The Running of the Bulls: Warriors 101 Bulls 90

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” —  Ernest Hemingway

Keith Smart is driving me crazy.  The guy has done everything possible to torture me this season.  Which includes his frequent habit of coming up with extraordinary coaching performances immediately after abysmal coaching performances.  I was in despair of Keith Smart after the last game, not for the first time this season. Now, I’m confused again. But confused in a good way.

This convincing 101-90 Warriors victory over the powerhouse Chicago Bulls was easily the best of the season. And it began and ended with the coach.

This is the game I’ve been looking for from Smart. This is the game — literally the first all season — in which Keith Smart dictated terms to the coach on the opposite bench.  And the guy he did it to is not just any coach.  He’s Tom Thibodeau, the real guy behind the Celtics’ rings.

Smart dictated the tempo of this game. Smart dictated the matchups. He even dictated how Chicago would run its offense. He made the Bulls dance to his cape.

And in the Cuarto de Muerte, he unsheathed his long knife — the Warriors’ best lineup — and delivered the exhausted Bulls to the embrace of their locker-room.

Keith Smart: Got everything right. I mean everything. It was crazy.  Let’s run down the list.

1) The offensive game plan: I have been repeating over and over this season that this Warriors’ team should be the fastest end to end in the NBA.  They proved it tonight.  I have never seen the Warriors push the tempo under Keith Smart like they did in this game.  Their outlets were lightning quick, and made to half-court. Or beyond.  They even ran after made baskets, as at 8:00 1Q, when Curry and Biedrins beat the Bulls down court.

Lets be clear. This Bulls team, led by Derrick Rose, is one of the best running teams in the NBA.  Last season I saw them literally run the San Antonio Spurs off the court — in San Antonio (which no doubt had something to do with Pop’s change of philosophy this season). Earlier this season, in one of Smart’s more benighted performances, the Bulls outscored the Warriors 37-20 in fastbreak points.

Well, the Bulls are not faster than this Warriors team. By halftime of this game, the Warriors had outscored the Bulls 23-7 in fastbreak points. And I’m pretty darn sure that total got worse by the end of the game.

2) The defensive game plan: Let’s start with the backcourt matchups, which I have been arguing for all season: Monta Ellis on the quick guard, Stephen Curry on the big guard.  Smart finally got it right, and Monta Ellis was a huge part of a defensive game plan that completely dismantled Derrick Rose.

The frontcourt matchups were equally brilliant, with Smart cross-matching Biedrins onto Boozer, and Lee onto the immobile Kurt Thomas.

Andris Biedrins v. Carlos Boozer:  Weapon. Boozer is shorter, slower, and has less range than Ersan Ilyasova. Beans tortured him.

Then of course, there was the trapping of the pick and roll by Biedrins and Udoh and Vlad Rad.  I have seen a lot of blog posters over the years rant about Nellie (and now Smart) using Biedrins to trap the pick and roll away from the basket. This game gave the lie to those posters.  Biedrins is one of the few centers in the league who can do this effectively, when he’s healthy. And the Warriors executed Smart’s defensive game plan to near perfection.

Rose was held to 14 points on 6-15 shooting, and was turned over 9 times. Much of Chicago’s offense was funneled not just to the second and third options, but to their escape valves: Kurt Thomas and Taj Gibson.  If those guys hadn’t been hitting, this might have been a blowout.

3) Ekpe Udoh and Vlad Rad: I will try to pretend that Lou Amundson sitting in street clothes had nothing to do with this, but Smart found the best lineups for the Warriors in this game.  Please take note of Vlad Rad’s +23 in this game in an 0-2 performance and understand that he does things for the Warriors that go far beyond hitting threes.  He is one of their best defenders (on fours). He runs the floor. And he spreads the floor for Monta and Curry. +23.

Udoh, who had a fantastic game defensively (more on this below), was a more modest +6.  But it should be noted that on both occasions that Udoh was brought into the game, the Warriors went from losing to winning.

This frontline, Udoh and Vlad Rad, is going to be one of the Warriors’ most effective, going forward.

