Climate Change: Warriors 100 Thunder 94

We saw a lot of great things in this Warriors win over the Thunder, not least among them Monta Ellis outshining Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry and David Lee shutting up their critics.  But those great performances were not what stood out the most about this game for me.

Very quietly, something changed for the Warriors on this night. As quiet, in fact, as Ekpe Udoh’s 0-4 line in 27 minutes of play. What was truly interesting about this night is that for the first time this season — indeed, perhaps for the first time in decades — the Warriors actually put a team on the floor that can win with defense and rebounding.

To my consternation, the Warriors played big this entire game, and didn’t pay for it. Not only didn’t pay, but looked good doing it. I think they owe a big debt of gratitude to the Thunder’s coach Scotty Brooks for that, but I don’t want to take too much away from what we saw tonight. It was significant.

The Nightmare:  Why am I leading with the player who scored 0 points on 0-4 shooting, with a meager 4 rebounds in 27 minutes of play?  Because I think he was the Warriors’ most interesting player on this night.

This was Udoh’s most extensive run of the season, in a meaningful game.  And what kept him on the court was all the stuff that doesn’t show up in stat sheets. Defense. Dirty Work. Intelligence.

It used to be the case that when Biedrins left the floor, the Warriors defense would collapse.  With Udoh taking his place, that will no longer be the case. Udoh is even better than Biedrins at flashing out to double the pick and roll, if that’s possible.  He is even better than Biedrins in stepping up to deny penetration.  All while never losing contact with his own man.  He is a phenomenal team defender, right now, with about 20 NBA games under his belt.

Udoh is also doing the dirty work on offense.  The dirty work of pick-setting. This absolutely cannot be taken for granted, simply because the Warriors’ previous two rookie big men could never do it.  They couldn’t remember the plays most of the time. But also lacked the will.  Udoh doesn’t lack will, and he is learning the Warriors’ plays in record time.  Intelligence is meaningful in basketball.  I lost count of the number of well-timed back-screens Udoh set to free up Warriors players in this game, but one to remember was the one that got Reggie Williams that alley-oop from Curry.

Udoh was also doing dirty work on the boards.  The unglamourous work of boxing out.  Unlike Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph before him, Udoh knows how to get position on the boards, and he has the will and strength to HOLD it.  He didn’t have many rebounds himself to show for his work on this night. But David Lee did. After watching this game, I am convinced that Udoh helps David Lee get rebounds in a way that Vlad Rad can’t.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Udoh in this game.  And I wasn’t the only one.  Gary St. Jean (who, by the way, I love as an analyst) stated at half-time: “Udoh is my favorite guy tonight.”

This is a special rookie, folks. A special player in the making.  And we have a lot more to look forward to.  Because as he gains confidence and starts to take a larger offensive role, the Warriors will no longer be sacrificing offense in order to play defense, as they do with Andris Biedrins.

Monta Ellis: He’s so good that everyone takes him for granted.  Are there any other players putting up 33 point 7 assist games that David Stern won’t put on the all-star team?

This one came against one of the toughest defensive backcourts in the league. Ho-hum.

Stephen Curry: Matt Steinmetz has been vociferous lately that the Warriors need a “true” point guard.  I wonder, has any NBA player who wasn’t a true point guard ever put up 13 assists against 0 turnovers?  I don’t pretend to know the answer to that, I’m just wondering.

Seriously, I think Steinmetz’ opinion is ridiculous. And I don’t think anyone will even be debating this in a year.  Stephen Curry’s learning curve as a point guard is phenomenal, particularly given the turnover in personnel and coaches and systems he has been handed in his first year and a half.  Curry is a basketball genius, and if that wasn’t apparent to you last season, there really is no talking to you.

You will have to be shown, game after game, gem after tonight’s gem.

Just like Matt Steinmetz.

The Under-Sized Backcourt: Were Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry exploited in this game?  They outscored Westbrook and Sefolosha 56-28. And out-assisted them 20-5.

