Cat Hell: Warriors 100 Bucks 94

Another lucky win, in a game that should have been a blowout.  Why does it feel like the Warriors are stealing games when they win at home?  Because they are stealing them.  Stripped of the strictures of their coach by the desperation of the situation, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are stealing wins for the Warriors in crunch time.

And they just may be saving the skin of their coach every time they do it.

Keith Smart: Are you scratching your head, wondering how in the world Ersan Ilyasova and Prince MBam outrebounded Andris Biedrins and David Lee 32-14? How a team whose tallest player was 6-9″ outrebounded the Warriors 49-36?

Are you tempted to blame Biedrins and Lee?  Well, don’t.  It wasn’t their fault.  It was the fault of their coach, Keith Smart.

Biedrins and Lee were outrebounded because Scott Skiles, borrowing a page from Don Nelson, pulled them all the way out of the lane.  He started Ilyasova at center, knowing that Biedrins had no prayer of guarding him out on the floor. Biedrins was of absolutely no use in the half-court defense, as Ilyasova shot over him at will, going 6-7 for 15 points in the first quarter.  And Biedrins was nowhere near the basket when the other Bucks missed.  He was out in no-man’s land.

With the Warriors spread out all over the floor, and their big men nowhere near the paint, the Bucks were able to use their quickness advantage to steal boards. Ilyasova and MBam had 16 offensive rebounds in this game. 16.

That’s on Keith Smart. This was the worst-coached game I’ve seen since Phil Jackson blew the 2008 finals.

Vlad Rad: If you’re wondering what Smart should have done differently, just take a look at Ersan Ilyasova’s line in the fourth quarter, which was played with a frontline of Lee at center, Vlad Rad and Dorell Wright. 0-3 for 0 points.

Take a look at Vlad Rad’s +9.  As I’ve been saying all season long, that is no accident.  Vlad and DWright alternated on guarding Ilyasova and Maggette, and shut Ilyasova down. Shouldn’t this have been obvious to Smart at the start of the game?

And Monta Ellis’ drive, which had been all but shut down for three quarters?  It came alive in crunch time. Because Vlad Rad was spreading the floor. Shouldn’t this have been obvious beforehand to the man who coached the Warriors to a 72 point performance in Milwaukee earlier this season?

Of course, when it finally occurred to Smart to make his fourth quarter adjustment (with the game, and possibly his career, flashing before his eyes), the brilliant Scott Skiles immediately changed his point of attack to Corey Maggette. And that just might have gotten the Bucks a much-deserved win.

If the two best players on the floor hadn’t stolen it back.

Zone Defense: Just a thought, but if you’re going to insist on giving Andris Biedrins 27 minutes matched up against  a 6-9″ three-point shooting SF/PF, wouldn’t you consider using a zone defense to keep him close to the basket?

On Weapons and Targets: This is going to be a new feature of my posts going forward, as I struggle with finding new ways to put into words just how bad an NBA coach Keith Smart can be.

Unless you are blessed with billion dollar all-star teams like Phil Jackson, coaching in the NBA — at least as performed at the highest level, by coaches like Pop, Karl, Adelman, Gentry, D’Antoni and Skiles — is all about matchups. Matching up styles, and matching up players.

The goal is to turn your players into Weapons, and to avoid having the other coach turn your players into Targets.

Let’s see if I can communicate my meaning by listing some examples from history and basketball games.

  • Armored knights against conscripted armies of peasants: Weapons.
  • Armored knights against barefoot longbowmen at the Battle of Agincourt: Targets.
  • The Maginot Line against World War I-style trench warfare: Weapon.
  • The Maginot Line against the Nazi Blitzkrieg: Target.
  • The United States military against regular forces: Weapon.
  • The United States military against irregular guerrillas: Target.
  • Steve Nash in a running offense (under Nelson and D’Antoni and Gentry): Weapon.
  • Steve Nash in a walk-it-up Shaq-lardened offense (under Porter): Target.
  • Dirk Nowitzki against the rest of the league: Weapon.
  • Dirk Nowitzki against the genius of Don Nelson: Target.
  • The 2007 Andris Biedrins against Fat Shaq: Weapon.
  • The 2011 Andris Biedrins against Al Jefferson: Weapon.
  • The 2011 Andris Biedrins against Ersan Ilyasova: Target.
  • Andris Biedrins on the move in a running offense against bigger players: Weapon.
  • Andris Biedrins posting up in a walk-it-up offense against smaller players: Target.
  • Coach Keith Smart against Coach Scott Skiles: Target.

