That Losing Mentality: Celtics 115 Warriors 93

I had this game penciled in as a loss, so the fact that the Warriors lost at home against the Celtics did not come as a surprise to me. But that doesn’t mean I have to like the way the Warriors lost this game.  I’m not referring to the shooting struggles of Monta Ellis, David Lee or the Warriors’ bench.  I’m referring to the fact that in this game, as in several other games this season against better teams, the Warriors under Coach Keith Smart did not try to win.

I have catalogued several instances this season where I thought Keith Smart demonstrated a losing mentality.  When, for instance, after the David Lee injury, he started Dan Gadzuric alongside Andris Biedrins.  When he refused to run the ball, and told his team on the sidelines: “To win this game you have to win the rebounding battle!”  When he had his guards walk back for handoffs after rebounds.  When he refused to let Dorell Wright and Monta Ellis leak out, because “What’s the use of them waving their hand for the ball if we don’t get the rebound?”  When he wanted to run motion offense instead of pick and roll, “because we don’t want to fuel Utah’s fast break.”

Always letting the other team’s coach dictate matchups and style of play to him. Remember? A losing mentality.

I have also catalogued several games, particularly recently, where Keith Smart demonstrated tremendous growth in this regard.  The Warriors have begun running.  They have begun matching up small at key times.  Ellis and Curry have been given greater freedom.  The pick and roll has come alive. And the Warriors have begun winning.

And I have begun harboring hopes that Keith Smart had turned a strategic corner, for good. That he’d turned into a winner.  A coach that knew how to seize the jugular. Who played to win.

This game destroyed those hopes.  Once again.  Has anyone counted how many flip-flops this has been for me?

Under Don Nelson, the Warriors had beaten the Celtics at home the last 6 seasons. 6 straight home wins against the Celtics.  Obviously Don Nelson knew something about how to beat them.  He possessed the blueprint to beating them, that enabled him to beat them with teams far worse than the one that Keith Smart commands.  With rookies and D-leaguers, in fact.

Do you think that Keith Smart absorbed Don Nelson’s blueprint?  Do you think that he absorbed the lessons Nellie imparted to him over several long seasons about how to beat bigger, stronger teams?

Well if he did, he failed miserably at demonstrating it in this game.  I’m sure regular readers of this blog know what’s coming.  The way that this Golden State Warriors team, visualized and assembled with great care by Don Nelson, can beat the Boston Celtics, is by going small.  By pulling the Celtics’ big men out of the lane. By spreading the vaunted Celtics defense out to the three point line. By putting four three point shooters on the floor, with one big man, and scoring three points to the Celtics two.  By creating open driving lanes for Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. By pushing the ball.  By creating early offense.

By running the Celtics’ old men off the court.

Yes, Smart and the Warriors caught a bad break in that they caught the Celtics with fresh legs after the all-star break.  But it shouldn’t have made one damn bit of difference.  We saw it in the second quarter didn’t we?  When Biedrins and Lee left the floor, and the Warriors went small with Udoh at center, and Vlad Rad or Dorell Wright at four, the Warriors reeled off a 10-5 run to seize a 52-45 advantage.  Keith Smart immediately gave that lead back, by bringing back Lee to play alongside Udoh, instead of replacing Udoh with Lee, and continuing with the Warriors’ best lineup until halftime.

Even assuming that Keith Smart has forgotten every single thing that Don Nelson ever taught him, don’t you think that this emphatic second quarter demonstration would have given him a clue?  Did he really believe going into the second half that the Warriors could beat the Boston Celtics by matching up big?

After 1:30 of the third Q, Kendrick Perkins tweaked his knee and was replaced by Big Baby Davis, who was already in foul trouble.  GAME OVER. That’s what I shouted at the Thaiblonde.  Surely Keith Smart, schooled at the knee of Don Nelson, couldn’t miss this opportunity, could he?  This was the perfect time to go small, with David Lee at center and Dorell Wright at the four!

How could Kevin Garnett and Big Baby Davis guard these two players without fouling?  Do you put Garnett on Lee?  We already saw Lee blow by Garnett three times in the first half for layups or free throws.  Can Big Baby Davis guard Dorell Wright out at the three point line?

