As I predicted, the Warriors shot up Andrew Bogut’s crippled, arthritic ankle with painkillers before last night’s Game 6 against the Nuggets. And the result was spectacular. We’ve all seen the stats: 14 points, 21 rbs., 4 blocks. This coming after two straight 5 rebound games. And a grand total of 2 points in his previous three halfs of basketball.
So, yes, you could say that the ability to play pain-free had a slight effect on Bogut’s game. He said as much himself post-game: “Fortunately, the needle they stuck me with before the game did wonders for me.”
The liveliness in Bogut’s legs was apparent. It’s the best I’ve seen him run the floor in a Warriors uniform. But the biggest effect of Bogut’s return to “health” was in his stamina. 39 minutes of play. And most importantly, he stayed strong into the 3rd and 4th quarters — something we’ve never seen from him this series — allowing him to dominate the Nuggets tiring and foul-plagued bigs.
There has never been a question that a healthy Andrew Bogut is a fantastic player at the defensive end. And for one night at least, a little medical miracle allowed him to show it. His defensive presence completely dominated that end of the floor, virtually shutting down the Nuggets’ points-in-the-paint-reliant attack. As George Karl put it last night, “I’d forgotten how good he is at clogging the lane.”
Bogut was the MVP of the Warriors last night in the biggest game of their season. It was great to watch — particularly for the sheer courageousness and selflessness of the effort — and it was great to see the joy and satisfaction he took from his performance, and the series-clinching win, after the game. Because he’s been through absolute hell this season.
Bogut has stated in numerous interviews that this has been his most difficult season on a personal level. Gwen Knapp quoted him thusly:
I’ve had an absolute nightmare of a six to nine months; there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It was pitch-black for months.… Guys on the road, I’m at home. My day consisted of rehab in the morning, go home, ice. I don’t go out. Haven’t had a beer or a drink or an alcoholic beverage. [Because alcohol makes his ankle swell.] I’ve given up a lot to just go home and get my ankle right.
Before the series began, as was revealed by his TNT interviewer post-game, he stated that he was wondering whether it was all worth it.
He also said this post-game, when asked whether this was the best game of his career in a Warriors uniform: “For sure — save the best for last.” Wait, what?
He quickly corrected himself, continuing, “Hopefully, not the last now. But a great day for us.”
Um, as a self-trained (perforce) Bogutologist, I have to restrain myself from reading too much into those remarks. But I think it is worth asking ourselves just how much performances like this are costing him. Particularly when, asked post-game how he’s feeling, he says things like: “I’m very, very good right now, but not looking forward to waking up in the morning.”
It’s also worth asking how many performances like this one Bogut has left to give the Warriors this post-season. Is he going to shoot up that ankle every single game going forward? Will it continue to work?
Could it harm his future career? No, scratch that. No one, not even he himself, is concerned about that now. (Nor, apparently, is anyone concerned about David Lee’s future.) These playoffs are what Bogut endured the torment of this season for. And he’s going to give it everything he’s got.
He’s got three days rest before Game 1 against the Spurs, and then the grind begins again.
Mark Jackson: Not going to take away anything from Jackson’s performance this series. He’s been nothing short of brilliant. And the results speak louder than any analysis: He pulled off this Game 6 must-win, and the series against the favored team.
But if you’re in the mood for second-guessing, there were a few decisions in this game you could question.
Beginning with the starting lineup. For the first time this series, since David Lee went down, Jackson went big to start the game, slotting Carl Landry at PF alongside Bogut, and returning Jarrett Jack to his customary bench role.
And this exposed, or I guess I should say re-exposed, the greatest current flaw in Andrew Bogut’s game: his limited offense. And more to the point, the way his limited offense affects the Warriors offense, when he’s paired with another big who doesn’t spread the floor. Even though Jackson didn’t go to the Bogut high-pick in the first half, George Karl decided to just put a naked trap on Curry at the three point line, to get the ball out of his hands. With a poorly spread floor, the Nuggets were able to stick to the shooters, and recover to Bogut in time.
The Warriors’ offense, as it has so often this season with Bogut in the opening lineup, completely stalled. At the 9:00 mark of the 2nd quarter, they were still stuck on 21 points. That proved to be not completely disastrous against the poor-shooting Nuggets, but I have little doubt it would against the offensively efficient Spurs.
The Warriors first went small at 8:20 2nd Q, with Barnes at the PF, and immediately broke out on an 8-0 run, and closed the half down only two.
The big lineup fared better in the third quarter, but only because Faried picked up three immediate fouls and was forced to sit. And then George Karl made a fatal error (which I’ll get to).
Jackson’s other possible mistakes in this game? Well, I’m tempted to call his decision to slow the pace down mid-4th Quarter with the Warriors up 18 a rookie mistake. But then I remembered that Don Nelson made a similar mistake in the game in which he tied the record for most wins. And I didn’t think it was a mistake then.
I do think it’s a mistake now. I agree with what Tom Tolbert said post-game, that you should continue to play the style of basketball that got you the lead, until only a couple of minutes remain in the game. The fact of the matter is that by trying to take the air out of the ball, the Warriors took the air out of their own game, and their half-court struggles breathed life into the Nuggets.