Other Random Thoughts:

Why the Warriors should be the fastest team end-to-end in the NBA: This is going to be another new and recurring feature of this blog.

Tonight’s exhibit:  Stephen Curry’s 60-foot lob alley oop to DWright at 3:26 1Q.

Bob Fitzgerald’s Special Moment: And, regretfully, this is going to be the third new and recurring feature of this blog. At this point, I simply have no choice.

At 3:20 of the 4Q, when Stephen Curry missed a runner in the lane, Bob saw fit to inform us that Curry should have used glass, or dumped it off to David Lee.

At that moment, I heard my beloved grandfather’s voice in my ear: “Oy Vey!”

Stephen Curry: I have a friend who is a workout and health fiend.  He even feeds his cats health food, which led me to dub his home “cat hell.”

The media (and a lot of fans) have made a lot of noise about Curry’s silly TO’s. And a lot of them look pretty bad.  But I (along with blog friend rgg) have a different take on them. I think they have a lot to do with the system Keith Smart is running, and the players he runs it with.  When the Warriors walk the ball up the court and run plays with Biedrins on the floor, there is frequently nothing open. First, because the other team has time to set its defense, and second, because Biedrins is left unguarded and the Warriors are playing 4 on 5.

And third, because the smarter opposing coaches — like Scott Skiles in this game — are simply reading Keith Smart’s mail.

Here’s something to contemplate:  Before this game, the Warriors were averaging 15.4 turnovers this season, with a veteran lineup. Last season, with Don Nelson coaching a skeleton crew of rookies and D-leaguers at break-neck speed, the Warriors averaged 14.7 turnovers. What do you make of this? Is Stephen Curry completely to blame for the Warriors’ turnover problems?

As rgg astutely noted in the previous thread, when Stephen Curry got the ball on the break with the game on the line at 1:50 of the 4Q, Keith Smart was screaming “SLOW DOWN!” from the sidelines. Smart wanted to nurse a 4 point lead and run clock against a great half-court defense with an eternity left in the game.

Thankfully, Curry ignored him and found a streaking Monta Ellis for an uncontested dunk.

I’ve been all over the map with Keith Smart this season. I’ve been up and I’ve been down.  I think I’ve seen the lightbulb go on, and then I see the circuit break. Right now, I’m back in my darkened living room, nursing my snifter of Lagavulin, giving in to blackest despair.

Keith Smart does not understand the strengths and weaknesses of this basketball team. Keith Smart does not understand how to play matchups. Keith Smart does not understand how to unleash the phenomenal talent of his players.

Keith Smart does not trust his players.

Stephen Curry is in cat hell.

28 Responses to Cat Hell: Warriors 100 Bucks 94

  1. great read! i couldn’t watch the game but from the score it was obvious that smart, again, done something smarticulous.

  2. FromWayDowntown

    Indeed a great read. Especially the TO-stat is eye-opening.

  3. Well done Feltbot. Excellent essay, great analgies. Hoping Smart reads you too.

  4. Home run felt…

    No gnossos…hope it’s Lacob that read this

  5. Wow, felt. This is your best work ever. Fantastic points. “Cat hell.” Just terrific. I went ballastic over the game and Smart’s coaching and stubborn us (misuse) of Biedrins last night. I wrote my comment on Adam’s blog a few minutes ago railing about this. Then I read yours which makes the same points (though better and more detailed).

