Great, gutsy short handed win in Phoenix tonight. One thing that’s never mentioned is that it is really difficult to win on the road on the last game before the all-star break. This Warriors team, no matter how they are struggling, always plays hard. Always has played hard, even when they were down to 6 man rosters in Nellie’s last couple of years. That’s a credit to Monta Ellis, first of all, and Curry and Lee now as well.
Quite a few recent themes of mine surfaced in the play of this game. Let’s run through them, starting with Monta’s game-winner:
Closing Time: The Warriors have not one, but two legitimate NBA closers — assuming Curry’s feet don’t fall off. And Mark Jackson’s final play call is exactly what you do with a closer, and the final shot of a game: A top of the key iso. None of that nonsense that we’ve seen Jackson and Keith Smart before him run so often: high pick and rolls that can be trapped, or giving Lee the ball 20 feet from the hoop as in the Memphis game.
Both Monta and Curry can get their own shot. Let them close.
Biedrins as the starter: Udoh’s injury gives us a timely reminder of why it is best that Biedrins remain the Warriors’ starting center, unless he becomes completely crippled. The NBA is a physical league, particularly on the box, and Biedrins is far more suited to absorbing the punishment of playing against starting centers than Udoh. Preserving the bodies of Lee and Udoh, not just for the fourth quarters of key games, but for the long season ahead, is crucial.
And as limited as Beans is now, he is still a pretty great defender for short stretches, as Mark Jackson has noted. The work he did against the Nash/Gortat pick and roll in this game was exceptional. When Beans was at his best, he may have been the best pick and roll defender in the league. He’s still better than most.
Dorell Wright v. Klay Thompson: I think that this game illustrates that when Dorell Wright puts it all together, he plays at a level that Klay Thompson currently can’t touch. Dorell is a true small forward: he plays against the big guys, grabs rebounds and is a shot-blocking presence. He even took punishing minutes at the four against the 7 foot Channing Frye in this game, something I think we all can agree that Klay Thompson isn’t capable of.
Wright is also a pretty darn good offensive player. He made sure he got it going in this game, taking the ball to the rim aggressively. That seemed to jump start his outside shot. And he’s a terrific ball-handler, adept at driving and dishing, as he did on Monta’s first three pointer. And he can play point-forward, as he did at 7:30 3rd Q, hitting Monta perfectly on the curl in the lane.
That last play, though, where he drove the lane, and had his dish to David Lee picked off…. Hated that play, and by my count that’s the third time this season that Wright has choked a big play at the end of the game. Even though Frye was guarding him and Gortat coming to help, I think Wright has to find a way to get that ball onto the rim, or get fouled. Lee is perfectly positioned to get the offensive rebound.
For whatever reason, Mark Jackson quite clearly doesn’t believe he can play Klay Thompson at small forward. I’m not sure why. I’m positive that’s where Nellie would play him — he’d throw him into the fire and demand he rebounded.
Because Klay simply cannot guard two guards. He got lit up by Shannon Brown in this game, which is why Jackson snatched him off the court. That and the fact that he missed a rotation, allowing Lopez an uncontested dunk, and failed to get back on defense after a made basket.
Some people seem to think I have it in for Klay Thompson. I don’t, I just have a firm Don Nelson-bred belief that wing players must be good defenders. And my own two eyes tell me that Klay Thompson is not a good defender, no matter what kind of propaganda noises are emanating from Jerry West and the Warriors staff. If you think my eyes are defective, check out this assessment from Grantland’s NBA writer Sebastian Pruiti. I would add to Pruiti’s analysis that Thompson’s first step is back simply because he’s not as quick as the players he’s guarding.
The Dominator: Dom was great in the Matt Barnes role in this game. Would he have even gotten into the game if we were still in the Kwame Brown Era?
You need to play small to beat this Phoenix team, unless you have a skilled big man who can punish them down low. You need to play small because they will spread you out all over the floor, and beat you to every rebound otherwise.
The fantastic athlete and competitor that is Dom McGuire put an end to that. If only he could shoot like Matt Barnes.
Curry’s Foot: I’m not panicking, yet. He’s just got a sprained foot. And he’s not the only player struggling with these foot injuries this season. Ty Lawson sprained his foot as well, shortly after he sprained his ankle earlier in the season. And now Lawson is out again with another sprain. Once your wheels get dinged up this season, the compressed schedule makes them hard to get right. Seems in fact to lead to other injuries.
I think Curry will be ready to go after skipping all-star weekend.