Mississipi Masala: Warriors 101 Blazers 93

In my last post I called the bottom of the Warriors season.  For this game at least, my prediction appears correct.  This Warriors team is way too talented to lose games the way they have been.  What they have needed is a little health, a little time to play together.

And a coaching staff that gives them a chance to play in a winning style. In this game as in the last, there are signs that may be happening.

Mississippi Masala:  What do you get when you mix Monta Ellis with Stephen Curry?

One of the best damn backcourts this league has ever seen.

This was a vintage Stephen Curry performance, 32 points on 12-19, 6-8 from three, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals.  He did this for the entire second half of his rookie season under Don Nelson, remember?

Those people who have used his last year of injury-related and Keith Smart induced bad performances to assert that Monta Ellis was obviously the best player on this team…  chew on this game.  When you have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry on the same team, there is no best player.  They are both among the very top players in the league at their positions.

Curry spotted up for three quarters in this game, as Monta Ellis took over the distribution.  But in the fourth quarter, Curry seized the reins of the offense with some beautiful pick and roll action with David Lee, to bring this win home. Something we have never seen before even though David Lee has been in a Warriors uniform for over a year.  One can only hope that Mark Jackson will build on this.

And what can one say about Monta Ellis’ game on this night?  I have been saying for some time that he could be one of the premier point guards in the NBA.  Tonight is another exhibit in an increasingly fattening portfolio. 12 assists against 2 turnovers.  Including, I believe, most of Curry’s buckets.  Monta is demonstrating an increasing genius at drawing the defense and finding the open man.  And when he passes…

Hands.

For the last two years, particularly when Curry is off the court, Monta has frequently found himself being guarded by three players.  But with Curry on the court, the lane-clogging Kwame Brown Era on hold, and Monta displaying the extraordinary unselfishness that he did on this night, no defense can possibly get away with that in the future.

And the phenomenal versatility of the best passing and shooting team in the league can be unleashed. If Mark Jackson is willing to play this style of offense going forward, the NBA has been put on notice: Pick your poison.

Those of you who said that Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry could never co-exist, could never complement each other, ….  Chew on this game.

Those of you who said that Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are too small to play in the same backcourt….  Tell it to World Champions JJ Barea and Jason Terry.  Tell it to World Champions Joe Dumars and Isaiah Thomas. Tell it to World Champions Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, who sent Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West packing. The same Jerry West who drafted Klay Thompson with the idea of sending Monta Ellis packing.

The Warriors have a world-championship caliber backcourt.  For god’s sake, keep them together.  And LET THEM PLAY.

David Lee:  Kevin Love is averaging 25 points a game.  David Lee is averaging 18 points a game.  What accounts for the difference?

Well Love gets more offensive rebounds, and as a result gets to the free throw line more.  9 per game vs. 5.  That’s part of it, but not the main reason.

The main reason is very simple:  Kevin Love is featured in the TWolves offense.  He is their go-to guy.  In the fourth quarter in particular, Adelman gets his bigs off the court, plays Love at center, spreads the floor with Tolliver, and then it is Rubio and Love in the pick and roll until the cows come home.

Kevin Love gets 18.4 shots a game, and shoots 43%.  David Lee gets 14.9 shots a game, and shoots 51%.

Remember that the next time someone tells you that Love is an All-Star and David Lee is not.  And the next time someone tells you that David Lee is overpaid.

David Lee has been playing for the last season and a fraction with two of the best offensive players in the NBA.  He has been an unselfish, uncomplaining third wheel.  He has been played out of position, on the wing, at the four, waiting for escape passes.  He has been playing in the wrong system, getting asked to post up or isolate and play one-on-one, with players just as big and even more athletic than he is.  Just as he was in the first half of this game, against LaMarcus Aldridge.

Is that finally about to change?

Take a look at the last play of the first half.  It’s usually been a Monta Ellis isolation, guarded by three players, resulting in a prayer.  Tonight it was a Curry and Lee pick and roll, that resulted in a 20 foot Lee rampage down the lane for the score.

THAT is what David Lee was born for.

6:00 4th Q:  Nate Robinson and Lee pick and roll, bucket.

5:30 Curry and Lee pick and roll, bucket.

