That 22-2 lead in fastbreak points the Heat had over the Warriors at halftime? Brought to you by Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson: The Kwame Brown Era.
That 19 point 3rd quarter? A Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson joint production: The Kwame Brown era.
When Mark Jackson reinserted Kwame Brown at 7:20 4th Q — after what can only be described as a disastrous game up until that point — the Lagavulin bottles chez feltbot started rattling in their boxes. The Thaiblonde had her fingers stuck in her ears, as her lips silently formed the words, “Honey!” The Warriors had just come off a nice stretch of small ball, that even if it only cut the deficit by two, had nicely snapped them out of their Kwame-induced funk to start the third quarter. And then Mark Jackson brought him back, to face the quick and mobile Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem front line that had torn him to pieces the entire game.
But then it happened. The miracle. At 6:12 of the fourth quarter Kwame blew yet another rotation, and was forced to foul Haslem under the basket. And in the process injured his shoulder and was forced to leave the game with the Warriors down 9.
You saw what happened next. Small-ball. David Lee at center.
Beautiful Golden State Warriors basketball.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that every single one of the Warriors three wins this season — against three of the best teams in the league, the Bulls, Knicks and Heat — have come with David Lee playing the entire fourth quarter at center? If you do, then Joe Lacob and the Kwame Brown Era are for you.
Kwame Brown: First of all, let me make clear that I am in no way glad that Kwame got hurt. I would never root for someone to get hurt, nor root for someone to stay hurt. I wish Kwame a full and speedy recovery.
That doesn’t mean I can’t critique his role on this basketball team, or argue that the Warriors are almost always a better team with him off the court than on, though, does it? Because that to me is obvious. Kwame can be helpful taking minutes against the behemoths of the league, as he did in the Lakers game against Andrew Bynum. But against quicker centers, or centers that spread the floor, or teams like the Heat that play no center at all, Kwame Brown is a losing basketball player. Period.
Kwame had decent stats in this game: 8 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes. A very respectable Lacob quotient.
Now look at his +/-: -13. In other words, stats lie.
These are the reasons the Warriors struggled so badly with Kwame on the court tonight:
- He could not run with the Heat. This was never so obvious as when, at 10:00 1st quarter, Kwame scored on a post up. And then Lebron received the inbounds pass and beat the Warriors for a layup, with Kwame still lumbering around half court.
- Kwame prevented the Warriors from running with the Heat. He was the slowest player on the court. And he turned Lee, who is one of the fastest centers into the league, into the slowest power forward on the court.
- He was absolutely helpless on defense. Dwayne Wade and Lebron scored over and around him at will. Bosh shot over him. The Heat were far too quick for him.
- He kills the Warriors on offense. I’m not talking about his point production here. I’m talking about what his lane clogging does to Monta Ellis, and David Lee, and the entire Warriors offense.
David Lee: Are you one of those people who accept the received wisdom of the pundits that David Lee can’t play defense? If so, you probably didn’t see him shut out Dwight Howard one-on-one last year. Or shut down Lamarcus Aldridge. Or break Kevin Love’s phenomenal 20 and 10 streak.
Or, like Adam Lauridsen, you watched those games with your eyes shut and your brain turned off. It makes me laugh every time Adam tweets, “That was David Lee’s man,” after Kwame Brown completely blows a rotation. Just watch David Lee play defense when he has a healthy Andris Biedrins behind him.
Or watch tonight’s fourth quarter, when he had Ekpe Udoh beside him. Or when Udoh was off the floor, four active athletes harassing the ball around him. I dare you to rewatch tonight’s fourth quarter and overtime, with a totally gassed David Lee manning the middle against the league’s best team, and come away thinking that Lee can’t play defense.
Lee put up 20 and 14, numbers very close to what he averaged in his last season as a Knick playing exclusively at center. But those stats don’t come close to telling the complete story of his game. His 4 steals? Now you’re getting warm.
Nate Robinson will get all the credit for this win. But it was David Lee’s great all-around play, brought to you by an injury miracle, that saved the Warriors’ bacon.
Monta Ellis: Monta looked terrible in this game, but never so bad as when Kwame Brown was in the game. The Warriors’ clogged up middle closed off Monta’s drive, and allowed the Heat to absolutely swarm him with defenders.