Quite obviously (unless you write for the San Jose Mercury News) the defensive success of this backcourt relies heavily on who the Warriors are playing at center.  So long as the Warriors can trot out a healthy Biedrins and Udoh, I would bet on our backcourt against any in the NBA.

David Lee: Tim Kawakami’s latest hit piece targeted David Lee.  I’m not going to bother refuting it, or the utterly bogus stats he cites (he’s too lazy, both intellectually and morally, to dig up and use the stats of Warriors games where both Beans and Lee were healthy).

David Lee will refute it himself.

He is an incredible basketball player, in ways that are not fathomable by statistics.  And like Stephen Curry, he has had a lot to overcome so far this season.  Not one, but two major injuries (the first his pre-season break of his finger, remember that?).  A new team.  A new coach. A new system. A new POSITION.

He, the Warriors, and Keith Smart are starting to figure it out.  Do you remember the last time Lee got 20 shots in a Warriors uniform?

Exactly.

Andris Biedrins: Decent on defense.  But I have to quote the great Jim Barnett, after a panicked Biedrins rushed a layup:  “You can’t play this game if you don’t want to get fouled once in a while.”

Isn’t that exactly what Don Nelson said in his latest interview?

Vlad Rad: You see that -11?  Well, please note that Vlad Rad was used only at small forward in this game, not at what I argue is his best position, power forward.

Smart never went to the small lineup in this game.  Maybe he didn’t want Scotty Brooks to follow him, because the Thunder’s small lineup of Ibaka at 5 and Green at 4 is devastating to the Warriors.  Mysteriously, Brooks seemed to have forgotten that.  Nick Collison, despite his nice Lacob Quotient, was a gift to the Warriors guards.  And Jeff Green, who in his career against the Warriors averages 20 points on 49% shooting, mysteriously only got 6 shots.  Another gift.

Congratulations to Keith Smart for not doing anything to stir Scotty Brooks from his trance.

And to Ekpe Udoh, who made it possible.  Maybe the Warriors are discovering a new, best lineup.

30 Responses to Climate Change: Warriors 100 Thunder 94

  1. Smart on Udoh: He sees him as a 4, not a 5, which I would have to agree with. Just not strong enough right now.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/13/SPSQ1HMGS5.DTL

    I thought playing Curry on Westbrook was a mistake, but apparently Curry asked for the assignment:

    http://www.csnbayarea.com/02/13/11/Monta-Ellis-on-Stephen-Curry-He-took-the/landing_steinmetz_v3.html?blockID=409972&feedID=5986&qv=1#bp

  2. I love your articles, Feltbot. You are the only Warriors writer who calls it like I see it. The conventional knowledge of mainstream Warriors writers never does them justice. I can’t wait to see more of THE NIGHTMARE. On another note, Chad Ford said the Warriors were a ‘sleeper’ to land Deron Williams for Steph, Udoh and 1st rounders…. thoughts?

  3. Miles,

    I thought our first rounders were all tied up in trades for next 4 years.

  4. Felty: Right on! I also watched Udoh. He provided the Warriors with 9 additional possessions.

    What does not show-up on the stats sheet is the fact that Udoh priovided the Warriors with additional possessions via turnovers. He only got credit for one steal. He also took a chargescaused an opponent to travel, an opponent in attempting to throw a pass around Udoh’s outg-streteched arms, landed in the hands of a Warrior. He also gave the Warriors five additional possession via a blocked shot, and four offensive rebounds. Quite a night.

    By playing big ,the Warriors garnered 20 offensive rebounds to the Thunder’s 2. The Warriors committed 8 turnovers to the Thunder’s
    20. An off the chart performance.

    With the Warriors playing big, the Thunder chose to shoot primarily from the outside, many of which were not contested. Typical Smart. As a result, the Thunder shot 52% from the field.

    The Warriors are an excellent shooting team, and but for their poor shooting performance, 43% from the field, the Warriors would have blown the Thunder out of Oracle.