4) The crunchtime sword thrust: At 3:55 4Q, with the Warriors up 10, Smart took out Vlad Rad, and brought David Lee in to play alongside Biedrins.

And feltbot began to gnash his teeth.  Keith Smart, it appeared, was once again going to try to win a game with defense.  He was once again going to take the Warriors out of what they do best.  He was once again going to incarcerate Monta and Curry in cat hell.

But something happened. The Bulls scared him by trapping Beans at half-court. He remembered that Beans can’t shoot free-throws. His fear of Joe Lacob disappeared. The ghost of Don Nelson descended from the rafters and whispered in his ear. Something.

At 3:40, Smart replaced Biedrins with…  Reggie Williams!  The Warriors went into crunch time with David Lee at center! Dorell Wright at PF! and Reggie Williams at SF!  And of course, to top it off, the undersized backcourt that can’t play together.

Here’s what happened:

  • Out of the inbounds, Curry finds a wide open drive, for free throws. (Why was that drive wide-open?)
  • @3:20 Curry rebounds (yes, Curry and Monta can rebound) and hits DWright over half-court for a layup to beat the Bulls’ press.
  • @2:50 David Lee blows a perfect Curry pick and roll pass at the rim. (Why was that pick and roll wide-open down the lane?)
  • @2:23 Reggie William blows by Luol Deng, earning free throws. (Why does feltbot insist that small forward is Reggie Williams best position?)
  • @2:00 Curry again beats the trap with an over the top pass to Monta for a dunk.

Game Over.  The Warriors ran one of the best teams in the NBA — a team that in my estimation could potentially come out of the East — right out of the gym.

That’s what these Warriors can do. That’s how they roll.

Andris Biedrins: I’m leading with Beans, because he had a fantastic game that doesn’t appear anywhere in his boxscore.  Beans played fantastic team defense against Derrick Rose in this game.  Fantastic.  When healthy, he is one of the very best defenders of pick and roll in the league, with an amazing ability to flash out and quickly recover to pick up his man back at the basket.

Fat Shaq can’t defend Rose like this.  Kendrick Perkins can’t defend Rose like this. Which is why Derrick Rose routinely drops 40 on the Celtics in the playoffs, and will do so again this year. Which is why the Bulls might come out of the East.

The Nightmare: Ekpe Udoh also had a fantastic game that is not reflected in his box score.  Tonight we saw in action the things that had me so excited to watch Don Nelson’s final draft pick play for the Warriors.

Enormous Intelligence. Defensive Desire.

Ekpe Udoh is an extraordinarily brilliant defensive player, already, in his rookie season. It’s difficult to describe what intelligence in action looks like on the defensive end, so let me just refer you to the tape, for a sequence: Beginning at 6:20 2Q, Udoh left Boozer to stop Rose’s penetration, Rose rotated the ball as Udoh returned to Boozer, then Udoh left Boozer to stop Deng’s penetration, then returned to lay a body on Boozer as the ball was rotated and the Bull’s missed an outside jumper. Rebound Warriors.

Check this play out if you’re interested in seeing a budding defensive genius, as well as the single biggest reason neither Brandan Wright nor Anthony Randolph could stay on the floor for Don Nelson.

This is not even to mention the phenomenal one-on-one defense he played against Carlos Boozer.  His anticipation, balance, and footwork, as a rookie, are borderline supernatural.

And then there is his desire and willingness to bang, which is not something that can be taught. If Smart had played Brandan Wright in Udoh’s place, Oakland CSI would still be scraping bits of flesh off the hardwood.

But the rebounding. I’m not sure yet what to think about Udoh’s rebounding.  He clearly needs to add strength, especially after several months of being banned from the weight room. I think we will see a huge difference in him in his second year.

His rebounding is also affected by his huge defensive responsibilities.  He doesn’t yet have Biedrins’ knack of effortlessly moving from shot-contesting to rebounding.  But Biedrins himself didn’t have that knack until Don Nelson got ahold of him in his third(?) year.

