Forget my new rule about not recapping the front end of back-to-backs. I can’t resist talking about this well-played game against the Lakers, the Warriors’ Big Brother from the Southland. And one game after ripping on Kwame Brown, I have to pay him some props for his great game against Andrew Bynum tonight.
Kwame Brown: This was an eye-opening performance, wasn’t it? First of all, can you ever remember a Warrior not looking like a pre-game appetizer standing next to Andrew Bynum? Kwame almost looked the same size. And I’ll lay 2-1 he has the bigger ass.
Kwame also fought Bynum pretty much to a standstill. Considering how Bynum has been absolutely beasting the league, we won’t quibble about the 16-6 rebounding discrepancy. This was a tremendous defensive performance, the likes of which Warriors fans haven’t witnessed since… Wilt Chamberlain? Joe Barry Carroll? I’m struggling here, help me out….
But what about the offense? Kwame amazed tonight when running the pick and roll with Monta Ellis. He caught some passes in traffic, and actually finished. How is it that he was able to finish against the Lakers front line, but not over 6-7″ Dejuan Blair?
And he passed! In back to back possessions starting at 5:28 3rd Q, Kwame made a beautiful bounce pass off the dribble to David Lee, and then another to Monta Ellis on a give and go. This was truly a revelation to me. Can it continue?
It may sound like I have a grudge against Kwame. I truly don’t. I recognize his value, particularly on nights like this against front lines like this.
I simply want him to be used correctly by Mark Jackson. I want him to be used against big lineups like the Lakers, and not against small lineups like the Sixers, and Suns, and Spurs. I don’t want him to be used to defend the pick and roll in crunch time against point guards like Chris Paul and Steve Nash. And I don’t want him on the court any time the Warriors are in the penalty, and in particular when they are in the penalty in crunch time.
I want Kwame Brown to look good, OK?
Mark Jackson: Got the starting matchups right. Loved playing DWright on Kobe, and Monta on Barnes. Loved starting with Jenkins on Fisher.
And I loved starting Kwame on Bynum. Would it have happened if Biedrins were healthy? I hope it would. And I think it would, because I’m feeling charitable towards Mark Jackson tonight.
I absolutely loved his message-sending first play call of the the game. More on that below.
I think he got most of the game right as well. I loved how he got Kwame out of the game the second Bynum left the court. Loved the plays he called for Ekpe Udoh, particularly the face-ups against Gasol, with the option to shoot the jumper over him. That was a no-no for Coach Smart.
And I loved the way he tried the small lineup against Bynum to start the fourth quarter. I was even down with him bringing Kwame back in when it failed, given the one-on-one defensive scheme he stuck Lee with. If there is ever a front line that calls for Kwame Brown in the fourth quarter, it is this Lakers front line. There may be no other way to deal with the monster that is Bynum.
But I would still gently suggest that if Mark Jackson really wanted to try Lee on Bynum, he should have asked Lee to front Bynum, while bringing immediate double-team help from the weak side on the entry pass. That’s how Nellie got away with Al Harrington on Yao Ming. Remember? (I know, those tapes have been burned.)
My only other game quibble with MJ is that the Warriors really needed to push the ball more. It is distressing when the ancient Lakers’ fast break is better than the Warriors’ own. Part of the problem of course was the rebounding edge. But the Warriors to my eye weren’t looking enough to run, and Kwame Brown in particular needs to outlet much better. He’s playing for Mark Jackson now, not Phil.
As for MJ’s post-game interview… am I the only one suffering intensely from these? MJ once again closed the interview by calling his own number. He warmed up with a stirring biblical quotation. Then he proudly (is there any other word to describe his demeanor here?) informed us that he earned his technical foul by politely asking the refs to give it to him. And then he put the cherry on top: “I’m the first coach ever… [that doesn’t curse].”
Arggh. I wonder, if the Warriors start getting good under Pastor Jackson, are they going to become the NBA equivalent of a Christian rock band?
This is not a religious issue for me. It’s strictly about the music.
Monta Ellis v. Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose
I’m just going to keep repeating myself until someone else picks up the refrain. Monta Ellis is a better point-guard than both of those all-stars, and that MVP.
10 assists against 2 TO’s tonight. 7 and 3 against San Antonio. 11-3 Phoenix.
After a 7 assist 0 TO performance in 4th quarter crunch-time against the Knicks.
I have been marveling at Monta’s ability to finish lightning fast drives with soft, pinpoint, no-look passes. Passes so perfect even Kwame Brown can catch them.
But I want to direct your attention to a couple of other passes that many might think are routine. 9:30 3rd Q, Monta hits DWright for a three. 4:05 4th Q, Monta comes off a pick and roll to hit DWright again, this time with a left-handed pass. Both of these passes were perfectly timed, and both hit DWright right on his hands.
I can not emphasize enough how rare this is, this ability to regularly hit shooters in rhythm, right on the hands. None of those other point guards I mentioned have it. And yet no one ever mentions this about Monta Ellis. Why?
Monta Ellis is a superstar point-guard. And the Warriors have that rarity of rarities in the NBA: a two-point guard backcourt that compares with Frazier-Monroe and Nash-Van Exel.
Assuming Joe Lacob doesn’t break it up.
Dorell Wright: I haven’t been nearly as agitated as Bob Fitzgerald over DWright’s shooting woes. Shots as good as his don’t disappear forever. My diagnosis: Lockout Legs.
