I watched a truly great game this weekend. A football game.
And naturally, had a couple of Warriors-related thoughts as I watched it unfold.
The 49ers were 6-10 last season. If someone would have told you then that they had a Super Bowl roster on that team, would you have believed him?
The 49ers had a quarterback, Alex Smith, that was ridiculed by the Bay Area media, and universally despised among the fans. If someone would have told you that he had the talent and moxie to take the Niners to the Super Bowl this season, would you have believed him?
What if someone would have told you that you don’t need a superstar quarterback to win a Super Bowl? Would you have agreed with that?
In the offseason, the 49ers owner didn’t shop his team all over the league. He didn’t loudly seek to make a “big move” to get that desperately needed quarterback.
No, he hired a great coach who had the ability, not to change Alex Smith, not to turn him into something he isn’t, but to finally put him in the right system. A system that emphasized his strengths and minimized his weaknesses.
And the 49ers owner opened his pocketbook to surround the great, Super Bowl-bound 49ers core with the supporting cast they needed.
Bobcats 112 Warriors 100
Quite simply, Mark Jackson allowed the Charlotte Hornets – who were playing their third game in as many nights, on the dreaded back-to-back-to-back — to run the Warriors right out of the gym. Paul Silas, for the first time this season, moved Kemba Walker into the starting lineup alongside DJ Augustin for a two point-guard backcourt. And he moved Diaw out of the lineup and Gerald Henderson in at the three, in order to create a three guard starting lineup that ran rings around the Warriors starting five. And of course the Hornets have a spread five, Byron Mullens, and a spread four, Boris Diaw, who allowed Paul Silas to have 4 three point shooters on the floor at all times, and hopelessly spread out the Warriors bigger, slower defenders. It wasn’t until 3 minutes were left in the first half, that Jackson showed the first sign of adjusting (or throwing in the towel) by putting his own three-guard lineup on the floor.
But the third quarter played out just like the first. The final straw came when Jackson inserted Earl Barron for a 5 minute time-wasting stretch. Why? So the Warriors could continue to play big against the small-ball Hornets? Play the “right” way?
Was is it a surprise that the Warriors’ second unit got the team back into the game? It shouldn’t have been, because that was the first small-ball unit that Jackson played. And the kind of team that the Warriors should have had on the floor from the start.
Look, do you think David Lee could match up with Byron Mullens? Do you think David Lee and Monta Ellis could beat Mullens in the pick and roll? Do you think they could have fouled him out? When the Warriors finally went small again in the fourth quarter, they immediately picked up two quick fouls on Mullens.
Do you think Don Nelson would have allowed the likes of Byron Mullens to drop a 20 and 7 on his head? Ha. He would have run Mullens off the court so fast he wouldn’t have known what happened.
Are Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw man-eating fours? Don Nelson would have started Dorell Wright at four, Brandon Rush at three. And he would have transitioned to Rush at four, and the three point guards Jenkins, Monta and Nate on the wings.
And run the Charlotte Bobcats right out of the gym. Right from the start. The way it should have gone down.
You can buy Mark Jackson’s line that the Warriors didn’t show up for this game if you like. I think the result was predestined, beginning with that 38 point first quarter.
Here’s a little taste of Mark Jackson post-game, with my annotations:
Asked whether the Hornets did anything to surprise him: “No. No. Everything they did we saw coming from a mile away.”
Really? Wasn’t this the first time that Kemba Walker started with Augustin? Wasn’t this the first time Diaw came off the bench? Wasn’t this the first time the Bobcats employed a three-guard lineup?
“They didn’t show up. My guys didn’t come out ready to play.”
Either that, or they were forced into a nonsensical and horrible mismatch that made them look terrible.
“It wasn’t until we decided to do something with that group off the bench — got under their skin, hustled, extra effort plays, played Warriors defense — that we got back in the game.”
You mean got a lineup on the floor that could win? Simply imagine what might have been possible if you had decided to play the basketball this team is designed to play RIGHT FROM THE START. No, no. I know, that’s the sins of the past.
