Who Do? Rockets 121 Warriors 112

Udoh!

Warriors fans enjoyed their first extended Nightmare of the season, as Ekpe Udoh delivered an amazing all-around performance off the bench that electrified the Oracle.  The highlight sequence of the night, of course, began with his soaring, left-handed putback slam at 9:35 of the 4th Q. As the Oracle went beserk, the Rockets kept their head, and quickly inbounded the ball and connected over the top to a streaking Courtney Lee, who beat the Warriors defense, and… there was Udoh again, soaring to block Lee’s layup from behind. Wow.

What this game also showed about Udoh is that those highlight sequences — of which there are going to be many going forward — are far from the only things that make him special. Udoh is special because he possesses extraordinary desire and extraordinary intelligence. And he showed those qualities throughout his performance in this game. Let’s go back to that highlight sequence. For me, the highlight actually begins at 9:45, when Udoh beat Jordan Hill to the offensive boards to tip the ball and keep the possession alive.

Gary St. Jean raved about Udoh’s intelligence after the game, pointing out that the rookie played perfect hedging defense on the Rocket’s lightning-quick small guards, and also knew enough to direct Vlad Rad where to go on one of the Warriors’ offensive sets.

I noticed a few other things, like that he didn’t mind using his body to hold his position against Scola (Oh, Hallelujah!).  And that he had the intelligence, as a 3-game rookie, not to go for the Scola shot fakes that baffle 10-year vets. And that he had the length to bother a few of Scola’s shots. And that he boxes out on the defensive boards (6:55 2nd Q. Oh, Hallelujah!). And that he knows exactly where rebounds are going to come off the glass.

Oh, you down-trodden sufferers of Wrights and Randolphs, shout it out along with Reverend Feltbot: Hallelujah!

And one other play, which would have been the highlight for me if it weren’t for that incredible 3rd Q sequence. At 1:15 of the 1st Q, Udoh scrambled for a loose offensive rebound, and in a crowd, tipped it to David Lee for a layup. To me, this bespoke a number of wonderful things about Ekpe Udoh. Desire, awareness, presence, vision. Basketball IQ. I could not ever, even under the influence of hallucinogens, imagine Brandan Wright making this play. It could never happen.

Udoh finished with  4 assists in his 25 minute stint, to go along with his 3 blocks. He showed us another soft and sweet jump hook.  He showed us a fadeaway turnaround from 10 feet, that went in and out. And he showed a nice stroke at the free throw line, although he missed one of two.

In short, Udoh finally got the chance to show Warriors fans why Don Nelson drafted him over Greg Monroe at #6.  And he made feltbot — who insanely went out on a limb to predict just this sort of Nightmarish talent — very, very happy.

Don Nelson stole the draft. Again.

This is going to be fun.

Keith Smart: Oh, did the rest of the Warriors play a game?  You probably expect me to resume my Smart-slamming, don’t you? Well I’m not going to do it, because although the short-handed Warriors lost this game, I saw all sorts of good stuff from Coach Smart:

  • For the first time in dogs’ years, the Warriors actually scored the first basket of the game, because instead of going to Andris Biedrins on the first play, they went to Monta Ellis. Actually, I’m not sure I can credit Smart for this, as Biedrins was inactive.
  • Nevertheless, Smart went to Ellis early and often, which helped the Warriors play the Rockets even in the first quarter. And do you think getting him started early might also have had something to do with Ellis’ incredible performance in this game? Food for thought.
  • The Warriors actually looked to run this game. They pushed the ball from the opening tip. Take a look at that great David Lee outlet pass at :50 of the 1st Q that resulted in a layup.  And they even ran once after a made basket. I almost dropped my Lagavulin snifter when I saw that. First time all season. Unfortunately, the numerous early offense threes for Reggie Williams and DWright refused to drop. But they were created, they were there, and they were taken.
  • With DWright and Williams stinking up the court, Smart got creative, even going to a Nellie-esque three point guard lineup of Lin, Law and Ellis for a while in the second half, to match up with Houston’s smalls. It didn’t work half bad, despite the fact that no one on the court besides Ellis could score.

After these positive signs, I’m ready to cut Keith Smart some slack for awhile. Let’s see what happens when he gets Curry and Biedrins back, and the Warriors start playing some mediocre teams for a change. (Are there any bad teams left in the league? I think Warriors fans may have forgotten what they look like.)

Monta Ellis: 44 points on 15-20, 7 assists. What an incredible performance against the Rockets’ triple team, with no other Warriors players hitting shots to relieve the pressure. Do you think David Stern will let him play in the all-star game this year?

And for what it’s worth, I caught Monta saying this in his post-game interview: “Before the season ends we will be right in the hunt for the 8 seed.”

