Get on the Warriors: Warriors 92 Knicks 78

I am as delighted by this Warriors win over the Knicks as anyone.  More than delighted. I’m ecstatic, not just for the single win in a long NBA season, but for the promise of many more wins to come that I see in the quality of their coach, Mark Jackson.

But before I get into that, I just have to get the nonsense out of the way. The nonsense that is spewing out of the mouths of the Warriors media right now.  And yes, spewing out of the mouth of their head coach. 

First of all, the Warriors did not win last night’s game because of their newly acquired size.  They won last night’s game playing small.  The game was tied entering the fourth quarter.  And then the Warriors small-ball unit took over.  David Lee at center, the Dominator at 4, Dorell Wright, Brandon Rush and Monta Ellis destroyed the Knicks to the tune of +16. Ball game. Kwame Beans (my new name for Mark Jackson’s two-headed center) rode the pine for the entire 4th quarter.

Secondly, the Warriors new defensive focus has very little to do with Warriors management, or their new head coach Mark Jackson, who are braying loudly about the change in culture and the new defensive identity in the media.  Nor does it even have much to do with Mike Malone, the defensive guru quietly doing much of the work in practice.

It’s about the players.

Those Warriors that spearheaded the Warriors defense in the fourth quarter, that held Carmelo Anthony to 1 point on 0-4, and Amare Stoudemire to 2 points on 1-2.  Dom McGuire, Brandon Rush, Dorell Wright.  Those guys.  Do they remind you of anyone?

How about Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, Kelenna Azubuike, Mikhael Pietrus, Baron Davis?  The guys that destroyed Dirk Nowitzki back when we believed?  The guys who ran Eric Dampier off the court, and held the number one seed in the NBA ten full points below their season scoring average?  Wing athletes of extraordinary length and quickness and defensive intensity.

Just a few short years ago, under a guy named Don Nelson, the Warriors weren’t just a good defensive basketball team, they were a great defensive basketball team.  Was it because Nellie “insisted on accountability,” “wanted to change the identity of the Warriors,” and make the Warriors a “no excuse team?”

Don’t bother answering.  And don’t bother listening, when Mark Jackson opens his increasingly annoying mouth and calls his own number.

Its about the players.  This is a truism in the NBA. Teams play hard on defense when they possess a core of true defensive pieces that can get the job done. Like a healthy Biedrins, the Dominator, Rush, and Wright. Teams play hard on defense when playing hard on defense works.

It’s about the players.

Joe Lacob finally decided to protect the fabulous core of this Warriors team with some true Nellie-ball wings.  And the result has been overwhelming and immediate.  As predicted.

Third, let’s be real clear about this: The Warriors weren’t “only” down 6 after the first half because “their defense kept them in the game.”  The Warriors were also down 6 at the half because the lineups they had on the court were lousy on offense.

Basketball is a two-way sport.  When you put a one-way player in for defense, there are two ways to look at his failure to create point differential for you. You could say, as the Warriors and the media would prefer, that this player “succeeded in keeping the score close.”  Or you could recognize, as Mark Jackson did in the fourth quarter, that this player is screwing up your offense just as much or more than he’s helping on defense, and is not helping you win.

I very much doubt that Don Nelson would have returned Biedrins to the court in the second quarter (6 minutes, -1), and I very much doubt he would have ridden Ish Smith most of the second quarter (8 minutes, -4). Not when he had a fabulous point guard by the name of Monta Ellis, nor players like Ekpe Udoh and Dom McGuire at his disposal.

Don Nelson would have taken a shot at blowing this inferior Knicks team out in the second quarter.

I say this not to insist Nellie’s way was better — I’m not going to quibble with the way Mark Jackson set his trap and engineered this great win.

I say this because fuzzy thinking about basketball drives me crazy.  It was the impetus that lead me to create this blog. And the stuff that is pouring out of Mark Jackson’s mouth at the moment is way beyond fuzzy. It’s propaganda.

If his players buy it, fine.  But the media?  That’s when feltbot cranks his engine.

Mark Jackson:  I forgive Mark Jackson for every silly thing he’s saying, because he’s a great coach.  Great.  I’m ready to say that after having watched three games, one of which he blew.