And there is one other thing that is hindering Udoh’s rebounding: Take a close look at the play at 9:00 4Q, where Udoh had Boozer perfectly boxed out on a rebound, but wound up completely out of the play. Brandan Wright-like weakness? No. Boozer cleared him out with a blatant shove in the back, and the refs all swallowed their whistles.

A clear example of how the refereeing is biased in the NBA, against rookies, and in favor of stars.  And one more reason why

David Stern is a complete fraud: Earlier today, Stern selected Kevin Love of the 11-39 Timberwolves to replace Yao Ming in the all-star game. And thereby completely blew out of the water all of his remaining credibility, if he had any left.

All last year, the excuse given for leaving Monta Ellis off of the all-star team (and didn’t Stern have three injury bites at the apple?) was that the Warriors had a losing record.  That Monta Ellis didn’t make his teammates better.

What a crock. Does Kevin Love — he of the 11-39 record, and of the 2 assists/gm and the 1-1 assist/TO ratio, he who can’t hold the Anthony Tolliver’s of the league to less than 34 points — does he make his teammates better?

The idea that Kevin Love is an all-star is an utter joke. It is not even at all clear — except to the money men in the league offices — that Kevin Love is a winning NBA basketball player. I truly do not believe that he is.

Kevin Love an all-star ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge, who has put an injury-decimated team on his back, and has them in playoff contention? What a crock.

But the idea that Monta Ellis is not an all-star is even more incredible. Forget about all the statistical arguments. Forget about all the respect around the league that Monta has garnered this season. Forget about the respect of his coaches, and the teammates that he is leading.

In this game that we just watched, Monta Ellis went head-to-head against a player that many are touting for League MVP.

And destroyed him.

DWright: In another great performance, this is what I liked the most: at 3:50 3Q, Luol Deng caught the ball on the wing, and DWright got all the way into him. Got in his shirt, ripped his heart out, and forced him to give up the ball.

That’s what a stopper does.

He finished the Bull’s possession with that great sucker-steal on Carlos Boozer and a fastbreak basket. I kind of liked that too.

The Defensive Liability: Isn’t it astonishing what a healthy Andris Biedrins, and a coach that gets the matchups right, can do for the defense of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry?

This is something that Adam Lauridsen — to name just one Warriors pundit — will never be able to understand. How about you?

The Closers: In crunch time, Smart let his superstars take over the game. And what did Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry do?

They closed.

Lou Amundsen: Lou let his Fabio flag fly on the Warriors bench.  Andria, I expect to hear from you on an important issue:

Who has prettier hair, Lou or his anthem-singing girlfriend?

Bob Fitzgerald’s Special Moment: Wonder of wonders, there wasn’t one. In fact, I thought Bob called an exceptional game.  He was so good that he even created some great crunch-time moments for his listeners:

3:10 4Q:  “Play to Win!” Echoing Jim Barnett’s mantra, after  Smart went small and Curry found DWright on the break.

2:00 4Q:  “Attack! Attack! Attack!” After Monta’s press-beating dunk.

And, of course, he provided feltbot with the title of this post.  Thanks, Bob.

Joe Lacob: As I have been insisting since the start of the year, all alone and to not a little ridicule, this is a playoff team. All they need is to repair the damage that has been done to their bench. To be specific, all the Warriors need is one big two-way shooting guard to protect the phenomenal Ellis–Curry backcourt.

Joe Lacob, “the sins of the past” have the Warriors on the cusp.

Take them over.

29 Responses to The Running of the Bulls: Warriors 101 Bulls 90

  1. Great Post as usual. Agree totally in the contrast of the Buck vs Bulls coaching by Smart. You did forget the great call after a timeout with D Wright’s alley oop pass to a slam dunking Monta behind the vaunted Bulls defense.

    Curryesque Indeed Dorrell!

  2. ps… Amundsons girlfriend is hot for sure, but was that the longest of longest national anthems! Gawd if only Lou played as well as she dresses.