“I’m embarrassed as a coach and disappointed in their effort.”
I understand the first part, but would leave off the second.
“[This performance] cannot and will not be tolerated.”
One can only hope. The truth of the matter, Mark Jackson, is that your post-game comments were a load of BS. The truth of the matter is that Paul Silas bent you over his knee and spanked you but good.
If I were the Warriors PR guy (can you imagine?), I would prepare a very simple form statement for Mark Jackson to read to the press after every game.
It would go like this:
“Tonight Coach _________ ate my lunch. Any questions?”
Warriors 99 Pistons 91
Wow, is this Pistons team bad. I mean they are horrible. And again, I think they should have been run out of the gym. It should be obvious to you that David Lee could have absolutely tormented Greg Monroe, if allowed to run the court, and if allowed to run pick and roll. As it was, he was quite effective posting up the smaller Jerebko. But this game should have been more lopsided than it was.
Unbelievably enough, through three quarters, it was the Pistons that were getting out on the fastbreak, not the Warriors. With Jerebko, their spread four, leading the way. Do you think Dorell Wright could have handled Jerebko at the four?
Well of course he could, and I’m now heading into repetitive terrority. Let me just point out that the reason the Warriors EXTENDED their lead when Lee fouled out was because they finally got the right kind of lineup on the floor — a small-ball lineup, with Udoh at the five.
Now let’s move on to what was interesting to me about this game. Which is the reason why the Pistons are so horrible. I believe it starts with their young “star” in the middle, Greg Monroe.
Ekpe Udoh vs. Greg Monroe
Let’s get this out of the way first. Greg Monroe was not the guy that Don Nelson wanted to draft. Don Nelson got the guy he wanted to draft, Ekpe Udoh. How do I know this? Let me run down the reasons.
First, Don Nelson was the real GM of the Warriors after Mullin left. He put Larry Riley in that job, and Riley worked for him. Just as Riley is now working for the real GM of the Warriors, Joe Lacob. Don Nelson drafted Stephen Curry, and he drafted Ekpe Udoh. He traded for David Lee, and picked up Dorell Wright. All four quintessential Don Nelson players.
Second, Don Nelson brought David Lee to the Warriors to play CENTER. He’s made that clear in interviews. Why would he draft Monroe to sit on the bench behind Lee?
Third, Greg Monroe could not play for Don Nelson. Nellie wouldn’t let him on the court. Why not? Well to start with he is a complete non-entity on defense. He doesn’t block shots. He doesn’t like to bang. As Jim Barnett noted tonight, he just simply “disappears.” And he is absolutely horrible at extending out to guard the pick and roll. As Monta Ellis clearly demonstrated late in this game, after Mark Jackson finally rolled out the small lineup, by picking up two quick fouls on him. Greg Monroe is a hopeless defender.
He also doesn’t run the court. Slow as molasses.
These are the two reasons I believe Monroe is killing the Pistons, despite the beautiful stats he puts up. The Pistons have quick guards and wings, and lots of spread forwards: Jerebko, Prince, Daye. They are built to get out and run. But Monroe mires them in the half-court. And he doesn’t have that absolutely essential ability of good non-running centers, which is dominant shot-blocking defense. He’s not Patrick Ewing, who almost won a title. He’s Al Jefferson (at best) who’s never won anything.
Do you think Monroe is a good player? I don’t care if he goes to the all-star game. I don’t think he’s a winning player. His stats are empty. Wake me up when the Pistons have a winning record.
Fourth and finally, Ekpe Udoh is a player Don Nelson would have loved for his intelligence, defense, mobility, and shot-blocking and passing ability. A look at his all-around game against Monroe tonight gives an inkling. Held him to 0 points in the fourth quarter. Blocked him three times, four for the game. 3 steals.
I’m pretty sure Nellie would have used Udoh’s defense to complement Lee. And I think he also would have made Udoh an understudy (and backup) to Lee at center. Taught him pick and roll, pick and pop. Taught him the HIGH post. Played him at POINT-CENTER.
And used him to run bigger slower players off the court.
Like the Warriors should be doing now.