    Smart is driving me crazy and, undoubtedly, is driving Curry crazy. I was laughing when Curry, after getting chewed out and benched by Notso, “smartly” passed to an open Monta late in the game for the easy layup while Notso was screaming to slow it up. You’re right, that really sums it up. I’m watching Curry during the time-outs now. He’s standing on the outside of the huddle. He’s paying attention but he doesn’t want to get in next to Notso. Curry is getting tired of this. He knows more about bball than Notso. Curry knows they have to run. He understands that this team needs him on the court moving the ball downcourt in order to win. Notso has become simply an annoyance at the end of games. He screws up the matchups and other strategic decisions and Curry and Monta take over at the end with their brilliance. With Notso screaming to slow the ball down. He’s an annoyance, nothing more. Curry, Ellis and Lee deserve better and Lacob will bring them better.

  6. Good job felt. Don’t know if you’ve already written about who’s out there that would be the right coach for the Warriors going forward, but would love to know your thoughts on that. (and if you’ve covered that already, please direct me to that blog). Thanks.

  7. Felty, when the game started the first thing that came to my mind was, if Nellie was our coach, Lee would be center, Wright PF, and we would end up scoring 120 points. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and ilysova decided to do his Dirk Nowitski impression. That, and our offense was stuck in mud for most of the game. Smart definitely missed out on a chance to play small ball with little or no risk against a depleted, small team. I don’t care what Smart’s philosophy is, when you have Curry and Ellis and Wright and Lee, you can out small ball anybody….

    As for Curry. I saw his maddening turnovers this game as something different. It’s clear the double nickel Jennings dropped on him has gotten in his head. Every time we play Milwakee you can tell Curry presses. It’s what will make him a great player (the competitive spirit he has) but yesterday it led to some pretty ugly TO’s. The one thing he has yet to master is the Nash dribble into the teeth of the defense, keep your dribble, then dribble back out of you can’t find anyone move. Yesterday he would drive to the teeth, get caught, and turn it over. I don’t blame Smart for that. And as much as people don’t like his chewing Curry out (and the rest of the team for that matter) I love that he does it. This team looke like it needs a fire lit under its ass at times. Is Smart the tactician Nellie is? Not close, but he is a good enough coach with a not so good roster. I happen to agree with Nellie on this.

    The REAL question is, how do you feel about Nellie’s contention that our backcourt is too small and ultimately fatally flawed? When I heard that I had visions of you crawling up into the fetal postion, rocking back and forth and repeating over and over, they CAN play together, they CAN play together :)

  8. Damn the Dept of Homeland Security. (Huh?) They have closed down my source of live Warrior broadcasts, So if they don’t decide to throw all of us sneak users into jail, you, feltbot, are going to be my eyes and insight on all things Warriors. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. I’m trusting you, feltbot.

  9. Great, great stuff, FB. I was afraid you’d stop posting because you would get bored with repeating yourself. Instead, you’ve found a way charge the obvious with insight.

    Bob McKillop, the Davidson head coach, said he only had to tell Curry something once for him to visualize it and put it into action. But Steph is a good citizen, who dutifully repeats to the press all that Smart has told the team, and probably can explain it better than anyone on the team, maybe the organization. We can only guess what he’s thinking.

    Let us hope that better minds prevail, on the court and in the reporting, as it has here.

    Has Smart stopped to think what that 60 foot pass to DW means, and how this talent might be developed? And how will Curry develop as a PG unless he experiments game time and learns from his mistakes?

    Why focus on the TOs instead of this pass? I’m tired of this stat. We can watch a player go 3 for 10 and say he’s had an off night. But if a PG makes a TO, it’s all we can see. I’d much rather see Curry take chances and miss here and there than shut down and not develop. And I’d rather see him do all he can to push a stagnant offense and get it going rather than play it safe–and still have the team not score.

    But also consider this, as FB says: Curry IS doing what he’s told, and the TO’s are the effects of the plan. And Curry is scarcely the only one making turnovers on the team.

