First off, let’s acknowledge that if the Warriors lose every remaining game on this road trip, it won’t mean much to their playoff chances. They already took care of business by beating the Spurs at home and the TWolves on the road. Anything more on this trip would be gravy, because once they get home again they’ll have one of the easiest schedules in the Western Conference down the home stretch.
The Pacers are the most efficient defensive team in the league, judging by their opponent’s points per possession of 0.950. (The Warriors have fallen all the way to 20th, at 1.032). Some of that has to do with their giant front line of Hibbert and West, and the halfcourt pace they play at. George Hill is a pretty decent defender at the point.
But I think what sets the Pacers apart defensively are their extraordinary two-way wings, Paul George, Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson. Extraordinary length, extraordinary defensive ability. If you ask me, that is the single biggest factor separating the Warriors — with their hand-picked by Joe Lacob wings, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes — from the Pacers defensively.
And I confess I find it amusing that the man who insisted so loudly that the Warriors change their “culture” drafted two poor defensive wings with his first two lottery picks. Something the man “who doesn’t care about defense,” Don Nelson, never did once in all of his decades as an NBA GM. Not once. Here’s the list of first round wing players Nellie drafted: Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, Mitch Richmond, Latrell Sprewell, and Josh Howard. All-stars all, and all-NBA defenders all.
You draft two-way players on the wings. Guys like Kawhi Leonard, Terrence Ross, Mo Harkless (who destroyed Evan Turner tonight). That’s how you build an NBA team.
(Pass it on.)
Stephen Curry: Not much question who the leader of the Warriors was in this game, was there?
Curry appeared to have the eye of the tiger tonight right from the opening tip. It looked a bit like a Davidson game, didn’t it, where he had to do everything by himself? There was zero pick and roll available, as Hibbert didn’t have to guard anyone outside the lane, and was always lurking.
I’d like to see Curry show this kind of demeanor even on nights when he doesn’t have it going. That’s what great players, and leaders, do.
Amazing that only one game after I stated the obvious question of whether you’d ever see Curry get into the shirt of a big man like Jack did with Stiemstra, Curry took on the 7’2″ 280 lb. Roy Hibbert in that fourth quarter skirmish. Although I’m pretty sure his original intent when he tried to wrap Hibbert up was simply to be a peacemaker. After he got knocked down, though, I’m not convinced that when he went right back at Hibbert it was with peace in his heart.
It was great to see Curry and Biedrins — two of the most mild-mannered gentlemen in the league — get right into the thick of things. Good for them, and good for the team.
One last little point: I have always maintained that Curry is a terrific defender when he gets posted up by bigger men. Take a look at that defensive stand against Lance Stephenson at 10:05 3Q.
That takes heart too.
Jack: There was no “Hammertime” from J.Hammer in this game. Struggled quite a bit offensively.
He also struggled more than usual on defense, against Indiana’s long, long twos. The Warriors could have really used Brandon Rush in this game.
Wait a minute, Rush has been out since the start of the year. Let me rephrase: In this game, the Warriors really missed Joe Lacob having had their backs earlier in the season, and going out and signing a two-way two-guard to reinforce their bench, the way every other GM of a team headed to the playoffs would have.
Festus Ezeli: Take a look at the defense he played at 9:45 2Q. He left his man, Ian Mahinmi, to stop a guard from penetrating, then recovered out to the free throw line to pick Mahinmi back up when the ball was swung back to him, then stuck with Mahinmi’s drive and forced him into a badly missed runner.
That’s something Ezeli has done all season long, that the Andrew Bogut Myth is incapable of.
The Brand: 11:45 3Q, Barnes lets Paul George outwork him for an offensive rebound. Does Draymond Green let that happen?
2 rebounds for Barnes in this game, against George’s 11.
7:30 3Q: On a Curry led fast break, Barnes drifts the wrong way at the three point line, leading to a thrown away pass. A quite obvious rookie mistake. You always want to follow the driver towards the baseline, to stay in his range of vision, and make the pass out easier. And it’s a shorter shot! Does Richard Jefferson make that mistake?
I’ve had a lot to say about Barnes in recent weeks, and I’ve been accused of picking on him excessively. Whether or not you believe that to be the case, I think there’s a valid reason to bring up these two plays tonight:
Would any other organization fighting to make the playoffs play this rookie ahead of the other options on the Warriors bench?
Is it Mark Jackson’s agenda to play this rookie, or Joe Lacob’s?
Klay Thompson: 5:40 3Q, blows ANOTHER wide-open right-handed layup. This is getting absurd, and I’m beginning to fear for Jim Barnett’s blood pressure.
Why can’t he just take it straight to the glass like a normal person, instead of flipping up high-arcing, off the glass finger-rolls? It doesn’t have to be this hard.
David Lee: A tough matchup and a tough game for Lee, who didn’t get his number called very often.
But he also didn’t get much help from the gameplan.
Mark Jackson: I’ve got to give Jackson a D for this game.
Is there a rule that says you always have to stick to the same rotation? Can the Warriors win this game matching up big against the Pacers? Not often I don’t think. About as often as you get 40 point performances from Curry.
I think they could have played small a lot more, at least Lee/Landry small, and tried to accomplish two things:
- Run Roy Hibbert and David West to death. You know, like the Miami Heat do?
- Get David Lee matched up with Hibbert in the pick and roll. That way maybe Curry can get more than 2 assists, and won’t have to carry the entire load himself.
The real problem with this strategy, of course, is that the Warriors don’t have any true spread fours, who could pull West all the way out, and leave Hibbert alone to be humiliated by one of the best pick and roll big men in the league. Although I’m pretty sure Nellie would have tried to feed Richard Jefferson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes to David West at some point. Maybe the whole game. Wouldn’t that have been fun to watch?
If you’re not going to play small, then for
Chr… goodness’ sake get the matchups right. The Warriors crossmatch their big men against the Clippers, using Biedrins and Ezeli on Blake Griffin. Why not do the same thing against the Pacers? Yes, Hibbert is a far better offensive player than DeAndre Jordan for Lee to cover. But he’s having a horrible offensive year, and you can always give help.
David West, unlike David Lee, really struggles one-on-one against length. Don Nelson used Andris Biedrins to destroy him in fourth quarters, remember?
I know, those tapes have been burned.