  3. I guess I agree:

    “We were just out of sync,” Rose said. “The way they double-team is kind of weird. They had three people on one side making sure when I come off the pick two people were on me. If I made the little slip pass, someone was sticking Carlos. It was a tough night.

    “I couldn’t get a feel for the game because they wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t split the double-team. When I dragged it out, they came out with me. Every pick-and-roll they trapped.”

    With 14 points and 10 assists, Rose narrowly missed his second career triple-double, albeit a tainted one.

  4. “The way they play, they make you rush a little bit,” Boozer said. “And I thought we rushed a little bit.”

    Boozer heated up early in the third, sparking a 14-2 run. But Rose continued turning it over and the Bulls fell asleep late when Dorell Wright, who had 20, found Ellis for an alley-oop layup off an inbounds.

  5. Okay – I am only half way through this piece and I must say, after 30 years of watching the Warriors – this is by the far the best and most entertaining piece I have ever read about them or basketball in general. The way you have placed tonight’s action into the context of your season long comments is great. So many writers stick to their worn out philosophies about the team that it renders their analysis worthless. You, however, express your curiosity in the changes that take place and make the analysis tie togehter with your previous posts. It is also a perfect forum for fans to learn about the changes that maybeSmart is going through this season.
    BRAVO!

  6. I thought the most amazing plays of the game were when Monta through unmatched speed and quickness was able to strip Rose as he was driving. There were some amazing defensive stops by Monta and totally proves your point, have Monta guard the fastest guard on the other team.

  7. Monta Ellis is better than Derrick Rose:

    1. He is quicker,
    2.A much better outside shooter
    3. to the defensive minded Chicago coach, a better defender.

    Rose just has a better roster. As Feltie says though, rebuild the bench and we got something. Now is anyone forwarding his columns to Lacob and Larry?

  8. ¡Olé Olé Olé! Feltbot! Great, great post.

  9. ME,
    Lacob read all GSW forums and blog. His interns post regularly, even Lacob posted sometimes. No need to forward this article. In fact, in a few weeks, Lacob will leak ‘rebuilding the bench’ to the media as his own idea.

  10. Great recap, Felt. As always, it was insightful and entertaining.

    Curry sure looks a lot happier when he’s running, as opposed to walking it up. That may have been my favorite part of last night’s game, Curry enjoying himself again.

    Loved Udoh’s defense. I’m a little worried about his balance. Not sure what to make of it.
    Sorry, but I don’t miss Amundson either.

    (I watched the LA/Hornets game last night. Could be time for a Marco watch!)

  11. Feltbot,

    Hair critique is the least I can do to repay you for getting it right, every time, including the times your opinion evolves while your standards remain consistent.

    I was also impressed with both the Lacob and the Nellie interviews on KNBR, which is clearly sports entertainment only. I miss Nellie on the radio and got very nostalgic when I heard his voice. It made me wish again for what will not be. But Lacob did impress me with what he said, despite the best efforts of Gary Radnich, especially the expanded versions of what had been written by some “reporter” whose name he could not recall.

    But, on to my assignment. I must confess that I was so pleased to see Amundson in street clothes that I almost didn’t notice his hair. It meant that my new favorite player, Epke Udoh, would have the opportunity for more minutes. And did that ever pay off! I can’t wait to see more of him on the court.

    Working from memory, since we had to erase the game from the DVR to make room for today’s events, I would have to say the Lou’s hair got points for looking shiny and most likely the color he was born with, and his girlfriend’s hair was sexier, although I would not recommend trying to run one’s hands through her tousled locks. I must throw in a disclaimer here that I cut my own ponytail off in protest a couple of months ago when it was starting to look more like Amundson’s free throws than a hairdo. It was a bold move, and one the Warriors could emulate. Hey, it worked for me.

    On a side note, I’ll bet C J Watson was very disappointed with his return to Oracle last night.

  12. another suggestion to stuff in lacob’s earhole : get a legit position coach for the bigs. nelson himself was one of the best, and last season brought in one of his top assistants in Dal, roth, who had to find another harbour when his padron’s ship was about to be scuttled. udoh subbed both for biedrins and lee vs. Chi, and could be a boost on offense over the former as he is on defense over the latter, with the right coaching and application.