1:40 Portland tips its hand trying to trap the pick and roll, Curry makes a beautiful decision to take the ball away from the pick, leaving Lee wide open for the POP.

Ballgame.

David Lee is one of the two best pick and roll big men in the entire NBA. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are both fantastic pick and roll point guards. So why has it taken so goddamn long for the Warriors to actually run pick and roll for Lee? Where in the world has it been?

I’ll tell you where.  It’s been lost in Keith Smart land.  Buried beneath the Kwame Brown Era.

Trapped in Joe Lacob-ville.

The Nightmare:  Are you one of those who’s been saying that Don Nelson blew this draft pick?  That Greg Monroe is clearly a better basketball player than Ekpe Udoh?

Well, chew on that +18.  And the fact that Udoh is once again leading the entire Warriors team in +/-.  Think that’s an accident?

Wondering how he does it, scoring only 4 points?  I’ll tell you how.  He does it like he did it tonight, by guarding the entire Portland team, all over the floor.  Making it tough on their best scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge.  And still making every single rotation. Blocking shots. Generating steals. Disrupting.

That’s what a winning player looks like.

Udoh did something new in this game, that I think was a very positive development.  He crashed the offensive boards.  He picked up two, but it was actually more than that, because he also generated two loose ball fouls. This is one more way in which a smaller but more mobile big man can and should be utilized.

I called Udoh a longshot sleeper in my fantasy basketball preview this year. I didn’t draft him, because I believed we were in for a long  and nightmarish Kwame Brown Era.

But I just picked him up off the waiver wire. The four points ain’t great. But 7 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals? That’s the stealth way to win a fantasy league. If Udoh keeps picking up 26 minutes a game, I’m pretty sure he’ll help me.

He’ll sure as hell help the Warriors.

28 Responses to Mississipi Masala: Warriors 101 Blazers 93

  1. warriorsablaze

    Great recap, Felt… I definitely share your enthusiasm for the way the team played tonight. I hope they can build on it.

    I still hesitate to call Ellis a PG, even when he racks up quality assists. The quality he is missing is that of the floor general. Curry, despite his predilection for lazy passes and behind the backs, is an elite transition PG. If you compare the tempo and flow of the games with and without Curry, it’s night and day. Ellis is much better at attacking the defense in the half court, but they need Curry’s IQ to run the team on the floor. They can work well together in somewhat fluid roles.

    OKC is about as tough a match-up as they come, but I do believe we have the talent to beat anyone on any given night…it’s only consistency that we currently lack.

    I’m a Curry fan, if I have to choose, but I’m one of the remaining few that still believe they can play together…this win and the Chicago win (which featured more Ellis scoring without ball dominance) give me hope.

    • blaze,
      I resent the idea that Curry’s behind the back passes are poor. Because Curry does not beat you with quickness, he has to create angles. Sometimes the quickest way to move the ball is by using the behind the back pass, especially when you dive into the lane and the defense takes away the traditional passing angles. The behind the back pass is a lost art by many NBA players. When used correctly, it gets the ball moving in a way the defender is not expecting and allows the offensive passer more options to get the ball to other open players. Curry is a passing savant – his lapses come when he’s trying to force a pass because the players on the court are not moving correctly, IMO.

  2. In that Lacob Q & A I posted on the other thread he again gave the impression of someone who could leave this team alone for the rest of this season but probably won’t. And “probably won’t” could mean anything from a blockbuster-type trade to a little tweak or two. Regardless, Lacob isn’t “tanking” this season. His every word in these interviews shouts winning and winning now, if at all possible.

    After watching tonight’s game in which Curry’s star power again shined brightly for the entire league of owners and GMs to see, with nary a twitch or tweak of those worrisome ankles, I can’t help but ask myself “Should the Warriors trade Curry NOW?”

    I love Steph Curry, and if you gave me a crystal ball that actually was worth a damn, and it showed a long career with no further issues of any major sort involving those ankles, I would absolutely NOT trade this kid. But I keep getting the feeling that sometime in the near future we’re going to see him fall to the court and once again be carried off and back to the lockerroom, his future as a star NBA player once more in serious doubt. Can the Warriors take that chance with his value now back to where it was before the season began?

