Two Warriors games, one a 24 point blowout loss to the Pacers, the other a gritty 3 point win against the Hawks. Notice anything similar about these two games?
How about the Warriors offensive output? An average of 81.5 points a game.
Yes, the Warriors are without Stephen Curry. But you know, in the last game he played in, he got a total of 6 shots. Zero in the second half. So it’s not really about that, is it?
Yes, the Warriors shot miserably from three in the last two games: an amazing 4-34. But as much as that might look to be the reason for the Warriors low scoring, it’s not.
The Warriors low scoring has been the result of a conscious coaching decision. To slow the pace, and walk the ball up the court. The Warriors are literally never looking to run. Even when, as in this Hawks game, they have the much faster lineup and actually are out-rebounding their opponent. As for pushing the tempo after a made basket? Never. That’s something other teams do.
Mark Jackson took his slow-it-down philosophy a step further in this game, starting a non-shooter in Dominic McGuire at the shooting guard. I’ll have more to say about this below, but for now, let me just point out that the Warriors’ three point drought in the last two games was not simply an Act of God.
It is hard to shoot three point shots when you are playing 3 on 5, and all of your shots are closely guarded. It is hard to get an open three point shot when you are walking the ball up the court, and your half-court offense is mired in mud.
What happened to the Mark Jackson who stated before the season that the Warriors were going to run? That is quite clearly not the case any more. Lately Jackson has taken to stating that it is better for the Warriors’ future that they learn to “grind out” close games as opposed to “running away” with games. I had been finding that statement somewhat cryptic, but I think it’s meaning is becoming clearer with every passing game.
The “culture” is changing. Running is out. Even with a team that is built to run, and can only win consistently with running. From here on out, winning is going to be subservient to playing “the right way.” The way the Warriors are going to play in the future, when Joe Lacob finally finds his “big deal.”
And trades Monta Ellis.
Welcome to Joe Lacob basketball. The future is now.
Hope you like it.
The Dominator at Two: The most interesting thing about this Hawks game was of course Jackson’s decision to start Dom at the two. It worked, right?
No, it didn’t work, and it was an absolutely wretched decision. The pairing of McGuire with Andris Biedrins to start the game got the Hawks off to a 10-2 start to the game. At the start of the third quarter, the pairing was -4, and absolutely killed the Warriors momentum coming out of halftime. -12 for the game. It is simply too easy to guard a team that has two total non-shooters on the floor, particularly when that team is committed to walking the ball up the court.
Perhaps the failure of the lineup has to do with Andris Biedrins? No, Biedrins’ production is predictable, and even the eye-gouging 9 minutes he gave tonight are valuable to the Warriors against a monster like Pachulia. To keep Ekpe Udoh from fouling out of the game, for instance.
No, the failure of the lineup was pre-ordained, and rests with Mark Jackson.
Which is not to say I didn’t love Dom’s effort and impact in this game. I did love it. And I’m not saying he shouldn’t have gotten as many minutes as he did. I’m saying he should never, ever be on the court together with Andris Biedrins. Which means he should not have started. And in fact, his minutes at power forward (his best position) against Josh Smith were by far his most effective for the team as a whole.
Jackson stated post-game that after he decided to start Monta at the one, he stayed up all night thinking about who to start at the two. He finally settled on Dom, he said, because Dom “deserves” it, exemplifies everything Jackson has been preaching, etc., etc., and that he wanted to reward him.
My guess is he’s talking about defense. But what about Brandon Rush? To my eye, he has played exemplary defense this season. Wasn’t he the natural choice to start against Joe Johnson? Particularly in a lineup suffering from #OsteitisPubis, err… Andris Biedrins?
And what about Klay Thompson? Can’t he guard Joe Johnson?
Don’t bother answering that. If it’s not already obvious to you that he can’t, trust Mark Jackson and Mike Malone to tell you. Not in the press — never that. With their actions.
Monta at the One: Finally, Jackson made the decision to play Ellis at the point. Don’t you think this might have been a wise decision against the Pacers as well, with the 6-8″ Paul George at two, and 6-9″ Danny Granger at the three?
Mark Jackson went on one of his patented rants after the Pacers game, telling us that “you can’t gameplan for lack of effort, you can’t gameplan for turning the ball over, you can’t gameplan for second chance points.”
No, but you can gameplan.
Look, you can play two-point-guard backcourts against bigger teams and win. Don Nelson did it all the time. Greg Popovich does it. George Karl does it. The worst team in the league did it to Mark Jackson this season.
But you can’t do it while walking the ball up the court. Any NBA coach could tell you that.
Don’t you think it’s time the Warriors got one?
David Lee: Hey, Lee put a 5-20 on Josh Smith on his home floor. Does that mean he suddenly got better defensively? Maybe it had something to do with the players he had on the court with him. (Don’t tell the stat phreaks!)
The Warriors ran the identical crunchtime out-of-bounds play for Lee that failed so spectacularly in Memphis. This time it succeeded spectacularly.
Or was it the identical play? Checking the tape, I noticed two differences, one a subtle coaching tweak, and the other a subtle improvement in execution.
Against Memphis, Curry executed the pin-down to free Lee for the pass, and it was Curry’s man, the nimble Mike Conley, waiting under the basket to pick up the charge. Against the Hawks, it was the player being guarded by the center Pachulia, Brandon Rush, who executed the pin-down, and Lee was able to waltz right around Pachulia for the layup. That’s the coaching tweak.
The execution tweak: In this game, after inbounding to Lee, Monta broke around Lee towards the key as if to take the handoff, pulling Josh Smith away so that Lee could drive. Against Memphis, Monta broke the wrong way, resulting in Marc Gasol sticking to Lee (and steamrolling him like a rhinoceros).
Nice adjustments. And proof that when judging a player’s performance in crunch time, coaching matters.
Ekpe Udoh: That 15 footer is actually starting to look — dare I say it? — sweet.
12 pts, 6-10, 8 rbs, 1 ast, 3 stls, 3 blks. If nothing else, those are numbers that can win you a fantasy league.
Goose Eggs: #OsteitisPubis. Lacob knew.
How running after made baskets helps equalize the free-throw disparity: 8:50
3Q [Edit: 4Q]: After a nice Klay Thompson drive, Willie Green beats Thompson downcourt, drawing the shooting foul on his drive.
You didn’t think I was going to mention a Warriors play, did you?