  10. Felty: Great analysis of Smart’s shortcomings in the Bucks game. You’re completely right in arguing for the Warriors playing a zone defense to keep Biedrins or Udoh inside, obtaining defensive rebounds, and not drifting to the foul line to cover their opponent.

    With regard to the Bucks killing us on the boards, one way a team garners extra offensive possessions is by obtaining more offensive rebounds then their opponent. The Bucks obtained 11 more possessions by obtaining 20 offensive rebounds to the Warriors 9.

    11 of the 20 offensive rebounds occured when Biedrins was on the court. This is the second game in a row this has happened, In the second quartger against Utah, with Biedrins on the court, Utah obtained 8 offensive rebounds. So, even though Biedrins defended well by keeping opponents from initially scoring, he did not keep opponents off their offensive boards.

    By shooting 50.6 from the field compared to the Bucks shooting 43%, the Warriors were able to win the game

    . Smart needs to address the Warriors interior defense.

  11. You’re right GMoney, that is the real question :> I was surprised, to say the least, at that statement by Nellie. It was he, after all, who picked up Nick van Exel to play with Steve Nash on that great 2003 team.

    But, and this is an important but, 6-7″ Michael Finley, a great defender in those years, got 20 minutes a game in that backcourt, and Van Exel came off the bench. In crunch time, Nash and Van Exel both played, with Finley at 3.

    I believe the Warriors can do the same with a big shooting guard, but the big difference is that neither Ellis or Curry would agree to come off the bench. Nor should they. So maybe I’m just dead wrong about this. Maybe.

    I haven’t listened to the interview yet, to check for possible nuance. But even if there’s none, I would still like to see Curry and Ellis surrounded with the proper pieces first, so that I could make my own judgement. After all, it was my own judgement that led me to my opinion that Nellie is a genius :>

    The biggest “flaw” in the roster, in my opinion, is the bench. As I think Nellie noted.

    As for Nellie on Keith Smart, “Keith is the greatest man in the world…” sounds very much like what Nellie said about Adonal Foyle.

  12. OregonGuy — Try

    Felty — Another bravo for great analysis and another thought. Monta has been in some kind of a funk for the past few games. I thought he might be tired, but after three days’ rest, he lacked focus again last night for much of the game. Is it possible he’s joined Curry in getting fed up with Smart’s coaching style?

  13. Felty, you should listen to the interview, its a good one. Nellie is in fine form and you can tell he is happy and relaxed. He had me laughing out loud on more than a few occasions. I miss that guy.

    I, like you, hope he’s wrong about our two guards because I really really really really don’t want to see either in another uniform.

  14. Ok, I just listened to the interview. The first thing I have to say is about the laziness or sheer incompetence or intentional dishonesty (take your pick) of the mainstream media in the Bay Area. I’ve already been around the block with Tim Kawakami about his complete mischaracterization of Joe Lacob’s intent in his latest interview. Now, Rusty Simmons in today’s Chron states:
    “Nelson said that the Warriors can’t consistently win with a Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt.”

    I will give $1,000 to anyone who finds those words, or anything even close to those words, in Don Nelson’s interview. That is not his opinion, nor would it be the opinion of the man who came within a Nowitzki knee injury in the Conference Championships of winning a title with a Van Exel and Nash backcourt. Nor of the man who drafted Stephen Curry to play alongside Monta Ellis.

    Rusty Simmons made those words up out of thin air. For what purpose? I’ll let you decide.

    What Don Nelson said is that the backcourt will always be at a defensive disadvantage. Which is an obvious truth. What was left out of the discussion are the obvious questions that Ralph and Tom should have asked, and should have been PREPARED to ask, if they were real journalists and not just entertainers: Will the incredible offensive productivity of the backcourt more than compensate for its defensive deficiency? Could the backcourt’s defensive problems be helped with the addition of a big guard? How did you get away with the Nash/Van Exel backcourt in Dallas? Did you envision something similar here in Golden State?