David Lee: We’re seeing signs that Lee is getting back to normal. I think he actually hit a jumper in this game.

Rebounding, great. Shotmaking, nice. But what makes Lee a truly extraordinary player is his court vision, intelligence, and passing ability. Off the pick and roll, drive and dish, high post, you name it. Extraordinary ability.

And let’s not forget that outlet pass. Please, Keith Smart, let’s not forget it.

DWright: Of all the soft performances that Wright has given this season, and there have been many, this may have been the softest. He just never seems to play well when his shot is not falling. Didn’t defend. (as eg., Barnett noticed that it was his blown switch that gave Scola that ridiculous bucket on the inbounds play with :00.4 on the clock to end the first half.) Didn’t rebound. Didn’t finish strong.

Trying to get back into the game, Smart tried DWright at power forward alongside Lee at one point in the 3rd Q. The 6-6″ Chuck Hayes ate him alive. After one disgusting Hayes offensive rebound and putback, Smart gave Wright the yank, and left him nailed to the bench until about 2 minutes left in the game.

Take a good look at that -22. You can be sure he won’t.

Lou Amundson: Lou put up enough rebounds in this game to get Kirk Lacob tapping furiously on his calculator. Unfortunately, he gave up a lot more than he pulled in. If you watched closely, you saw the Rockets’ bigs eat Lou alive inside. And the Rockets’ won the rebounding battle handily, 45-35. (If you want to point the finger at David Lee’s 6 rebounds, remember that he was stationed outside on both offense and defense, and Amundson inside).

He put up a couple of Lou Amundson highlight hustle plays and putbacks. He even got a Suns-flashback layup on a fastbreak. But the fact of the matter is that the Warriors are not a very good team when he is on the floor, offensively or defensively. Compare his -14 to Udoh’s +9.

Vlad Rad: After that brainfart, once again exposing the ball after a rebound, getting it stripped, and giving a ridiculous flagrant foul in frustration, Vlad’s performance in this game will be completely lost on the media and the fans.  It’s too bad, because Vlad played great in this game right up until that moment. The fact of the matter is, until Udoh becomes fully ready, the Warriors best lineup has Lee at the 5 and  Vlad Rad at the 4.  Vlad is a terrific offensive facilitator. He is also playing terrific defense, far better in fact than DWright, the so-called stopper. He is shooting close to 40% from three. He’s finally begun taking the ball to the rim with authority. And last but not least, playing him at the 4 spreads the floor. It is he and Udoh, not Biedrins and Amundsen, that will eventually break the triple-teaming of Monta Ellis. And it is he and Udoh that will eventually open the lane for pick and roll with Curry and Lee.

I have noticed Vlad getting the ball stripped after rebounds at least 5 or 6 times already this season. Can’t someone on the Warriors staff teach him how to put the ball away and swing an elbow?

Hey, this might be a job for our Director of Basketball Operations!

Acie Law: We saw his limitations tonight. 0-5 from three. We also saw how much better this Warriors team would have been had they re-signed CJ Watson, or not broken their deal with Jannero Pargo.  Good enough, in fact, to steal this game and perhaps several others they’ve lost this season while short-handed.

Thanks, Joekirk!

Jeremy Lin: Admire his toughness and competitiveness, but his inability to create offense was obvious in this game.  And Keith Smart, while praising his energy post-game, also let slip that he’s not NBA-ready. And Gary St. Jean said he needs to develop his game in the D-league. So I guess a move is imminent.

Thanks, Joekirk!  It’s been entertaining!

10 Responses to Who Do? Rockets 121 Warriors 112

  1. Thank you Reverend Feltbot for epmahzing the positive. Through the dark coulds there is a light, Epke Udoh.

  2. After a while I started to cringe whenever Dorell put up a shot. And you are correct about Vlad; he’s been playing a lot better since his verbal outburst about the team not taking practice seriously. He looks a lot more determined out there. However your term ‘brainfart’ is apropo. His stripping under the basket and subsequent flagrant was the turning point in a winnable game. I want to pull for the guy, but…

    And I have yet to understand the criticism Monta gets. Tonight I couldn’t find any fault with him. If fans think his play somehow is causing the Warriors to lose, I don’t see it. The Houston announcers have a world of respect for his game; why don’t we?. What a sad, boring team this would be without him; and newsflash: they’d still lose.

    And it looks like the Warriors have finally gotten the 6’10″ lefty they were trying to get with Branden Wright and Anthony Randolph! Say Halleluja, indeed!

  3. Love the game analysis. I would add a shot at Fitzgerald for his quantum leap backward in play-by-play. The constant complaining about rebounding was intolerable. The game was frustrating enough without having to hear his whiny tone, like a sullen teen-ager. “The Warriors just can’t let that happen!” (Boo hoo) Ignorant talk-show commentary intruded numerous times. When he complained about certain players’ stats, Barnett subtly corrected him. Possibly the worst performance of the year by the Fitz boy.

