Did the Warriors win these last two games because they suddenly decided to play with energy? Because they suddenly felt like competing?
Or was it because of something else?
Something simple like taking Dominic McGuire out of his starting shooting-guard role, and playing him where he belongs, on the second unit at power-forward and center? The Warriors starters were -23 with McGuire at two against the Grizzlies. Hugely negative as well in the four games before that.
But with McGuire out and Hopalong Curry in, the Warriors starters were +8 in the Mavs game, +4 in the Clippers game. I think you know that the one-footed Curry wasn’t the difference. Spreading the floor was the difference.
Or was it something simple like taking the ball and chain off of the Warriors’ fast break? 5 fastbreak points against Memphis. 1 against the Raptors.
25 fast break points against the Mavs. 16 against the Clippers. Looking upcourt after rebounds, outlets to half-court, early offense threes, big men storming the lane.
Simple things like that. Remember those things?
Or maybe it was the return of the David Lee pick and roll, which the Mavs were helpless to defend? Or the glorious nascence of the Udoh pick and roll, which gave the Clippers fits? Pick and roll is actually possible when you spread the floor.
Here’s a thought:
Maybe it was the coaching.
Monta Ellis: 8 assists against the Mavs, 11 against the Clippers. Not a point guard? It’s astonishing to me how many people have that opinion.
It’s also astonishing to me how many people think he’s a poor defender. Tell me please, how many NBA point guards can guard Chris Paul and Derrick Rose better than Monta Ellis?
Whichever team winds up with Monta Ellis will be getting an absolute steal. And if they happen to have a professional GM who knows what a complete roster is, and is trying to win now — and a professional coach who knows what the hell he’s doing, and is willing to play Ellis in a system that maximizes his talents — they’ll be getting a whole lot more:
An all-star. A superstar. A winner.
The Nightmare: Chris Paul had 5 assists in this game. This man’s defense on Blake Griffin was the reason why.
It’s his offense that has been in doubt the last couple of seasons. But why? The reason has been made clear in the last few games, in which Udoh’s game has absolutely exploded.
Udoh is not a low post center, he’s a high post center.
Udoh is not a back-to-the-basket center, he’s a face-up center.
Udoh is not a walk-the-ball-up-court center, he’s a running center.
He’s a Don Nelson center. Who’s been buried under the Keith Smart and Kwame Brown eras.
Here’s what we’ve seen Udoh do on offense in the last few games:
- Take the ball in the high post, and hit the cutters on the hands. Point-center, just like he ran at Baylor.
- Bury the face-up jumper, out to 20 feet.
- Hit a turn-around fade-away jumper.
- Play pick and roll. 10:50 1Q. And later in the Clipper game, slipping the pick for the easy catch and slam.
- Play pick and pop. From Ellis at 9:20 3Q.
- Trail the break, and finish with authority.
Here’s something else we’ve been seeing from Udoh, that’s been making me rub my eyes: Create layups for himself in tight spots using the glass.
Udoh’s footwork in the lane is incredible. Better right now than 90% of 10 year NBA veterans. And he just added those up-and-under layups and that turnaround jumper to his jump hook.
In the last two games I have literally started to get tingles from Udoh. I think I have been witnessing the birth of something…. Or to be more precise, the rebirth of something. Something incredibly special, that’s been gone from the league for a long time. Something distinctly Nigerian in flavor.
My spidey-sense once told me, after watching one pre-season game, that Stephen Curry had watched hundreds of hours of Steve Nash on tape. Now it’s telling me that late at night, in the privacy of his own home, Ekpe Udoh has been studying someone too.
His countryman, Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Warriors Fast Break: Lest I forget, Udoh made one other play last night that stood out for me: (3:14 1Q) Udoh rebounds and immediately throws a half-court outlet to Dorell Wright, resulting in an early offense three.
Unless I’m greatly mistaken, that is the first time that Udoh has been allowed to look upcourt after a rebound in his Warriors career.
Jim Barnett: “That’s the way to kick it out!”
Poor Jim. He must have felt like tearing his eyes from their sockets in the last few games.
I know I did.