No, obviously you have to guard them the other way around.  But didn’t we see David Lee destroy Big Baby on a pick and roll at the end of the first half?  And wouldn’t Dorell Wright be pulling Garnett, the Celtics best remaining defender at the rim, all the way out to the three point line?  Wouldn’t the entire floor open up for Monta and Curry and Williams?

Well, you might ask, but wouldn’t this lineup get killed on the boards?  Do you mean worse than the 52-35 drubbing they actually took?  The Warriors can’t worry about that when matched up with teams like the Celtics.  They have to take their chances with Lee on Big Baby, which is a matchup I like, and DWright on Garnett, which is a matchup I would be very intrigued to watch.

And they have to take their chance with offense. Their best offense. They have to, as Jim Barnett puts it, play to win.

It got worse. Far worse. At the 6:00 minute mark of the 3rd Q, Glen Davis went to the bench with foul trouble. And Doc Rivers started trotting out giant meatballs.  Like Semih Erden.  And Luke Harangody.

OK, this was the moment, right? Surely Keith Smart couldn’t miss this one!!?  Oh yes, he could.  Despite the fact that the Warriors offense had been stuck in reverse against the ramped up Celtic defense ever since the start of the second half, Keith Smart refused to try to create matchup problems for the crippled Celtics.  He stayed BIG throughout the third Q, which the Warriors lost by 10 points, to go down 88-78.

Smart finally went small to start the fourth Q, and what happened?  The Warriors immediately went on a run to pull within four.

And then, at 8:47 the game reached a turning point. Big Baby steamrolled Udoh for the second play in a row, resulting in free throws.  He made both to put the Celtics up 6, but more importantly, Doc Rivers hustled Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett into the game for crunch time.  Did Smart come back with David Lee and Monta Ellis for crunch time?  Did he get Udoh away from a difficult matchup?  Did he get his best lineup on the floor?  No, Smart dithered, as he has done all year long, “coaching the score.”  And this time it bit him and the Warriors in the ass:

  • 7:54 The Celtics leave Acie Law unguarded at the three point line. He bricks it, as he is supposed to, and the Celtics run it out and dunk.
  • 7:25 The best shot the Warriors can get is a Vlad Rad midrange pull-up off the dribble.  Another run out.
  • 7:00 Keith Smart finally calls timeout with the Warriors down 12.

Ok, I thought, there’s still time to get your best lineup out there.  But no.  Smart came back with Andris Biedrins alongside Lee.  And at 4:40, with the Warriors still down 12, still within reach, Smart replaced the injured Biedrins with Udoh.

Game over.

By lacking the courage to attack this Boston Celtics team with what he knows is his best lineup, by lacking the courage to play to win, and let the chips fall where they may — Joe Lacob be damned — Keith Smart forced his Warriors team to eat yet another blowout on their home floor.  How many times did Don Nelson get blown out at home in his last two seasons, coaching rookies and D-leaguers?

I’ve taken a lot of heat over the years for my “obsession” with Don Nelson. Inexplicable to many. But at the heart of it was something very simple. Don Nelson never believed he was going to lose. Every single time he set foot on the hardwood, he coached to win. Every time. He may not have had championship teams, but he himself was a champion, with a champion’s heart.

During the post-game press conference, Keith Smart was asked: “What happened to the Warriors’ offense in the second half?”  This is what came out of his mouth:

“The Boston Celtics.”

He elaborated: “Nothing you can do is going to surprise them.”  “Everyone has to play great. That’s what happened [when Don Nelson beat them 6 times straight], everyone played great.”

Do you see the theme here? If Keith Smart truly dared to look at himself in the mirror after this game, this is what he would see staring back at him:

A losing mentality.

Before the game, Ray Allen was caught on camera telling his teammates:

“This team here, they don’t belong on the same floor with us.”

He got it wrong. It’s not the Warriors players that don’t belong on the same floor as champions.

It’s the Warriors’ coach.

19 Responses to That Losing Mentality: Celtics 115 Warriors 93

  1. FromWayDowntown

    Agreed to 100%. Losing Mentality AND lack of trust in certain players. I hope Lacob notices what is going on here and doesn’t react with team crippling trades.

  2. Felt, in direct correlation to your comments, this game from last season, with Nellie still roaming the sidelines, and GSW playing a FAR superior team, is perfect illustration to your point.