  4. Basketball for Dummies

    “Mr” feltbot

    This is your strength. You pick up the intricacies of the game like no other. You could be a blog-superstar if you could cure your affliction!

    Just a helluva on target post! Then you had to screw up with”Whathisname stole the draft.”

  5. Reverend Feltbot,

    Give me directions to your church!

    I got lucky and managed to be sitting a few feet from the W’s bench, Row 2 Courtside. One of the coolest babies ever, Monta Jr, was in row 1. He’s got serious charm. All staff and nearby fans were in love with him. I don’t watch people for a few minutes and then claim to have great insights about them like some on other blogs, but Monta’s wife sure does seem like a calm, mature woman.

    The Udoh moment was awesome. I literally jumped out of my seat (you can see me – the guy with white sleeves and the blue jersey, just above the “Farm” of the State Farm logo), everybody stood for the next few minutes of game action, through the timeout, and for a bit of play after the timeout. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t too excited before that. Dorrell Wright puts me to sleep. But UDOH rocked the place. We showed up really early, so I got to see him warm up a bit. He’s got some post moves. You saw the righty jump hook. That’s great, but he has counter moves – turns right and shoots AND fades away and shoots. Are those moves ready for primetime? Probably not, but when’s the last time we had a player, let alone a rookie, who even thought about those moves? Those arms are freakishly long. Good luck blocking his shot. He’ gets winded easily though. Hopefully it’s just a matter of getting in game shape. Loved the defense against Scola, too. Is he already our best defender on bigs? He’ll be more fun to watch develop than BW and AR.

    Acie law shoots knuckleballs, strange rotation. Really just needs to attack the rim. I cringed every time he shot after the first one.

    Feltbot, you and the Thaiblonde can appreciate this. I woke up early in Krabi on draft night (morning for me) and was thrilled that we didn’t take Monroe, a low ceiling guy I thought. I check the blogs (can you guess which one?) and they were crying as usual. So sad…

  6. OG: Udoh’s actually a righty, which made that lefty slam all the more spectacular.

    MWLX: I actually intended to include Fitz in my post. He again drove me insane in this game. After one incredibly whiny, nagging rant, Jim Barnett tried to gently remind him of his role, saying: “If you keep this up, you’re going to lose a lot of money. They’re going to make you an assistant coach, and make you pay the technicals.”

    That’s the great Jim Barnett. In his shoes, I would have resorted to strangulation.

    BfD: Thanks, but it was my affliction that made me an NBA fan, and got me in this business. So you’ll have to bear with me. Or not. There is no cure.

    Tiger: Thanks for the courtside report. Wish I could have been there. (Not to mention Krabi.)

  7. I was a huge supporter of the Warriors drafting Udoh over Monroe, but there had always been one downside to his game that he needs to improve on and that is defensive rebounding which was exposed last night. Because he is always looking to block shots he often is facing away from the basket when shots go up and he doesn’t turn and block out. He did the same thing in the NCAA tournament playing against Duke and even though he had a great performance Duke dominating on the offensive glass cost won them the game. But he is aggressive going to the offense boards and witnessed that as he jammed the ball home.

    There is no doubt that the Warriors would have been a much better team this year if Nellie was coaching. Getting rid of Nelson when there was no experienced coach to replace him made no sense. Smart is not doing a very good job. Just look at all the plays Houston ran last night in which players via passes or drives got easy baskets. The Warriors have to struggle for every basket.

  8. Thanks for pointing out that weakness in Udoh’s game, Frank. As I don’t watch college hoops I’m coming into this blind. I will watch closely for it going forward.

  9. Nice re Udoh (we need to temper the enthusiasm a bit, though, until we see a few more games from him–but I definitely liked what I saw last night).

    Ellis played a terrific offensive game but got killed by Martin’s O in Q4. Ellis’ second half defense last night was very bad–St Jean even showed one vignette where Ellis was out of position on D and lost sight of his player, who went backdoor, received the pass and scored. It was inexcusable defense–lazy, out of position D, the type you’d expect to see from a Junior Varsity HS player. There are two ends of the court to be played, after all.

    Smart lost the game by removing Udoh with 4:30 to go in Q4, leaving in Vlad (he shouldn’t play in a tight endgame situation; a rookie shouldn’t have to show him where to stand on a play); inserting DW (who was attrocious all night) and removing Lin. If you take out Lin there, fine, but put in RW, not DW. The momentum, which was strongly with us at that point, immediately turned against us.

    I thought Fitz was awful, too. Hard to listen to. Glad Barnett is finally starting to correct him more forcefully.

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