  13. Excellent analysis, Andria :> I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

    And a very good suggestion moto. I think its clear the Warriors have something very interesting in Udoh, and they should bring in the best to work with him. That fading jump hook he got over Boozer last night, by the way? Unguardable. I’d like to see him get a few more offensive looks.

  14. I always enjoy your insights, you are a good writer.Unfortunately your continual need to bash Adam Lauridsen and his mildly-expressed opinions, both here and on the Fast Break site, make it seem like you are sucking on a particularly sour-tasting lemon. What Adam thinks or doesn’t think should be irrelevant to you. I’m sure Smart and Lacob’s thinking is what you are trying to influence. IMHO. Carry on.

  15. Nice recap Felty. Of course I missed the best game of the season after sitting through some of the worst. Thanks for the insight.

    Nash v. Curry tonite. Curry is getting his groove back and we know how he loves to raise his game along with the talent of his opponent. I think we are going to get a huge game from our boy tonight.

    Can’t wait!

  16. gnossos: There is a logical inconsistency between your second and third sentences.

    I don’t know if you’ve been around long enough to know this, but Adam Lauridsen gave birth to this website. If it weren’t for him, and his mildly expressed opinions, I would not exist in print.

    It was Adam Lauridsen’s mildly expressed opinion, day after after day, over two long years, that Don Nelson should be fired. It is Adam Lauridsen’s mildly expressed opinion that the Warriors need to break up the Curry/Ellis backcourt, that the David Lee trade was horrible, that the Ekpe Udoh draft was horrible, that Vlad Rad should never be played, and that Lou Amundson should always be played. It is Adam Lauridsen’s mildly expressed opinion that the Warriors need big stiffs in the middle, and one-way players on the perimeter, and need to walk the ball up, and pound it into the low post, and try to win with defense, by scores of 88-87. And never, ever, play small.

    I consider myself at war with Adam Lauridsen, and every single basketball opinion that he has ever mildly expressed. At war over the hearts and minds of basketball fans and Joe Lacob. Because if the style of basketball Lauridsen mildly advocates, and the types of players he mildly advises the Warriors to get, ever take root in this franchise, then I will no longer be able to watch the Warriors play basketball.

    I am not going to take that mildly. Feltbot lives.

  17. Exceptional analysis. I found Smart’s performance last night to be a breath of fresh air. Since Udoh has become the sixth man, coming in late in the first and third, it has helped the young man termendously. Amazing how knowing when and roughly how long you are going to play on a consistant bases greatly helps with building your confidence and subsequently your level of play. Smart is also starting to narrow his approach with his bench. Getting Williams and Radman into specific roles which highlights their strengths and avoids their weaknesses. With less players in the mix it allows better execution of the defensive game plan and better individual performance on the offensive end. I hope Smart has turned a corner and the Warriors start seeing the dividens in regards to wins and loses. I’m not on the “Amundson has no value boat” . He’s definitely not a front line players. He does provide hustle and energy, which is a commodity in the NBA. I’m also somewhat backing off my “Biedrins must go” comments. If he continues to show that he can be the player he was 2 years ago then we can add to him rather than replace him. However, with the uncertainty of what the new CBA is going to be and the possibility of a hard cap next year. It sure would be nice to have more than 7 to 8 million to spend.

    PS Fitz was impressive last night. In fact he was impressive the past two nights. Perhaps he’s turning a corner as well.

  18. While I agree with you that Smart coached a good game, he did make some mistakes. In the first quarter, he continually double teamed which resulted in Chicago finding the open man and hitting open perimeter shots. As a result, Chicago shot 55% from the field. Smart should have realized what was happening and stopped having his players double-team.

    In the third quarter, Smart should not have started Biedrens, as Chicago shot 69% from the field when Biedrins was on the court, and Boozer burned him on 4-5 shooting from the field. Contrary to what you wrote, Bidrins did not do a good job on Boozer.