    I’m with Felt in regards to the Warriors dynamic backcourt duo. There’s no doubt in my mind that Golden State can win and win big with an Ellis and Curry combo leading the way if another impact player could be added to this core going forward. BUT, there is no “dynamic backcourt duo” if Curry’s scary ankles won’t hold up to the wear and tear of long NBA seasons. And if they won’t hold up the Warriors are screwed. Again.

    Say two really good young players for Curry in a trade, or roll the dice? As much as it hurts to say, I think the answer is the former.

  3. Thanks Feltbot!

    @Steve – Do you really want to be known as the Warriors fan who traded away the NEXT Steve Nash? LOL!

    I’ll be known as the W’s fan who couldn’t pull the trigger on Stephen Curry! If Curry’s ankle doesn’t recover and his career is over, I could live with it.

    What two players do you suggest the W’s receive in trade? The same ankle questions we have about Curry – can almost be said about Monta Ellis as well.

    Anyways – I advocate trading anyone on the team – and build around Stephen Curry. A big financial commitment is coming up in a couple of years with Stephen Curry – the W’s might be forced to trade him then anyways when he pulls a Carmelo…

    • @Steve – Do you really want to be known as the Warriors fan who traded away the NEXT Steve Nash? LOL!

      PeteyB, as long as Felt doesn’t go viral with my email address, why not!? At least I’d go down swinging. :)

      Monta actually has MORE body parts to worry about. His knee (pre-pro career) and ankle (mopedgate) are both part of his history but neither has been an issue overall, and his toughness is unquestioned when it comes to playing through aches and pains.

      Regardless of the player(s) coming back to GSW as part of any trade involving someone such as Curry, or Monta, for that matter, I would be confident enough in current Warriors management to expect equal talent and potential in return.

      Whatever the Warriors do or don’t do I’m just hoping for some good luck for a change. That said, sometimes being proactive is the key element in changing your luck around.

  4. Ekpe Udoh really challenged so many shots and guarded Aldridge just fine. He really needs to be getting most of the minutes for his defense along with Lee for his offense. Ekpe Udoh’s +/- number cannot be ignored forever. Udoh’s impact on defense is something to build on.

    Biedrins? What is wrong with his ankle…

    Brandon Rush – he’s playing for a contract. Love him. Both Rush and Wright have poor handles and finishing abilities at the rim, but can hit deep jump shots to spread the floor.

  5. I believe Udoh’s positive rating of 18 means that the Warriors outscored Portland by 18 points in his 27 minutes of play. Off the chart. While his offensive rebounds, steals, and blocked shots were factors, the main factor was that the Portland shot only 41% from the field and he was a major figure in Portland shooting so poorly.

    I agree with you that Curry-Ellis are terrific together.

    With regard to last night’s game, the Warriors are not always going to be able to hold teams to 41% shooting while they shoot 52%, and therefore the Warriors will not be able to offset team’s who did what Portland did last night. As Portland garnered 17 OR’s to the Warriors 5, and outshot us from from the foul-line 17-8.

    Glad the Warriors went with Udoh on the court in the fourth as I previously suggested. I still don’t have the faith that Jackson has in
    Robinson playing in the fourth, and Jenkins getting no playing time.

    The Warriors still need players who can defend the rim, rebound, and players who can get to the hoop. The Warriors need another SF and SG, who have the ability slash to the hoop (get fouled or score) and who can defend better than D.Wright.

    Really disappointed that the Warriors did not resign Rush.

    Since the Warriors won by 9 points, that means the Warriors were outscored when Udoh was not on the court.

  6. Hats off to Jackson for experimenting and making adjustments–I am heartened.

    Maybe Rush is playing for a contract, most likely he will level off, but isn’t finding his potential or a similar replacement a top priority for the team? Someone with some size and offensive skill.

    I fear another ambiguous season from Biedrins–did he do anything last night? Does the team lose anything by seeing what Tyler can do instead and give him more minutes? Hard to believe much is lost on defense, if anything, except maybe against the really big bigs, and even a marginal gain on offense–a center who when open will go for the dunk, maybe hit at least half his free throws–would be worth the experiment.

  7. Felty: I do think that it’s wise at various times in the game for Curry and Ellis not be on the court for defensive reasons, at the same time. And for this reason, I would like to see Rush start at times in his stead to see what happens.Or, for Rush to start in place of D.Wright.