Which is not to say that DWright doesn’t agitate me. There is something about him that has been agitating me a great deal: his apparent fear of contact.
Don Nelson had a rule: If you missed three outside shots in a row, then you had to get yourself a layup. It’s a good rule, that helps both the player and the team get it going.
The problem is, DWright doesn’t want to get himself a layup. Particularly if a defender is lurking near the lane. Time and time again this season, we have seen Wright beat his man and drive the lane, only to pass off at the last second. He never challenges the defender in the lane. Never takes the ball to the rim and dares the defender to block it. Never tries to draw the foul. Why?
I truly believe he fears getting knocked down. He’s of very slight build, and is just coming into his own after recovering from a knee injury early in his career. And the fact that he came into the league as a high-schooler might have something to do with it. Implanted that fear.
Did you notice Mark Jackson’s first play-call of this game? He sent DWright on a drive to the basket. I am absolutely positive that Jackson was sending Wright a message with this play. And I absolutely loved that.
But what happened? Wright was challenged, and went out of his way to avoid the contact. The shot was aborted, an airball.
Please contrast Brandon Rush’s drive at 10:25 2nd Q. Rush drove from the right wing, put his shoulder into Andrew Bynum’s chest, and finished over him. That is what the Warriors need from Dorell Wright.
Unfortunately, DWright’s timid tendency cost the Warriors badly at the end of this game. With 1:10 left and the Warriors down 5, on a fastbreak that took too long to develop, DWright was driving with only Pau Gasol between him and the rim. Did he take it hard to the rim and challenge Gasol to block it? Did he challenge the ref to make a call? No.
He jumped straight up, pirouetted like a ballerina, and threw the ball away.
I’m a little more mature now than I was in my youth. I’ve grown a little averse to trotting out the P-word. So let’s just stick with “soft”. Dorell Wright is a Great Big…
Nate Robinson: Obviously a great pickup for the Warriors. Particularly given Curry’s ankle issues, and the imminent threat of either Curry or Monta Ellis being shipped off the team via trade.
Robinson is a microwave off the bench, with unlimited shooting range. If this means Ish Smith never gets another minute in Warriors uniform, I will be delighted.
Nate is also a tough little dude on defense. If Dorell Wright had only a half of the edge that Nate brings to the game….
But then of course, there are the reasons that Nate has been bounced off three teams in his short career. Beginning with that wide-open runout he turned into a turnover at 3:46 2nd Q, because he wanted to create a roof-raising showboat moment for the Hollywood crowd. Unfortunately, basketball for Nate has always been more about having fun than about winning.
Hopefully, Mark Jackson can administer some of that loving kindness he’s been bloviating about, to get this under control.
The other reason that Nate has bounced around the league is that he agitates over playing time. In other words, he’s been a cancer. There is some risk here, particularly if Stephen Curry remains a Warrior with two working ankles.
Something that no one has mentioned yet may help in this regard. David Lee is a good friend of Nate’s from their rookie years on the Knicks. Perhaps that’s what ultimately brought Mr. Robinson to the Warriors.
Klay Thompson: Can really shoot. That’s evident now, right? But there’s more to it than that.
Take a look at those two Rip Hamilton curls at 3:35 and 1:50 3rd Q. One on each side of the court. One shot turning left shoulder, the other right shoulder.
The footwork. The quick release. The accuracy. Wowza.
I’ve seen exactly three players in the NBA who could shoot off the curl like that. Rip Hamilton. Ray Allen. And Reggie Miller.
And now Klay Thompson.
(I won’t mention that Markieff Morris put up 13 and 9, going 3-4 from three, as Phoenix blew out a very good Portland squad. And is apparently threatening Channing Frye’s job.)
The Nightmare: The offense: Turnaround jump hook over Pau Gasol at 2:40 1st Q. Jumper over Gasol at 1:20. Huh?
The defense: Udoh picks up Kobe Bryant on a switch at 2:50 3rd Q. Then stones his drive and picks his pocket. Huh?
The crimes: That second travel at 8:15 2nd Q was not a travel. Udoh’s footwork is amazing. Apparently too amazing. And that foul on Kobe was… ah, forget it. It’s the Lakers.
The Dominator v. Matt Barnes: I really like Dom. But Matt Barnes hit a couple of bombs in this game (I thought they were threes, but apparently his foot was on the line), one an absolute dagger in the fourth quarter. On his way to 16 points.
That’s the difference.
Charles Wright: Can make free throws. Yes!
Can he shoot the three?
Kobe Bryant is a Superstar: Forget about his performance tonight. This is what makes Kobe Kobe: Whenever he throws himself into a defender and gets a foul call, he immediately turns and stares at the official who didn’t blow his whistle.
I also noticed that Kobe did a lot of talking to the Warriors in this game. With a smile on his face. The way a big brother talks to his steamed-up little brother in the driveway, after he swats away another shot.
Oh Lord, when will it end?
Metta World Peace: I like saying Metta World Peace. It rolls around on my tongue like Luc Mbah-a-Moute. Or a sip of Lagavulin.
I also like the message. And the fact that in life as on the basketball court, it is sustained by sharp elbows.
Big Brother: No, not the Lakers. Not you, Kobe.
I’m talking to you, David Stern.
When is Monta Ellis going to get some love?