    After B.Wright’s excellent performance against Phoenix, I would have liked to see him in the rotation in place of Radman,although Radman did have a few offensive rebounds.

  5. Remember that Curry laser pass to Lee in the first few possessions? According to Jim and Fitz, that was not scored as an assist. I do hope it was changed.

    Great win, but I wonder what we learned. OKC looked off in many ways.

  6. Another win against a quality opponent. After two straight seasons of 20 plus wins and a roster shake up, the Warriors are showing signs of learning to do what is the hardest thing to do for a young team, close out games and win. They probably don’t make the playoffs this year, but they will win close to 40 games. Which will be a vast improvement from the past 2 seasons. I’ve heard only a select few voices out there through the thicket of Ellis, Curry and Lee bashers who understand that being a winner takes time, effort and persistence. The Warriors have addressed a good number of their weaknesses over the past off season. After one half of the season complete you can see that they are playing together and for each other like a team needs to do in order to improve. Before they had no direction. Now we can all look at the team and see where the next move or tweak needs to be. They have their foundation now and that’s a good start.

  7. Felty, maybe you can help me out on this. There was a player on the Rockets a couple years ago when they played the Lakers in the first round and pushed them to 7 games. I think it was Landry actually now that I think of it, makes sense due to the Martin trade, but this guy (like i said, maybe landry) was the most important piece on the team due to his amazing defense and intelligent offense. His stat line for that series seemed to indicate he was an absolute nobody, but when you watched the games you saw he was the main reason for their success. Udoh strikes me as that kinda player. In another post I likened him to Kurt Thomas with a huge upside physically. He simplte “gets it” and will improve even more with the emergence of a consistent 17 foot jumper.

    On a team with prolific scorers who need the ball in their hands to make things happen, Udoh is the perfect compliment. He doesn’t need a shot to change the complexion of a game and last nights win was a testament to that fact.

    Keep up the good work Felt!

  8. The real problem has been consistancy. Now let’s see if they can follow up vs. CP3 and the Hornets. They did have their best road win in “Nolens”. As MTII said, we know that this team can better than they have been.

  9. On a more optomistic note, I have to whole hartedly agree about Udoh. Given his size, athleticism, intelligence, studiousness and work ethic, there’s no reason why he become a Dominant PF.

  10. Udoh is a terrific talent. It’s to early to get into whether he should play the 4 or the 5. He has already shown that he can shut down centers as well as power forwards. I would rather have Udoh guarding a big-center then any center we are considering obtaining.

  11. Miles, I would not make that trade (Curry for Deron Williams) if I’m the Warriors. I realize most NBA’ers are infatuated with Williams size and strength, and especially compared to Curry, but overall I’ll take Curry for the many years ahead. Curry is a superior shooter to Williams, IMO a better CLUTCH shooter, and at the end of their respective careers I believe Curry will be regarded as the better all-around player. What’s scary to me is that I believe I-wanna-make-a-splash Lacob would make that trade, player for player. I’m probably in the minority on this, but I’ve just never been enamored with DWilliams like most of the media and fans of the NBA. Anyway, great win last night.

  12. The Bay Area gets some love on the Scott Van Pelt ESPN podcast. Van Pelt and Karl Ravech talk baseball (Pujols, Phils, Giants, WS prediction), then SVP talks to Dorell Wright. (Starts at approx the 17 min mark of show)

    http://c.espnradio.com/audio/512079/svp_2011-02-14-170819.mp3

  13. How Charlotte beat the Lakers:

    “I think even though they’re bigger than us, we’re quicker and more athletic than them,” Wallace said. “We get up and run up and down the floor.”

  14. Not recapping tonight. Really looking forward to the Utah game tomorrow, and I think the Warriors are as well. We are better than Utah, particularly with Kirilenko out.

