There are plenty of reasons to discount this Warriors win over the Clippers. I sensed this would be a blowout before it happened, and missed an opportunity to make myself look good by predicting it in the last thread. I have noticed before that when teams come off a long winning streak, they often suffer a sustained letdown. This was also a road back-to-back. The Clippers were without Caron Butler, which threw off their normal rotation and further sapped their energy. And they are certainly looking ahead to the Lakers on Friday.
But the truth of the matter is that the Warriors are legitimately a very tough matchup for the Clippers. For two reasons. First, because of their fabulously talented small-ball roster, led by Stephen Curry and David Lee. And second, because the Warriors’ coaching staff owns the blueprint to beating the Clippers on both sides of the ball.
On offense, you beat them with Nellieball. 23 fast break points, rampant early offense and Stephen Curry walkup threes.
In the half-court, pick and roll with a spread floor: pull the shot-blockers out of the lane, or force them off the court entirely.
That’s how the small-ball Warriors destroy a dominant half-court defense.
Continued kudos to Mark Jackson for empowering the Warriors’ new style of play.
Throw in a little successful “gimmick” defense, and you have the makings of a blowout. The gimmick in this case was playing Ezeli and Biedrins on Blake Griffin.
The uninformed media (with Fitz at the forefront) kept talking about the matchup between David Lee and Blake Griffin. I’ll let you in on a little secret: that matchup NEVER HAPPENED. The Warriors guarded Griffin with their centers for the most part, and when they went to small ball in the fourth quarter, with Carl Landry.
And the Warriors centers completely shut down Griffin, just as they were supposed to do against a player with absolutely no outside shot, and no post game. If you prevent him from dunking, you’re more than halfway home against this Clippers team.
Mark Jackson said post-game he put his centers on Griffin because “research” indicated that was the proper game plan. Research? That’s a fancy word. Was this “research” spit out by some advanced analytics algorithm in Kirk Lacob’s computer?
I stated in March of last year that Jackson was blowing it by not having his centers guard Blake Griffin. How did I know that? Because I had seen the great Rick Adelman do it, and dominate Griffin with Darko Milicic!
Sometimes watching the games works too.
Stephen Curry and David Lee: These two players proved last night why their pick and roll is absolutely unstoppable. In the first half the Clippers guarded it conventionally, and Curry simply buried them with quick threes.
In the second half, the Clippers were determined to take Curry out of the game. They put their best defender, 6-7″ Matt Barnes, on him. Making it harder for Curry to shoot over the defense. And they trapped Curry on the high screen to boot.
This worked quite well in the third quarter, with Ezeli and then Biedrins on the floor. But in the fourth quarter, David Lee became the pick-setter with a spread floor. Now when the Clippers trapped, Curry simply got the ball to Lee all alone at the top of the key, and the Warriors played four on three with Lee as the point guard.
Why O why were we made to wait so long to see these two great players empowered in the right system? And why do the mainstream media insist on continually maddening me by telling us how much David Lee and Stephen Curry have grown as players?
That’s not what happened. What happened is that Mark Jackson threw off Joe Lacob’s shackles and grew as a coach.
With a little help from an osteoarthritic ankle.
THE BARNES IDENTITY
“I think he is in search of an identity, even if he has a ‘brand’.”
This recent comment (43 on this thread) by blog friend Andria summarizes perfectly my current opinion of Harrison Barnes. Since the season began I have been asking myself, what sort of player can Barnes become in the NBA? Which former or current player does he most resemble? The pre-draft comparisons to Glen Rice I found unsatisfying. Although there are certain similarities — particularly in their attitude towards dirty work — Barnes is more athletic than Rice was. And I think it’s clear Barnes will never be the kind of shooter Rice was.
So what identity did the Warriors envision for Barnes when they drafted him?
I’ve developed a theory about this, which I’ll get to below.
In the last two games, ever since I threatened to drop my analysis of Barnes, the Warriors have made a determined effort to get The Brand going in the first quarter. (Of course, I’m not reading anything into that.)
And it has certainly helped Barnes put some points on the board. Particularly in the first quarter, when the scoring comes easy. And Barnes has on occasion looked good, especially when his defender hasn’t read the scouting report, and allows him to drive. He dunks pretty.