    The Warriors were 17-48 coming into the game, and we all know how good the Lakers have been in recent years. What I remember like it was yesterday was the totally exasperated look on Kobe Bryant’s face immediately after the game as he was being interviewed by ESPN. He was asked essentially why they had struggled so mightily all night against such an inferior opponent. His reply was that all that mattered was that they had won. Then, he threw in the kicker……”Besides, how many teams play like this (the Warriors) in the league? We won’t be seeing anything like this the rest of the regular season or playoffs.”

    Here was this ragtag group coached by Nelli creating havoc despite being badly outmanned from the opening jump ball. Coaching!

    I like Smart very much as a person, but I’ve said all along that he’s in over his head as an NBA head coach.

  3. Speaking of Curry, watching him play against the Lakers in that highlight package from last season was a reminder how he played last season under Nelson, especially the last 41 games. Nelli just let the kid play and trusted that for every one mistake he’d make five really good plays in return. And Curry pretty much delivered on that trust by his head coach.

    Compare that to his play this season under Smart. So much of the time Curry seems to be thinking too much instead of just reacting to players and situations. It’s as if an invisible leash runs from the bench to Curry’s neck. Even though statistically most things Curry-related looks good in this, only his 2nd season in the NBA, the eyeball test says something different. He’s definitely struggled and looked disjointed far more than he did last year as a rookie, IMO. And after the dust settles? Unfortunately, another strike against Keith Smart.

  4. Looks like TMurphy is back in town.


    Trade buzz: Nets’ Murphy on move

    By Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports

    After nearly two months of trying to find a trade for him, the New Jersey Nets are near an agreement to send Troy Murphy to the Golden State Warriors for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

    The trade is expected to be completed on Wednesday, but could still become larger with the inclusion of Nets point guard Devin Harris into a three-team package – most likely with Portland or Dallas, sources said.

    The Warriors, who would also receive a 2012 second-round pick from the Nets, will buy out the remainder of the $12 million owed Murphy in the final year of his contract and allow him to become a free agent.

    Murphy, a 6-foot-11 forward, has the interest of several playoff contenders, including Orlando, Dallas, Miami and Boston, sources said. His 3-point range and size make him attractive to playoff teams.

    After Murphy was traded to the Nets from Indiana in the preseason, he fought injuries and ultimately failed to fit into coach Avery Johnson’s plans. Murphy played just 18 games before the Nets allowed him to leave the team on Jan. 7 and await a trade.

  5. Hey Feltbot,

    Tommy Heinson Celtics broadcaster said that Biedrins plays like he has “two broken wrists”. I thought you would enjoy that comment. It is still unbelievable Smart goes with Beans for so long. Likely the worse starter in the NBA.

  6. Those two free throws Biedrins took were U-G-L-Y and he aint got no alibi (to quote Clipper Darrell). How does he get away without shooting underhand. His range is not 2 feet instead of the 6-ft range at the beginning of this season. All for $9 mil per year? What was Mullie thinking? Truly if this game didnt seal Smart’s fate…and Biedrins. Lacob has to walk away with that conclusion…and will fall into the trap of getting some very skilled low post center… We need one or two more D-Wright’s to change our team substantially. He played with guts. And finally, Curry gets 10 shots (only!) and he makes 7? Only ten shots? While he is being doubled up by Biedrins man? Monta was totally passive in this game. Felt bad, it is like he saw the writing on the wall, and must realize when he has handcuffs on. He rarely played 1 (rather have AC Law at the point I guess) and was totally dependent on GETTING the ball rather than initiating. Pick and roll with Ellis and Lee would have worked wonders when we weren’t fast breaking.

  7. AC Law’s first game back -after a month- he is first off bench.

    Smart hardly plays Reggie (who has improved shooting and passing so much lately). Law was also schooled defensively in this game. Hey Coach first game in a month? Against the vaunted C’s? Ease him in.

    Smart needs to take a memory pill, or take a red-eye to Maui and take a refresher course from Don Nelson. And take another red-eye to get back to Earth and change tactics for Friday’s game versus the ATL.

    Referees did suck in this game, although we still would have lost. The offensive foul call on Curry on an inbound (gernobil like), and the Rondo acting like he got scratched were ‘Donahey’ like calls. Just sayin…

  8. (Saying the same thing) 10 shots for Curry, who was hot, 5 for Reggie — and 7 for Acie. If Monta’s not hitting, they have find other offense, and I can’t believe Curry and Reggie couldn’t have put up more shots if the offense was looking for them.