Mark Jackson understands the NBA matchup game, instinctively.  The contrast between him and Keith Smart in this regard cannot be overstated. I don’t know if he game-planned the second half adjustments he made in this game, or they came to him at half-time, and I don’t care.  They were brilliant.

David Lee at center. McGuire at the four.  Lots of Brandon Rush.  Monta at the point.  Small ball.  Mark Jackson understands it, and knows how and when to use it.  I somehow don’t think he’ll be repeating the mistake of that Clippers game.

Kwame Beans:  There might really be merit in Jackson using both of these players for short intense stretches.  They played exactly the right amount of time in this game.  Which was very little.

But in their way, they prepared the way for the fourth quarter.  They rope-a-doped Tyson Chandler.  Tag-teamed him, roughed him up, out boarded him, got him in foul trouble, got him frustrated.

Chandler got two one-minute stints in the fourth quarter.  Either he was used up by then, or D’Antoni knew he couldn’t match-up against the Warriors small ball.

Monta Ellis:  In the absence of Curry, Monta was seduced in the first half into thinking he needed to put the whole Warriors offense on his shoulders, as before.  Food for the critics.

In the second half, helped greatly by a message from Jackson, as well as the insertion of a much better lineup, we saw the true Monta Ellis.

The great point-guard.  I have been saying for some time, to a lot of ridicule, that Monta Ellis could be one of the best point guards in the league, if he wanted to.  We saw it in the fourth quarter last night: 7 assists against 0 turnovers.

I would take Monta Ellis over all of the athletic score-first point guards in the NBA.  Over Tony Parker, over Westbrook, and yes, over the MVP, Derrick Rose.  Guys like John Wall aren’t even in the equation.

Do you know why?  Because not only is Monta Ellis a better shooter and scorer than those guys, but he also passes better than those guys. He sees the pass, and when he throws the pass it hits his target right in the hands.

David Lee:  Lee seemed very nervous, and stunk it up on the offensive end.  You think he wanted this game badly?

And yet his defense was again superb.  Amare Stoudemire 5-14.  Or was it that Lee was helped by being surrounded by good defensive players?  You decide.

Despite his tough game, Lee dominated at the center position in the fourth quarter.  The way he dominated is not obvious to those wedded to the traditional idea of centers.  Lee dominates because on top of being a willing defender and great rebounder, he is a fantastic offensive basketball player. His offensive chemistry with Monta Ellis is growing by the game, and is already a thing of beauty.

That give and go at 8:49 in the 4th Q?  How many NBA centers are there who could run that?

Brandon Rush:  The obvious star of the game.  He showed me some mid-range stuff I didn’t know he had.  A very intelligent and gritty as well as talented player, I enjoy watching him on the defensive end even more than on offense.  He mixes it up and gets tough rebounds.  The Warriors have desperately missed having a player like Rush ever since Kelenna Azubuike went down.

The Dominator:  Wow.  Do you think the Warriors had specifically watched tape of Dom playing Carmelo Anthony before they targeted him? I kind of have a sneaking suspicion that they did.

Dom just swallowed Melo whole in the 4th quarter.  Melo felt him once or twice, and that was it, wanted no part of it.  First he forced Melo into an airballed turnaround.  Then he just stuffed him on a spin move in the lane (that was not a foul). And from then on, it was threes and pass-offs.

Wow.  Dom is a terrific small-ball four, in the mold of Vincent Askew, Adrien Griffin and Eddie Najera.  To name three Nellie small-ball fours who similarly couldn’t shoot.

And unlike Kwame Beans, Dom hits his free throws, which makes him real playable in the fourth quarter, alongside David Lee. Real playable.

Wow.  In Brandon Rush and The Dominator, it looks like Joe Lacob really hit the nail on the head. With maybe a slight assist from assistant GM Larry Riley, who knows something about the importance of defensive wings. Full marks.

Klay Thompson:  Ok, did you see Landry Fields blow by Thompson for a dunk at 3:42 1st Q?  Did you see Fields drive Thompson again at 2:34, for free throws?  Did you sense that D’Antoni had painted a big bullseye on the rookie’s back?