A thought occurred to me as I saw Monta get swallowed up by three Heat jerseys for the umpteenth time. Doesn’t Eric Spoelstra believe in his players taking personal responsibility on defense? Doesn’t he think the Heat should be a no-excuses team?
You know, like Mark Jackson, who absolutely refused to double-team Dwayne Wade.
Nate Robinson: Everything great about Nate shone tonight. his game made a better argument than I could ever make that an NBA point guard must be a scorer. And must be able to make his free throws.
There’s something special about Nate. Despite his size, he’s a real physical presence, and a great team defender (4 steals). And he has that indomitable confidence that he can make big plays and change the game. It was clear that he has the respect of Dwayne Wade. Wade jawed at him the whole game, and at the end gave him a playful head cuff.
It’s too bad he can’t pass. Nate made several terrible passes tonight, but I want to draw your attention to one that might have slipped under your radar. At 4:50 2nd Q, Nate attempted a simple swing pass to a wide-open Dorell Wright, that was so off the mark that it pulled DWright over the three point line, and caused him to force a drive. If either Monta or Curry (or Lee) had thrown that pass, it would have hit Wright right in the hands. This is the kind of thing that drives coaches (and feltbot) crazy, and is a big reason that Nate has had trouble getting playing time in his career.
A couple of other thoughts:
1) If Curry hadn’t gotten injured, would Nate Robinson even be on this team? Or would we be stuck with the quintessential Lacob back-up point guard, Ish Smith?
2) Why is it that Nate gets to the free throw line so much more often than Monta Ellis? Is it because his balance isn’t as supreme and he falls heavier? Or is it something else? Give me your thoughts.
The Spread Four: The Heat have several. Bosh, James, Battier. The Warriors still have none. Which is what gets you 19 point third quarters.
But what about that Warriors finishing lineup? Lee, Wright, Rush, Ellis and Robinson. You know, the lineup that was +6 for the final 4 minutes, and got the game into overtime? And then +3 in overtime, to get the win?
Who’s the power forward in that lineup? I guess it’s Dorell Wright.
The Warriors’ 200 lb. spread four.
Dorell Wright: Wright is a terrific all-around basketball player, as we saw tonight. His clutch three-point shooting returned, but we know all about that. He also played some pretty good defense on Lebron, and biggest of all, pulled down 10 boards.
This doesn’t mean that criticism I layed on him in my last post doesn’t still apply.
The Nightmare: What a game from Udoh, even though he didn’t score a point. The perfect defender to play against the Heat’s uber-quick front line.
Unlike Kwame, superb rotations. And those blocks, something that Kwame can never do. I was particularly amazed by the block of Lebron. And this is the best I’ve ever seen him rebound.
I’d like to see him used better in the Warriors offense. If he’s going to be guarded by the center (which he is), then post him out on the baseline wing to get his man out of the lane. Let him shoot that outlet baseline jumper even if it’s not high percentage at the moment. It will do wonders to open the court for Lee and Monta.
Or use him in the pick and roll. He’s mobile, he’s being guarded by centers, he’s a great passer… Why not?
Brandon Rush: Phenomenal floor game, even when his shot isn’t falling. 3 blocks! And that huge crunch time steal.
He needs more minutes.
Klay Thompson: He did some nice things on the court tonight, even though his shot was off. He’s a really good passer. He’s got Monta, Curry and Lee’s ability to hit his target on the hands. And he might become a decent rebounder. Liked that tip-in in traffic. Seems like a really nice guy on the court though. He could use a bit of an edge.
I don’t believe he will ever have the kind of all-around game at small forward that Dorell Wright demonstrated tonight. So he’s really strictly a bench player for this Warriors team.
Until Joe Lacob pulls the trigger.
Mark Jackson: Two post-game comments caught my attention:
On Kwame Brown: “I can’t believe this guy was at home when we called him.”
Really? Let’s ask the other 29 GMs and 29 coaches in the league how that could possibly have happened.
On the Warriors miserable third quarter: “Credit the Heat’s defense, they got us out of our stuff.”
You can credit the Heat defense if you like.
I’m crediting the Kwame Brown Era.