    But, I do agree that both Curry and Ellis need to on the court together in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, Ellis will continue to be primarily responsible for distributing the ball, until defenses adjust and don’t leave Curry or Rush alone on the perimeter.

    Read Jackson’s interview last night.

    Jackson saying he does not care about Udoh’s +/- rating is just plain stupid, especially when his overall positive rating shows the Warriors have outscored it’s opponents so far this year when Udoh is on the court.

    I recognize that there are times that a particular player has a positive rating even though he is not playing well ,and others are playing well when that player is on the court But, such is rarely the case with Udoh. As regardless of what Udoh does offensively scirubg or on the boards, he consistently is the only Warrior who prevents opponent teams from scoring inside.

    It appears that Jackson does not see what Udoh does on the court that does not show up in his individual stats. In evaluating a big man, Jackson should primarily look at the other team’s FG% when deciding to pull him or not.

    Jackson says he goes by his gut feeling in pulling players. It seems to me if Udoh misses a shot or two, or is not rebounding, Jackson pulls him, not realizing the opponent only shot 40% from the field during his stint on the court, and many times turn the ball over, in part, because of his being active. Jackson values scoring and rebounding rather than Udoh defending the rim. And Udoh scoring or rebounding takes on less significance if other Warriors are scoring and rebounding when he is on the court. Jackson doesn’t seem to get this concept.

    And for Jackson to say that Biedrins should play over Udoh because he’s a good post defender, and ignore Udoh has limited ability to provide help defense at the rim, which is significantly more important, given the number of players taking it to the rim, his thinking is simply wrong.

    I have no problem with Biedrins starting ,if for no other reason that he eats up early fouls. But, he should be pulled immediately if the Warriors get down by seven or more points after the first five minutes of play.

    Jackson has also pulled Rush when he is hitting his shots. Jackson doesn’t get the team to pass him the ball when he is open even though when it’s obvious he is shooting the lights out.. Simply foolish.

  8. Steve, thanks for that video highlight footage of the game.

    Anyone remember when Nellie during the Run TMC years briefly experiemented with the intentional pass off of the backboard, like Udoh’s in that game? It was an interesting idea but no one–not even the athletic Chris Webber- could come down with the ball consistently so the experiment lived a short life.

    • I had intended to mention that, OT. Do you think Udoh intentionally banked it? I couldn’t decide.

      • I don’t think he meant to bank that pass. His reaction was surprise and giddeness after it happened. I did not know that Nellie experimented with that pass. Great bit of knowledge! Thanks!

  9. A theoretical physicist has now “proven” what Don Nelson discovered for himself: Teams that shoot early in the shot clock WIN.

    http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/dish/201201/study-nba-teams-shoot-earlier-win-more

    • what it says pretty much boils down to this – shoot if you are open.
      this means in transition, fast break and if the defense is not set, which happen early in shot clock mostly. and that is quite obvious.

      now, on somewhat more avant-gardistic squeak, could it be that under the surface it says that offensive plays that evolve in long sequences are futile and result in bad shots? that is – is advocating for fast tempo, quick passing and less coaching as to the set plays.

      that would be splintering under the skin of supporters of slow game with set plays that evolve for 10 or more seconds.

      there: set defense always wins against set offense.

      death of half-court?

      • It’s not clear from the article, we’d need to see the data. If the results curve shows a continuously declining fg% throughout the 24-second clock, then so long set plays.

        On the other hand, fast breaks would obviously bump up the early-clock percentage, and desperation buzzer-beaters drive down the late-clock average. So the researchers could say early-clock beats late even if the rest of the results in between were dead even. In that case, it says nothing about set plays.

        Sorry Feltie. We can’t scientifically kill off the Triangle without more info.

    • Matt Steinmetz:

      “I think it’s been proven that the Warriors are a better team when either Biedrins or Udoh plays the five and not David Lee. But Jackson likes to play Lee at the five – especially when the other team has a perimeter shooting big men on the floor.”

      “I don’t like David Lee playing the five, not even a little bit and particularly in the fourth quarters of games when by doing that you’re making certain you don’t have your best defensive lineup on the floor.”