Did you see Thompson ride the pine the rest of the way?

That’s what I’ve been talking about.  Landry Fields is not one of the quicker two guards in the league.  Not quick at all, in fact.

The Nightmare: Take another look at Udoh’s work on Amare Stoudemire in the second quarter.  That is the promise of this kid.

Mark Jackson correctly kept Udoh on the bench in the fourth quarter.  The Dominator is the guy you want when Melo is at the four.

Ish Smith:  Adequate, but I’m yearning for Charles Jenkins.  Ish has made a lot of shots to start the season.  Has he really re-made himself as a shooter? I have serious doubts.

One thing I like about Ish is his court smarts.  He’s always in the right place for rebounds, for instance.

But I was really disappointed in his inability to push the tempo in this game.  Jim Barnett correctly pointed out that he was walking back for handoffs from his bigs instead of leaking up court. Ish also completely blew a two on one. If he can’t initiate and run the fastbreak, what kind of player is he?

Jeremy Lin:  It was nice of the Knicks to trot him out for a farewell brick. (Flame away.)

The Warriors Bet:  Now that I’ve seen Mark Jackson coach, I think the Warriors are a lock to go over 25.5 wins.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make that bet, because I hadn’t seen Jackson coach yet, and I felt that if the Warriors did show signs of gelling, I could make the bet in a different way during the season.  That moment is now.

After blowing a case of Fat Tire for me in the first game, the Warriors have destroyed the spread in the last two.  I think that is a trend that is going to continue, because I don’t believe the bookies are going to post correct lines on this Warriors team for several weeks.

I’ll be betting the Warriors every single game going forward, until the bookies adjust their lines.

37 Responses to Get on the Warriors: Warriors 92 Knicks 78

  1. Hey Feltbot,

    What that small unit did in the 4th was draw the Knicks away from the paint. The Knicks were clogging the paint most of the evening. Mark Jackson put Lee and someone else at the top of the key (or even further away), and left plenty of room for Monta to work some plays with Lee. I credit Mark Jackson and/or someone on the coaching staff for making the strategy change.

    I’m just so tickled that I spotted that difference. I’m learning how to watch the game! Feltbot, did you also notice that difference?

  2. I want to feel giddy. But I remember feeling the same way last season after a nice 6-2 start. Is there a difference now? If there is, then why doesn’t anyone here (or elsewhere) believe The Warriors will be over .500?

    29 wins this season is the equivilant of last year’s win total of 36. Add just a few more and you get to .500 ball. A few more and you’re in the playoffs.

    Guess it’s too early?

  3. I got the impression last night that the Knicks were done playing by the end of the 3rd quarter. Their bigs had taken a continuous pounding from a constantly rotating crew of fresh Warriors, and their guards were thrashed from chasing the two fastest players in the NBA.

    Chandler got sloppy, Amare started shooting nothing but long jumpers, and Carmelo began passing up shots. That was when Jackson brought in another fresh crew to finish them off. It was perfect timing. Whether or not any Warriors player has a “killer instinct,” the coach certainly does.

    I guess the dubs did play small ball at the end – the finishing crew certainly wasn’t big by NBA standards – but I wonder if their being “small” might be kind of beside the point. It was speed ball, against a Knicks team who were already glancing toward the exits.

    If last night was any indication, it’s going to be fun to see what other tricks Professor Jackson and his Evil Assistant pull on an unsuspecting NBA. With real contributors on the bench this year, this Warriors team has a lot of strategic options. Even just the ability to throw wildly different types of players at an opponent can work to their advantage. For example, simply subbing Ish for Curry forces a big defensive adjustment. And then swap in Rush, then Jenkins, then Thompson, and back to Curry. Woo.

  4. It was painful watching the Warriors struggle offensively in the first half but their grittiness on defense helped ease that pain. The only negative so far is their scarcity of deadeye perimeter shooters.

    And while it’s still way too early for judging and coming to any conclusions on Klay Thompson he unfortunately reminds me to this point of Mike Dunleavy (jack of all trades, master of none, and a frustrating shot that never finds the net with any consistency).