    Smart should have started Udoh in the third quarter, as Udoh, in the second quarter almost completely shut down Chicago by himself, as Chicago shotonly 6-18 from the field ( 33%), and Udoh twice blocked Boozer’s shots. Boozer shot 2-5 from the field, or 40%.

    Chicago scored more points then the Warriors when Biedrins was on the court, and less points when Udoh was on the court. That is why Udoh had a plus 6 rating when Udoh was on court, and Biedrins a -3 rating. Udoh would have even had a higher rating but for the fact that the Warriors did not score particularly well when Udoh was on the court.

    On defense, Udoh was the difference maker. He is an abolute shut down defender. Unfortunately, Smart expressed after the game that there are some quick center’s that he thinks Udoh cannot cover in future games, and that he will have to play Amundson instead. An example of Smart not knowing what he is talking about.

    The Warriors are showing that they are a potential play-off team as the Warriors had more possessions then Chicago by garnering more offensive rebounds, and committing less turnovers. The Warriors also got to the foul line more then Chicago, also a good sign.

    Smart has the Warriors ranked fourth in the NBA in FG shooting %. This is significant and demonstrates that he is doing a good job coaching the offense, although I still think the offense has room to improve.

    And if would only play Udoh more minutes then Biedrins, our opponents field goal %, should drop. By not playing Udoh more, he is risking losing games that otherwise would not be lost.

  19. It has amazed me all season that until recently we did not run a lot of pick and rolls. Here we have two of the best pick and roll players in the league (Curry/ Lee) and we havent ran it much until the last few games. Of course Monta doesnt need it a screen. I agree that they need to run run run, but if they get caught in a half court they need to go straight to either the Monta isoation or the Curry/ Lee pick and roll. Either play is unstoppable.

  20. The goddess of fortune has smiled upon me: I will be watching the Phoenix game from courtside. So no recap tonite, I intend to fully enjoy myself :> I may have some impressions to share tomorrow though.

  21. Enjoy Felty, expecting an extra in depth review tomorrow.

  22. Thanks, Felt…enjoyed this one.

  23. “I will be watching the Phoenix game from courtside.”

    Be sure to wave at us when the camera pans.

  24. Actually I’ve been reading the various Bay Area BB blogs for years as I sit in my exile far far away. And yes, I feel that Adam is indeed mild-spoken and I have seen you pick a phrase or a sentence of his out of a 12 paragraph article and try to make all the hay you can. Your characterization of his “day after day” attacks on your idol is ridiculous. In fact you used to claim that he deliberately didn’t post after Warrior victories, even if he had informed his readers beforehand that he was going to be in India or someplace. I see that you are at war with him. But I don’t buy the noble reasons that you list as justification. Just write your own essays. They are very good and they will stand on their own without needing to trash on anyone else.

  25. Have to stick up for FB here, gnossos. He is right that AL for a long time and frequently was on the bandwagon to dump Nelson and get big stiffs in the middle. He was absolutely in love with AR and blamed Nelson for any and all shortcomings in AR’s play. I used to read and enjoy AL’s blog but about a year and a half ago he got stuck in this rut and has never emerged. Since we know the new owners follow the blogs it is important to correctly position AL’s viewpoints.

  26. Better late than never. Good game for highlights.

  27. I’d put it this way: Lauridsen deserves to be ignored. Kawakami deserves to be trashed and then ignored.

    Felty, hope the big egg being laid doesn’t obscure your view from those those courtside seats.

    I’d like to give Fitz some credit. He could have started whining in the first quarter, but held himself in check most of the time. Perhaps he’s been reading the criticism on this blog and has learned from it. (I say this with the caveat that I liberally used my 5-minute forward skip button during this disappointing effort.)

  28. Phoenix:

    Nights like this, I miss Maggette. . . .

  29. WheresMyChippy

    Nights like this, I miss Nellie…

    …and Dorell’s shot, and Curry’s shot, and Monta’s shot, and VladRad’s shot…