Nice win tonight for the Warriors, but we must acknowledge that it wasn’t the Denver Nuggets that they beat. The Nuggets’ best player, Danilo Gallinari — who happens to be the kind of spread four the Warriors have no answer for — is out for a month. Their second best player, Wilson Chandler, is stuck in China. Ty Lawson, with a sprained foot on one side and a sprained ankle on the other, is a mere shadow of himself. (I know this because he’s on my fantasy team.) When your main asset is speed, two bad wheels cannot be overcome.
What else? Aaron Afflalo, normally a terrific player, has struggled badly with free agency legs. And Nene has been in and out of the lineup with plantar fasciitis.
Not surprisingly, the Nuggets have been struggling, losing five straight games. The Warriors caught them at the right time. Nevertheless, a road win in mile high Denver is still an achievement, no matter who you’re playing. (The Warriors had dropped 15 out of their previous 16 in Denver.)
It still counts as a win, and it was a very nice win to watch. After a disastrous detour through The Kwame Brown Era, the Warriors are finally showing signs of coming together in the style they were made for. They are starting to run, starting to play the right lineups, starting to find their chemistry, and starting to assert the absolute dominance of their passing and shooting ability. They are, in fact, finally starting to play
Don Nelson, errr… Warriors basketball.
Mark Jackson: Slowly but surely, the Warriors’ pace has been rising. It helps greatly that Jeremy Tyler has been left on the bench in the second quarter the last two games. For a team built like the Warriors, the second quarter should be running time. RunTMC used to frequently blow teams out in the second quarter. Remember? I know, those tapes have been burned.
I also saw the Warriors run after a made basket in this game. Once.
That’s not enough. The Warriors need to take the ball out of the net and pass to half-court on the run. They need to push the pace every chance they get. They need to run every single play.
Here’s a math problem for Director of Basketball Operations Kirk Lacob: When you have the best shooting team in the NBA, which the Warriors do, do you want to increase or decrease the total number of possessions in the game?
You want to increase the number of possessions, of course. You want to leverage your shooting advantage by multiplying it over the greatest number of possessions possible.
Don Nelson, who I’ll wager never owned a computer, knew the answer to this like the back of his hand. He invented the answer to this.
Here’s a couple of more questions for Kirk:
1) When you have a small team, how do you equalize the free throw disparity?
RUN. Even with 8 man rosters of D-leaguers and rookies, Nellie never suffered the kind of free-throw disparity the Warriors have under Smart and Jackson. Get the other team on its heels. Force them to foul to stop your runouts.
2) When you have a small team, how do you minimize the rebounding disparity?
RUN. This is a point that George Karl, whose team has the fastest pace in the NBA, made to the Warriors broadcasting team before the game. By running you can beat the rebounders down court, or at least spread them out so that your smalls can outquick them to the boards. (There’s also a point about spread-fours to be made here, but as we know, Joe Lacob doesn’t believe in spread-fours.)
Nellie 101. Mark Jackson has a long way to go to grasp these concepts. But the Warriors do appear to be heading in this direction, for this season at least, thanks to the end of the Kwame Brown Era.
More Mark Jackson: If you’re wondering why the Warriors didn’t go back to the wonderful David Lee pick and roll in this game, the reason is the same as why they went away from it in the fourth quarter of the Thunder game. Nene, like Serge Ibaka, is terrifically mobile and a very good defender of the pick and roll. The pick and roll is best used against big stiffs, like Joe Lacob favorite Kendrick Perkins. And the Kwame Brown Era.
I’m down with Jackson’s game plan on this night. The Warriors’ edge was at guard.
One other improvement from the last game: At the end of the third Q, with the Warriors facing a final defensive possession, Jackson subbed in Biedrins for David Lee. Hallelujah. Such are the small joys of sweating a rookie coach.
Stephen Curry: Go ahead and trade him, I dare you. You’ll be the laughingstock of the NBA for a decade and a half.