    Up next is Philly, which should be fun to watch. I love what Doug Collins has done with this team, turning them into one of the more up-tempo teams in the league. They run from start to finish and have lots of guys who can score.

    Assuming Curry returns this should be up and down for both teams with a lot more scoring than the Knicks game. With the 76′ers having to play tomorrow night in Utah GSW has a good opportunity to start the season 3-1.

    • Hey Steve,
      I was pained by the loss of W’s deadeye shooter Anthony Morrow a while back as well as Reggie Williams this offseason. I too enjoy deadeye snipers from range as much as the next guy! We have Steph Curry – who is already the best deadeye shooter in the NBA now IMO – just not a roster FILLED with them.

      And the transition from Nellie/Smart (Offense primary/Defense secondary) to Jackson/Malone (Defense primary/Offense secondary) is not so easy on the eyes to watch – Clips/Bulls/Knicks games so far.

      But I now look forward to and appreciate the two-way play of Brandon Rush (a deadeye 3 point shooter at over 40% career) whose an excellent defender IMO and Dorell Wright, a good defender who hasn’t found his perimeter shot yet this season but it’s there somewhere and it can be deadeye in spurts.

  5. The national perception of the Warriors isn’t going to change overnight. This is from Chris Bernucca of sheridanhoops.com.

    “But the best game is the back end of TNT’s doubleheader, with the New York Knicks visiting the Los Angeles Lakers in a battle of heavily scrutinized squads.

    The Knicks are banged up, losing rookie Iman Shumpert and defender Jared Jeffries in their Christmas win over Boston. Mike Bibby debuted Wednesday night but had no impact in a 92-78 loss at Golden State in which Mike D’Antoni’s innovative offensive schemes somehow made the Warriors look good on defense.”

  6. This is not your best post, felt. Nellie’s teams got destroyed by Boozer inside, and often Stoudamire, too. Against both Chicago and NY, when they started attacking us inside effectively (and both did), Jackson brought in Kwame and Udoh and they immediately shut things down for the opposing offense. Jackson’s defense is much more robust than Nellie’s D. No comparison. You focus on the perimeter defenders, and I get you there. The biggest difference, though, is the interior defense. Yes, much of the difference is Kwame Brown. But why didn’t Nellie’s teams ever have that type of player? They were available. Riley has all but plainly said it was because Nellie didn’t want that type of player. Jackson does. In fact, he wants several (witness, the Fesenko signing). Malone’s team/help D inside (and outside) is on a much more advanced level than Keith Smart’s D. And the Warriors still have quite a way to go to fully implement Malone’s D.

    This is going to be fun. You should be looking forward, not backward, bc the comparison of defense looking backward is not going to be pretty for the Nellie regime.

  7. You’re also being way too hard on Thompson. The guy’s a rookie and has a bit of that deer in the headlights look when brought in the other night. So did Jenkins, who I also think will be a good player. D Rose blew by Curry for a slam the other night. Chris Paul did it to Monta in the opener. Does that mean they are not quick enough to guard their position? No. Players lose concentration and it happens.

    • Monta blew by both Paul and Rose for dunks as well. Some of these little guys are too quick for anyone to guard consistently on the perimeter. Ideally, a big dude is there to protect the rim but that’s another story.

    • In 5 or 6 minutes, Landry Fields twice blew by Thompson off the dribble (near the 3 point line) and dunked it at the rim. This is a problem. Thompson will get splinters in the Jackson era.

      Thompson is already a nice offensive piece – handles the ball well, can take it to the rim, and can pass. Thompson’s surefire NBA skill – GREAT SHOOTING – is still missing early in the season so far, but many said the same with Stephen Curry when he was still getting used to the speed of the game in the NBA.

      As a GSW fan, I’m not worried about Thompson’s shot (it’ll come soon) as much I’m worried about his ability to defend the 2 (which may NEVER come). Perhaps he’ll have to get stronger and defend the 3 like Mullin did and thankfully, he also has the length to do so.