David Lee: Top 5 in scoring, top 5 in rebounding for power forwards. Soft. Overpaid. Just ask Lauridsen.
Out-played Dirk Nowitzki one on one. How many games in a row is that now?
He got in foul trouble last night, but still managed a great game. And the foul trouble was the fault of his coach. Allow me to explain:
Goose Eggs: Biedrins was -6 to start the second quarter in the Clippers game. Why? Was it his fault? Or was it because he was forced to play against a Clippers small-ball unit featuring Reggie Evans at center and Bobby Simmons at the four?
Look, virtually every non-scoring defensive center in the league is going to get torn up playing against small ball teams. There is literally no one for them to guard, nothing that they can do. I’ve said it before: Jackson is killing the Warriors second quarter unit by trying to play Biedrins with it.
He’s also killing the Warriors first unit. By getting them hurt, and getting them in foul trouble. Ekpe Udoh is simply not strong enough to hold off the top front lines in the league for 30 minutes. How many indications of that do you need? He’s getting hurt, and he’s getting in foul trouble. And his foul trouble is getting David Lee in foul trouble.
If you want to play Ekpe Udoh 30+ minutes, and if you want to play him big crunch time minutes, then you should be minimizing his early minutes against the monsters, and maximizing his early minutes on the second team.
It was a great decision to completely hold Biedrins out of the Mavericks game. There are many games in which he simply shouldn’t play. But games against the Clippers are not those games. The Clippers are an ideal opponent for Biedrins.
Why? Because Blake Griffin can’t shoot, has no low-post game, and for that reason struggles badly against bigger players. Biedrins should have been guarding Griffin to start the first and third quarters, which Jackson might have known if he had bothered to watch TWolves games this year. The great Rick Adelman has dominated Blake Griffin with Darko Milicic. Yes, dominated. With Darko.
Biedrins starts the first and third quarters, no foul trouble. And maybe no Udoh back trouble either. Biedrins doesn’t stink up the second quarter, one of the most talented small ball reserve units in the NBA takes over.
It ain’t rocket science. And it ain’t desire, effort, playing with force, showing up to compete, being aggressive, making no excuses, or any of the other arrant nonsense that has been spewing out of Mark Jackson’s mouth lately either.
Dorell Wright: Maybe this guy can play a little basketball, after all.
It is highly mysterious to me that he is not worthy of being played in the fourth quarter, particularly on nights when he has it going to the tune of 20 points on 7-10, 4-7 from three, 5 rbs, 2 stls, 1 block.
Mark Jackson made the terrible mistake — or was it panic? — of putting Dominic McGuire in to play alongside Lee and Udoh in the fourth quarter. At a time when the Clippers were playing small-ball with Griffin and Reggie Evans on the front line.
Idiotic. The Warriors offense completely froze up, just as it has every single time Jackson has started the game with this lineup.
Those are Dorell Wright’s minutes.
Klay Thompson: I noticed a lot more force and edge to Thompson’s play in the last two games, on both sides of the ball. On offense, I love it when he takes the ball hard to the hoop. Last night he even finished one with a slam.
Who is he going to find it easier to beat off the dribble, shooting guards or small forwards?
He’s also picked up his defense — team defense, at any rate. We’ve seen some aggressive steals. And in the Mavs game, his most hard-nosed rebounding of the year. He can get up among the trees, when he wants to.
He can play shooting guard. But he’s a natural small forward.
Charles Jenkins: Ouch. His play last night reminded me that if Stephen Curry hadn’t gotten injured, Joe Lacob would be going with him and Ish Smith at the back-up point.
Final Thought: Just how talented is this Warriors team? Talented enough to blow out the (admittedly tired) defending world champs. Talented enough to spank the Clippers in their own building.
Without Stephen Curry, who if he were healthy just might be their most important player.
Does it make you wonder what if? What if the Warriors had management who were willing to let them play the style in which they can excel? What if they had a veteran coach? What if Joe Lacob had actually supported this team with some veteran role players instead of hunting his big deal?
What if the corpse of Andris Biedrins had been amnestied, and Tyson Chandler — whom Mike D’Antoni recently called the best center in the league — had been “overpaid?”
What if pigs could fly?