Did you happen to see Curry close the first Q? Faking Ty Lawson out of his jock? In his own unique way, Curry is just as unguardable as Monta Ellis one-on-one. And a much better shooter.
If you’re looking for a jump shot to close the game, I’d put my money on Curry.
Monta Ellis: After a 48 point game, willingly took a back seat to Curry, because that’s where the edge was. Ever see Kobe do that?
He didn’t take the game off on defense, though. An excellent all-around floor game tonight.
Back to my thoughts on the Warriors game-closer dilemma: Do you remember how Allen Iverson used to close ballgames? The Sixers would get him the ball on the left wing, from where he would slash through the lane, draw contact, and finish the And One.
If you are going to use Monta as your closer, that is the play I would call for him. That is where his edge is. Not one-on-one top of the key isos that result in long jumpers. Not pick and roll action that results in three point shots. Those shots are where Curry’s edge is.
The Nightmare: One of the best zero point games you’ll ever see. Udoh is the very definition of a winning basketball player.
One very unspectacular play to check out: 10:50 4Q, Udoh running the high post, hitting Klay Thompson in the hands on his patented pin-down curl. He can make that pass.
The timing of his blocks is absolutely spectacular. He has an incredible intuition about when his various opponents are going to jump.
It is highly mysterious to me that he’s never developed a similar intuition about when and where balls are going to come off the rim. If he could rebound, you could never take him off the court.
Andris Biedrins: I’ve thought up a new nickname for Andris: Goose Egg.
After putting up a remarkably rounded line in the last game, and getting what I’m sure was a very warm and inspirational message from Pastor Jackson in the interim, Mr. Egg showed up in this game.
Sort of. It is very sad for me to watch him laboring up and down the court, and playing below the rim. He’s just not close to the player he used to be, and never will be again. And it shows on his face. All of the joy has been washed out of his game.
Two words: Osteitis Pubis. (Shhhh!)
It was absolutely criminal for Joe Lacob to refuse to amnesty Biedrins before this season. Did you believe that hogwash the Warriors’ brass tried to sell us about Biedrins coming back in great shape, and ready to relive his days of glory? It was just that, hogwash. Joe Lacob knows what’s wrong with Biedrins.
So why did Lacob refuse to amnesty Biedrins, when the Warriors desperately needed that cap space to increase their offers to Chandler or Jordan? It’s because he wasn’t willing to eat Biedrins’ contract. Period.
For all of his big talk about having deep pockets, and wanting to win now, the last two years have made it completely obvious that Joe Lacob is actually not willing to spend money to win now.
Not yet. Not until he manages to swing a deal for a superstar big man. The Joe Lacob Superstar Big Man. Or until he swings a deal for a San Francisco Arena, and starts selling corporate boxes and season tickets for double the price.
Whichever comes first.
Klay Thompson: Speaking of Joe Lacob, how about this game from his rookie of the year candidate?
Games like this make you salivate, and start thinking about Reggie Miller.
In more ways than one, unfortunately. Thompson still struggles badly on defense, even though in this game he basically had the night off guarding Rudy Fernandez. He got burned several times failing to get back, and on bad rotations.
And that 1 rebound. What’s his Lacob quotient again? Look, Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Brandon Rush are all excellent rebounders, despite being several inches smaller than Thompson. The Warriors desperately need that rebounding from their guards.
You can rave about his offensive game as you much as you like, but you must realize that Klay Thompson is not even close to being a two-way player right now. And guys like Don Nelson and Greg Popovich have taught me that in the NBA, one-way wing players are a dime a dozen. You lose with them. You win with two-way wing players.
Jordan and Pippen. Ginobili and Bowen. Kobe and Fox/Ariza/Artest. Pierce and Allen. Wade and Lebron. Marion/Kidd/Stevenson.
As good as he looks to be, Klay Thompson is still only the fifth best wing on the Warriors. Because of defense and rebounding.
And he’ll remain the Warriors fifth best wing, right up until the moment Joe Lacob trades Monta Ellis.