  8. OT,

    In Nellie’s (and Feltbot’s) defense, Nelson’s Warriors never had the depth of this year’s team. In his last go-round with the dubs, Mullin initially controlled the player acquisitions and he didn’t always deliver usable players. Cohan/Rowell almost certainly tried to keep the salary budget as low as possible, and always below the cap. The budget combined with the Warriors reputation meant they got no FAs, and the only meaningful trades they managed were for players who other teams felt were “damaged goods” like Steven Jackson (Malice in the Palace, etc.) and Baron Davis (who had a rep as a pouty prima donna).

    And then there was the Warriors’ horrible training staff, which always ranked near the bottom of the league in player time lost to injury.

    The result was that Nelson’s Warriors consistently ran the shortest player rotation of any team, using the most D-league refugees of any team, while their bench was too often stuffed with players no team would ever use (e.g. O’Bryant, Perovic, Brandan Wright). Even the We Believe team ran short-handed, with just an 8-9 man rotation and waste-of-space guys clogging the rest of the bench. In his last season, Nelson’s team finished with 8 active players. Total.

    This year’s team doesn’t have that problem. Even at the start of training camp it wasn’t clear that the GM staff would pull it off, but they did: they have a bench full of useful role players to start the season.

    If Nelson’s Warriors had ever had anything like this bench, there’s little doubt that Nelson would have put a two-way team on the floor. He did it elsewhere, it made an appearance during We Believe, and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have done it all the time here. Given the resources.

    That being said, I agree with you that Malone’s D might be something really special. This year’s dubs could surprise a lot of people.

  9. The Knicks by played Stoudemire on the perimeter exclusively in the fourth quarter. Such was perplexing given that Stoudemire had taken D.Lee earlier in the game to the cleaners down-low. I’m still not convinced the Warriors played their best small line-up at the end of the game.

  10. OT,

    Look at the games Nellie won his last year, two years ago, with 6-7 players total, Dallas for example:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/boxscore;_ylt=Ap9MJwJo3HEndF9WY4e_12GkvLYF?gid=2009112406

    And imagine what he could have done with this year’s bench.

  11. Keith Smart was a nice guy but last year proved himself to be a moron as a coach. Nellie (who was much sharper than Smart) kept Smart as his lead assistant coach and even put him in charge of his defense–is Nellie not responsible for that? Nellie wanted, first and foremost, offensive players who could run the floor. Those are the players Mullin and Riley surrounded him with. If Nellie really wanted a Kwame Brown-type body, he could have and would have told Mullin, then Riley to get him one or two. Clearly, they would have if he had asked/told them to. He didn’t/they didn’t. And no, Eric Dampier was not that type of player. Neither was Dirk. Lanier was; that was what–30 years ago?

    I will say this, Nellie’s parting gift to us was his handling of Steph Curry his rookie year. Nellie did a terrific job of recognizing and developing Steph’s talent.

    Anyway, enough Nellie talk. We’re moving forward.

  12. Monta may not play New Years v. Sixers:
    http://www.ibabuzz.com/warriors/2011/12/30/monta-ellis-may-miss-saturdays-game-vs-philadelphia/

    My wager will be a game time decision obviously, but probably off.

  13. @11/white hat & @13/rgg

    And what about Nellie’s very last game. Played in Portland with virtually 5 guys…and won. Steph’s 42 didn’t hurt.
    I still have this game saved on my Tivo. Nellie flipping out trying to protect his players is priceless.

    http://www.nba.com/games/20100414/GSWPOR/gameinfo.html
    Make sure to check out the box score too.

  14. Amazing to watch the Clippers and their awesome hammer dunks last night. But they gave up 114 points to the Bulls and lost, while we allowed 91 to the Bulls and won. Maybe there’s something to this team defense stuff I’ve been hearing about.

  15. At the game watching Mark Jackson constantly up and yelling/advising ish smith was impressive. You could tell he knew and felt strongly and this adds value in tmers of contnet and his solid commitment. though too full of himself, he knows how to coachy. what i cnat understand is why the Warriros are getting talented sus this year and didn’t last year- was it that new owenership came too late. or is it jerry west adn the new asst. GM-or the new coach- asking for different talent. the decison making looks better, though its luvcky the wariors didnt get one of their free agnet targets- neither looking worth the money- and we woudlnt have rush or mcguire (or smith who I am not yet sold on)

  16. I’m going ahead with my Warriors bet, taking +2. Going to be starting a TWolves bet as well. They are way better than people realize. Rubio (and Adelman) are killing it.