  9. And Deron Williams to NJ?

    If the Murphy deal goes through, a two for one, won’t that leave the Warriors with two open slots? Anybody from the D league they could audition? It’s not like that hasn’t worked before.

  10. I disagree with virtually everything you have written in this post.

    Your post ignores that Boston shot 55% from the field for the game. How are you going to reduce that % by playing small?

    The reason we had no chance of winning this game is because Smart played Biedrins who could not stop anyone in the paint from scoring, did not go big and put Gadzuric against Perkins, did not play B. Wright against Garnett, Curry getting into early foul trouble that limited his play to only 30 minutes, Ellis have a off-game shooting and providing a pathetic effort., and Law taking more shots then R.Williams.

    In Smart’s defense, he couldn’t play B.Wright, as B.Wright is probably going to traded today (to my dismay) and they didn’t want him to be injured thus putting the trade in jeopardy.

    Your talking about Smart’s failure to bring D.Lee in for Udoh in the second quarter, ignores that D.Lee started off shooting 1-7 against Garnett, and only 5-14 for the game.

    Udoh needed Gadzuric or B.Wright to help him on defense. Instead we had Biedrins and Radman. Game over.

  11. Great video link, Steve. I really miss a lot of guys we see there. Tolliver, Hunter, Watson. And a fabulously creative and completely empowered point guard by the name of Stephen Curry.

    I think the Warriors really miss them too.

  12. Thanks for the video, Steve, and it supports everything FB said above.

  13. The Warriors played a great first half. During the second quarter they played some really good defense and was able to take away what Boston wanted to do. To me the game was lost during that 3 minute stretch in the 4th quarter. As Felt said the Warriors were able to cut the lead to 4 during the first 2 minutes of the 4th. Once Boston’s starters came back in, Smart allowed his bench players to run with them for the next 3 minutes. The lead was pushed to 12 and the momentum was changed for good. The Celtics are to good to think you can just come back in the final minutes of the game after they have gotten a strangle hold on it. Smart dropped the ball and was clearly out coached. Possibly the players thought so to. Their body language and concentration was not there the last 7 minutes of the game which resulted in a blow out loss.

    On another note, it’s interesting that the only value B. Wright has on the market is a 2nd round pick in 2012. With D. Williams the Nets will win probably around 45 to 50 games next year. That means that pick will be in the late 40’s or maybe worse. Couple that with the fact the Warriors will not have their own 1st or 2nd rounder that year and you have a complete mess. Not to mention that draft will probably contain some very good players due to the lack of early declarations in this years draft due to the possible lock out. It would be much better for the Warriors to make the playoffs this year and give up that first in 2011 to now Utah and get to keep their 2012 1st. With that in mind maybe it’s best to keep Murphy rather than buy him out. Or try and flip him for a player or draft pick.

  14. felt: Yeah, Smart has no idea how to utilize Curry’s strengths and little idea how to utilize anyone else’s talent either. His strategic decision-making continues to be poor. As you said, when he brought back in AB at the 7 minute mark, it was a death knell for the Warriors. I would have stayed with Udoh, though, and played smalls around him, hoping that SC, RW and DW got hot.

    I was dismayed last weekend when Lacob praised the job that he and Riley are doing. Riley, I’m willing to keep a wait-and-see attitude on. Smart has shown me too many limitations to hold out much hope.

  15. Fort Wayne Mad Anthony

    Hey the highlight package showed Chris Hunter our D League Center last year who subbed for Biedrins even though he is better. Way too bad he is injured this year, injured because he was playing in the D League.

    Riley could have signed him for a s0ng. Watch him in the highlight video vs Lakers (29 points yes he did). He runs a pick and roll with Steph. He hits free throws, he blocks shots, And friggin Riley could nt sign him? No we have to protect beans and his ego, or play Gadzurick. Egads.

  16. Deadline tidbits:

    Baron Davis to Cleveland? To reunite with Byron Scott?? Wow! LOL

  17. Poor Baron. Karma is a …..

  18. Our Team: I agree with your points of how Smart misuses Curry.

    With regard to the Boston game, it was basically over when the Warriors only made nine field goals in the first 18 minutes of the second half.

    The Warriors will continue to play catch-up ball until Biedrins is removed from the starting line-up. He should be rarely seen in the fourth quarter.