But the fact of the matter is that Barnes simply isn’t helping the Warriors very much. He is a horribly inefficient offensive player, shooting 41.9% from the field as a forward, 34% from three, 70% from the line. And he’s doing that quite frequently against the other team’s worst defender.
Take last night, for example. In the first half, the Clippers used their best defender, small forward Matt Barnes, on Klay Thompson. Barnes was guarded by Willie Green, a 6-3″ two guard.
In the second half, it got more embarrassing. The Clippers went small, and guarded Barnes with Jamal Crawford. Now, THAT’S disrespect. Mark Jackson was mortally offended by this matchup, and determined to force-feed Barnes in the mid-post, to punish the much smaller and defensively invisible Crawford. It didn’t work. Partly because the Clippers sent a double team when Barnes put the ball on the floor, but mainly because Barnes has a wretched mid-range game once his drive is taken away.
After going 5-8 in the first half, on mainly layups, Barnes was 0-5 in the 3rd Q, on off-balance midrange shots.
This has been something of a theme lately, the Warriors forcing the ball into Barnes in the mid-post. And in fact, based on the large number of mid-post isos Barnes has been getting, I have developed a theory of how the Warriors see him. What they’d like him to become.
It is apparent to me that the Warriors see Barnes as some sort of Carmelo Anthony-lite. He of the dominant mid-post game. He whom Joe Lacob coveted when he was being shopped by Denver. He for whom Joe Lacob wanted to trade Stephen Curry.
I see a couple of problems with that. The first is that Barnes is a long, long way from Carmelo Anthony. Although he’s listed at Anthony’s height, he lacks Anthony’s heft and overpowering strength taking the ball to the rack. And he’s never had Anthony’s midrange scoring touch. He has simply been horrible trying to make something happen from the mid-post. I’d like to see the stats on that.
And second is that — up to this year at any rate — many of the smartest minds in the NBA have felt that even the real Carmelo Anthony is overrated as a team contributor. Inefficient on offense. A ball-stopper. Mediocre on defense.
In fact, Carmelo’s great improvement this season has coincided with his move to power forward, where he is virtually unguardable, and his defense can be hidden.
Which brings us to the topic of defense. I’ll keep this brief. Last night, Barnes was used to guard Matt Barnes, 19 points on 8-14, and Jamal Crawford, 24 points on 8-17.
Hmmm. I wonder what The Brand would think of being made a power forward?
Barnes did turn in a good rebounding performance last night. On paper. I say that because I continue to note that almost all of Barnes’ rebounds are of the opportunistic variety. He is very good at running down uncontested defensive boards.
Contested rebounds are a completely different story. I don’t see Barnes laying a body on somebody and ripping down a contested rebound very often. If at all. There is a stark contrast between him and Draymond Green in this regard. Not to mention Carl Landry, who is the same height as Barnes.
Many may feel that I’m being far too critical of The Brand, too early in his rookie campaign. And perhaps I am. There is a lot of room for him to grow, no question.
But what I intend to do here is to strip away the false analysis of Barnes’ better performances that you are getting from the Warriors media. And give you an idea of the ground rules by which I’m developing my own, independent analysis.
Is Klay Thompson a winning basketball player? At small forward, no doubt in my mind. Festus Ezeli? No doubt in my mind. Draymond Green? No doubt in my mind, so long as his coaches allow him to develop his three point shooting.
Feltbot’s jury is out.
Terrence Ross: You know who’s playing great right now? The #8 pick in last year’s draft. 26 points on 14 shots last night. 6-9 from three.
Terrence Ross, the 6-7″ shooting guard, who was considered not only the most athletic player in last year’s draft, but the best defender of wings. A true wing stopper. Or what I like to call a true Nellieball wing.
Terrence Ross, who could have shifted Klay Thompson to the three to start the game, where he belongs, and shut down starting twos.
You know who else is playing great, ever since Kyle Lowry got injured, and Ross’ role increased? Ross’ team, the Toronto Raptors, winners of eight of their last nine games.
I’m just saying.
Because no one else is.