    Also, Nellie’s discussion of the Curry/Ellis backcourt was colored by its context. I believe Nellie was in the process of alluding to two important points: First, the Warriors bench is extremely thin, which exposes the backcourt terribly. And second, Nellie stated for years, and butted heads directly with Monta Ellis over it, that Monta could never be a GREAT player unless he became a point guard. He is an undersized 2 guard, and although Nellie marveled at Monta’s growth in looking for the pass, he is still a 2 guard in mindset. That greatly limits the backcourt partners he can effectively pair with. How many good BIG point guards exist in the league? Monta MUST take on a point guard mentality to become a truly great player.

    If Nelson were coaching this team, he would want to be able to pair Monta with a big shooting guard while Curry was on the bench, and have Monta run the team. That was always what Nellie wanted from Monta, and I believe that is a large part of what he was trying to communicate in response to the crude questions Ralph and Tom were asking him.

    Changing the subject: Nellie killed both Biedrins and Amundson with a very concise point. He stated that if you are afraid to use an upfake to get to the free throw line, you can never be a good basketball player.

    There you have it.

  15. I’m not so sure that Nelson, even though he now recognizes that Ellis can pass, now believes he has the ability or potential to be a great point guard.
    I surely don’t.

    Only a team that thinks Ellis is a point guard is going to want to trade for him and be willing to part with an equally valuable shooting guard.

    I agree with you that the Warriors need to improve the front court and obtain a big SG before any conclusions can be drawn with regard to whether one of the two should be traded.

  16. Nelson obviously set the agenda for the interview and has nothing to gain by making waves. Besides, he has always held his cards close to his vest.

  17. rgg, I totally agree with your astute points, above, about giving Curry some freedom in his passing, which means letting him fail occassionally. Reminds me of what my first ski instructor told me: If you don’t fall, you’re not challenging yourself enough.

    Felt, I really think Nellie believes the “Monta as point guard” ship has sailed. And for Nellie, it sailed the day we lucked out and got Curry in the draft. Nellie immediately embraced Curry as our pg of the future and made that clear in his statements to the media. I think by the point of the draft, Nellie knew he was trying to fit a square Monta-as-point guard peg into a round pg hole. He had no choice but to try that until the day we got Curry.

    I think that Nellie truly feels that Monta’s Achilles Heel is his size and always will be. That doesn’t mean he can’t be effective–heck, Nellie was supporting him for the ASG–it means this will always be a hindrance with Monta, and a significant one. Curry and Monta can, and will, be a dynamic back court. Just not a perfect one.

  18. Thankx, MWLX, for the link. You are my newest best friend.

    To beat a dead horse, I never see mentioned that Nellie’s comments about Monta being the team’s point guard were made almost exclusively PRIOR to Curry falling into their laps. Would any one of you have bet David Kahn would pass on Curry? No doubt Nellie thought a player other than a PG, possibly a big, would be the team’s draftee. I’d like to see any further discussion on the subject separated into before the draft comments and after the draft comments.

    On second thought, I don’t want to see ANY more comments on the Curry/Ellis/PG subject.

  19. OG and OT–

    Actually, I would like to hear more discussion about how the potential of having Ellis and Curry in the backcourt can best be developed, which I’m not hearing (or seeing?).

    I’m also tired of Smart’s comments about “focus” and “energy.” He’ll pull players if they don’t show these. He’s got cause and effect mixed up. These guys are sharp and want to play. They’ll focus and show energy when they have a plan that engages them.

  20. rggblog:

    I couldn’t agree more. Ellis and Curry are the best offensive backcourt in the basketball world. What is it about human nature that we have to worry about their limitations rather than capitalize on their strengths? Aren’t we unhappy with Smart because he doesn’t do that?

  21. Somebody remind me what a liability our backcourt is. But my favorite play was the VladRad assist to Biedrins, because if those guys can do that. . . .

    Hey, we got a new coach!

  22. Sheesh. Vlad Rad at +23.

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