anticipation and discussion of the draft is the top basketball off-season fun, so pissing away the top pick blows a huge hole in the off-season for me.

    My son who returned from college today and is a Warriors fan, my wife and I decided to utilize the time of the Warriors game this Saturday night in a different fashion: contra dancing. Rousing boisterousness with a live band and if it is possible to have too much fun, this is dangerously close. Instead of agonizing in the nosebleed section of the Rose Garden with our ears bleeding like a David Lee elbow from the sheer volume of unnecessary non-stop noise, watching our team play 5 against 7 (the refs always intrude on behalf of the Blazers, usually with about 25 more foul shots than the Warriors.) I’ll check back in here afterwords to read insightful commentary from people far more observant than I. Ciao.

  12. I’m getting really sick of teams like the Spurs catching EVERY break from the referees. They should be on a two game losing streak but the refs love Ginobli.

    Remember the game at Oracle when Manu kicked his foot out into Turiaf’s gut to draw a foul to get the game winning free throws? Jim Barnett couldn’t believe it. On the next play Stephen Jackson was clearly fouled (his jumper fell five feet short and to the left) as time expired. No call.

  13. Looks like Biedrins is out now at least for the Portland game. Sprained foot.

  14. Lacob is the downfall of Warriors. He is worse than Cohan. So far Lacob’s decisions are all wrong, Lin? Admundsen?

    Don’t believe me? Read feltbot’s blog

  15. Wow, Orlando just got a whole lot better. Vince Carter and Gortat for Turkoglu and Jason Richardson. And now Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas. They dumped the two softest players in the league (Carter and Lewis), and picked up 3 big-time playoff performers. Turkoglu is probably their best facilitator. But their offense can kill you in a thousand ways now, won’t have to rely on Howard finishing.

    Eastern conference playoffs are going to be the real show this year.

    And the best part of it? I’ve got Arenas on my fantasy team. Woohoo!

  16. So what are we getting for Christmas?

  17. The Nightmare before Christmas?

  18. Not recapping the Portland game. Busy with friends this weekend. Did notice a couple of things, though:
    – I noticed signs that the Warriors were a little more interested in pushing the ball this game. They at least looked upcourt, and even found the halfcourt outlet a few times. That’s an improvement, but not anything close to hearing D’Antoni or Nellie shout “Go!”
    – It is interesting hearing Jim Barnett begging the Warriors to push the tempo. He’s getting more adamant about it every game. You go, Jim.
    – Rodney Carney is just one more reason the Warriors should be fast-breaking at every opportunity. A world-class sprinter and finisher, there might not be a single forward in the league other than Lebron better than he is on the break.
    – Is it just me, or has Fitz taken a quantum leap forward? He seems to be taking the Warriors’ missed threes a lot more philosophically.
    – Remember how everyone used to kill Don Nelson for his “isolation offense?” Well, there is no better argument than that botched last play of the game for the premise that isolating your superstar is the single best play you can ever call in a pressure situation.
    – I don’t ever want to get into the rumor spreading business, but I did hear something disturbing about Kirk Lacob’s role in the franchise from someone I regard as a credible source: That he regards himself as the “next Theo Epstein” (wunderkind GM of the Red Sox), and that Riley and the basketball people are required to ask his opinion of every basketball decision. I ran this by Marcus Thompson on twitter, you can see the conversation @feltbot and @gswscribe.

  19. Adamant is a good word. I loved hearing Jim say “That was a good play though, they need to do more of THAT right there.” when Reggie missed that wide open 3 trailing the break.

    This game featured more up court outlet passes for the Warriors than there had been all season. Is Keith Smart finally starting to get it? Has he been listening to Jim Barnett and Feltbot? Or at least just Jim Barnett?

    I liked the last play except for David Lee brainfarting all over it. What was that?

    Monta making that shot could have gone a long way in helping the Warriors and Monta get some respect around the league and in the national press.

    This was my favorite game to watch so far this season. I miss the days of Baron when we had games like this every other night it seemed.

  20. Nelson’s Maggette/Ellis isolation show in the middle of last season was the only time I questioned him. Did he do it because he couldn’t get any other offense going (with Maggette and Ellis leading the assault)?

    OK, we’ve praised Ellis, and rightly so, but I still wonder. When he runs the offense (first quarter Curry usually hands off to him), does it slow down? He dribbles a lot, studies the floor — and guys stand around and the defense sets. Several times the tempo has picked up when he’s left, last night for instance.

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