    Fantom, one thing to bear in mind re Chandler and Jordan is that they would be WAY better on the Warriors than they are on their current teams. The reason is that they are running centers, and the Warriors run way better than the Clippers and currently constructed Knicks. Jordan in particular would be frightening in a Ws uniform. He’d get more dunks from Curry and Ellis on the fastbreak than he does now from CP3 in the halfcourt.

    To my regular blog friends: I am going to try to dial down my participation in the comments section going forward, for several reasons: 1) I am getting as sick of my own voice as I am of Mark Jackson’s; 2) I think we have a great community of commentators here whose perspective I enjoy reading; and 3) I think my participation sometimes inhibits others from expressing a contrary point of view, or preempts them from pointing out something I would agree with.

    I will not be recapping tonight’s game as I plan on spending the next couple of days recovering. Happy New Year!

    • “To my regular blog friends: I am going to try to dial down my participation in the comments section going forward, for several reasons: 1) I am getting as sick of my own voice as I am of Mark Jackson’s; 2) I think we have a great community of commentators here whose perspective I enjoy reading; and 3) I think my participation sometimes inhibits others from expressing a contrary point of view, or preempts them from pointing out something I would agree with.”

      I’ll cast one vote. I really like hearing your feedback. Or maybe we can ask you questions to which you can respond.

      Can’t help you with #1, though.

  17. I am getting as sick of my own voice as I am of Mark Jackson’s

    Felty, if you’re getting tired of hearing Mark Jackson speak, then please ask the press to stop asking him questions. And probably the same questions over and over.

    They ask him ‘Mark, what’s different this year?’
    He answers: ‘The defense.’ That’s an honest answer. Of course, he knows there’s more to it. And I’m sure he’s even stated so. But defense is his thing. That’s what he’s gonna talk about. Can you blame him?

    And if it sounds like he’s trying to toot his own horn, more than once I’ve heard him say, ‘It’s not about me. It’s about this team, this group of guys.’ I believe him.

    BTW, congrats on this call two weeks ago:

    The Golden State Warriors have apparently traded Lou Amundson to the Indiana Pacers for Brandon Rush. I think this was a brilliant move, one that radically transforms the Warriors roster.

  18. Even though I accept your contention that D. Jordan would have scored more with the Warriors running, that would not offset his lack of offense when Warriors did not run. Glad the Clippers matched our offer. Way overpriced. We have a the center position fairly well covered now with K.Brown, Biedrins, and Udoh, until a real big comes our way.

  19. Philadelphia:

    When was the last time the Warriors scored fewer than 80 points?

  20. Finally got on the board this season as the Twolves wax the World Champs by 17. Are the TWolves better than the Warriors? To Joe Lacob’s shame, this is a legitimate question. I will be riding the Wolves as long as the bookies let me.

    As far as the Warriors bet, I suffered a real crisis of confidence in Mark Jackson last game. I like the Warriors’ top 6-7 players, but this is a roster that must be coached perfectly to succeed… It’s so much easier to ride the TWolves rookies, because you know Rick Adelman is a brilliant game coach, and he has an incredibly versatile roster. I’ll update when I see the next Warriors line.

  21. @ #21

    Feltomania, you may be tired of your own voice, but we your fans aren’t. Just so you know. We vote for more, not less.

    Re suppressing contradictory points of view, never fear. I think you know you can count on some of us to deliver no matter what.

  22. Monta back, Steph healthy, the bench with a better performance…I’m gonna say the Suns game looks good.

  23. My Warriors bet is off. I’ll probably continue to get whipsawed (sit out games they win, bet games they lose) but that’s part of the price of looking for a good entry. I’ll clarify my methodology, including why I’m even interested in the Warriors as a betting opportunity, in my recap.

    • Sorely tempted to take tonight’s Wolves game off (+5 v. spurs) as they lost Beasley to injury last night and are on a back-to-back. I try not to think this way when making these plays, though. More on this later.

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