    What stood out to me about this night’s game:
    – Stephen Curry’s second Q and second half defense on Chris Paul
    – Curry’s passing. Not a point guard?
    – Curry only got 5 shots. Is there something wrong with Keith Smart’s gameplan in the first Q? Yes, there is something wrong with Keith Smart’s gameplan in the first Q.
    – When did the Warriors start to correct the horrible opening to this game? When they went small.
    – Vlad Rad’s +9? He only played POWER FORWARD in this game. Not only his best position, but the position that opens the floor for the Warriors.
    – Good to see Charlie Bell have a good game. He has been a very effective role player in past seasons. If the Warriors can find a role for him, that would be a big plus.
    – The Nightmare. More and more Nightmarish.

  15. I see Curry’s 5 shots as very “Nash-like”…
    Involve everyone else first & score as needed.

    Felt did you like how the defense fueled the offense? Plus the swarming defense provided an uptempo feel to this game.

  16. I thought the refs were going to decide this one. Late in the first, Fitz made the comment Dick Bavetta 1 foul call, the other refs 8.

  17. Thanks Steve for highlights. Note Curry feed to DW at 5:40 — one-handed and-left handed. Pass to Monta on the break follows.

  18. Uncle Ekpe is a stud. There was a play in the second or third quarter where he blocked Wests impossible to block baseline turnaround fadeaway and the ref held the whistle, then called it late. Infuriating! What does Unc do? He laughs it off with his teammates like can you believe THAT? Love his composure, he will be a leader on this team next year without a shadow of a doubt.

  19. Felty: Smart starting Biedrins and the Warriors getting down 10 at the end of the first is a repeat of some prior games. Udoh needs to start. In the Hornet game, he helped bring the Warriors back and take a five point lead by halftime. He also helped secure the win in the fourth. Udoh had a postive rating of 11, Biedrins 2.

  20. In the event anyone is still pining for Carmelo:

    Several sources describe a locker room frustrated with Anthony chasing shots and points over winning games, a resistance to listen to coach George Karl and a distancing of himself throughout the season from the rest of the team.

    From Yahoo, Wojnarowski

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=At.u38dwV_3GjDb4d.FIOvu8vLYF?slug=aw-anthonynuggets021511

  21. Utah:

    Yes, let’s trade Ellis for a big time player.

  22. On another blog the Monta/Curry issue was discussed AGAIN with the biggest, smuggest dog denigrating Monta and puffing up Curry. I wonder if tonight’s road win against Utah where Monta put the team on his back and willed them to victory while Curry was outshone by teammate Jeremy Lin (honest to god!) will shut off this gag-me topic.

    I doubt it.

    What the hell is wrong with some people; both guys are good in their own way, the team is on a roll, drop the stupid arguments! (Thanks, felty, I feel better now.)

  23. OregonGuy, “on another blog”? What the heck you doing hanging out with the hoi polloi again? :)

  24. Wow…feeling all tingly inside.

  25. Utah shot 7-23, or 30% from the field with Udoh on the court. Udoh was on the court only 16 minutes. How many games are we going to lose if the opponent can make only 7 baskets in 16 minutes? Not many. Udoh should play more.

  26. FELTBOT : TIME FOR A NEW BLOG ENTRY !!! Three game win streak – 4 back of playoffs – what is your take?????

  27. Felty, it seems like Smart is doing an excellent job with Udoh at this point. He’s slowly building his stamina up and has not burdened him with anything except playing defense and the occasional post up. I disagree with some of the other posters on the blog — he doesn’t need more playing time as long as the Warriors are winning. Like you’ve often said, he is becoming a great defensive player, AND he fits well with the Warriors offensive minded guards, David Lee and Andris Beidrins.
    Nellie’s last draft pick is no Adonal Foyle.

  28. Felty, you and Frank are on to something: when Udoh is on the court, keep your eyes on him. OK, here’s where I reveal my age; when trying to compare Udoh with any other player, I came up with Bill Russell.

    I know, I know, blasphemy and WAY premature. But isn’t a great feeling where a guy on a WARRIOR team generates a comment like that?

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