Something else I found curious was Jackson yanking Jarret Jack twice, late in the fourth quarter. Yes, Jack was having his struggles, and perhaps he needed a breather, but I thought it was an extremely dangerous decision to have both rookies Barnes and Green on the floor at the same time. It quite obviously put pressure on the Warriors’ ball-handling and decision-making. But also, those Barnes top-of-the-key isos? Not what I’d want to go to in crunch time. If ever.
David Stern, is that you? Um, that “tripping” foul against Barnes that “earned” Faried his third foul? It appears that Faried’s feet were made a point of emphasis before the game. Mark Jackson’s $25k was well spent.
It just may have won the Warriors the game.
George Karl’s Fatal Error: Going to the Twin Towers look of McGee and Koufos early in the third quarter, after Faried got in foul trouble. This was a forseeably disastrous move that immediately sprung Curry free to bury the Nuggets. With two bigs on the floor, the Nuggets were no longer able to blitz Curry when Jackson (correctly) immediately starting going to the Curry-Bogut pick and roll. They were too slow on the floor to risk blitzing.
- 10:13 Bogut high pick, McGee soft show, Curry attacks the lane for 2 FTs.
- 9:34 Bogut high pick, no blitz. 3 in Lawson’s face.
- 9:13 Landry beats McGee and Koufos downcourt causing a scramble: Curry left wide open for a 3.
- 8:01 Bogut high pick, another soft hedge, another Curry 3.
- 7:29 Curry iso versus Lawson, both McGee and Koufos give help, leaving Bogut open for a dunk.
McGee and Koufos are also both terribly limited offensive players. They’re not post-up players, they don’t spread the floor, and they gave the Nuggets nothing offensively to balance out what they were costing the team on the defensive end.
By the time Karl called timeout to get this lineup off the court, a 2 point Nuggets lead had turned into a 6 point deficit, and the Warriors were off and running.
Stephen Curry: I attended this game courtesy of my good poker buddy, Micah. Micah is a long-time Warriors fan, and by long-time, I mean he used to go to the Cow Palace to see Bill Russell play Wilt Chamberlain.
Micah is a very reluctant fan of Stephen Curry. He always tells me: “I just don’t trust him. The young fella just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t take care of the ball. He thinks he’s on a playground all the time.”
And I always smile and shake my head, and say, you must be kidding me. Curry’s a superstar!
Well, Micah had his moment last night. Oh boy, did he. You think Oracle is loud? I watched that fourth quarter with the crowd in my left ear, and Micah’s demented screams of rage in my right. I thought I might have to adminster CPR.
Take care of the ball, young fella. If for nothing else, than for the health of one of the greatest Warriors fans in history.
Young Battier: What a game for Draymond Green (apart from the fourth quarter turnovers). He stated recently that he dropped in the draft because the scouts weren’t sure whom he could guard in the NBA.
How about everyone?
The rebounding, tenacity, heart, IQ, court vision. How about that airborne touch pass to Curry for three at 3:48 3Q?
If he continues to be able hit his threes, as he did in this series, he will become a hugely valuable two-way stretch four. A young Shane Battier. In other words, the kind of player that wins. Which is exactly what Andrew Bogut said about him after the game: “He wins games.”
I can’t help but think back to Bob Fitzgerald’s cringing and whining during the season whenever Green would launch. (Mournful tone) “I just don’t think that’s Draymond’s game…”
Bob Fitzgerald: Speaking of the devil, I’ve been tuning into the TNT broadcasts, which is an absolute blessing. (Sorry Barnett, love you.) I bring Bob up, because Green’s emergence as a three-point shooter in Bob’s face has reminded me of something else: We’re no longer hearing Bob say one negative word about the Warriors three-point shooting approach in general.
My head is still ringing from his game-calls during Keith Smart’s tenure: “The Warriors are getting a little perimeter happy!” “Dorell Wright is becoming a volume shooter!” (In the midst of hitting 9 threes in one game.) “The Warriors should be careful not to fall in love with the outside shot!” “Missed corner threes result in layups or dunks!”
He’s totally shut up about it, am I right? Not one peep.
Maybe Mark Jackson is on to something. Maybe God is a Warriors fan.
The Warriors Defense: We heard a lot about the Warriors’ defense and “culture change” after this win. And I am willing to concede that on this night Andrew Bogut was a dominant defender, and that Draymond Green is a dominant defender on every night. But the Warriors defense? I’m not buying it.
It should be recognized by now that the Warriors have one of the worst perimeter defenses in the NBA, that has gotten by this season by packing the lane, and daring teams to shoot from outside. And it should be recognized that the Denver Nuggets, with their reliance on getting layups and points in the paint, were tailor-made to look terrible against the Warriors’ defense.
The Nuggets got all the open looks they could possibly want in this game, and all series long. They just can’t shoot.
But the Spurs can.
The Spurs Series: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal. The Spurs can spread the floor at every position. No more packing the paint.
Who will Bogut guard? It might not be Tiago Splitter, who badly sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the first round against the Lakers. He is doubtful for Game 1, and may not play until much later in the series.
Given the fact that the Warriors are small at power forward, even when they start Carl Landry, the Spurs may play small from the start of this series, with Duncan at center, and Bonner or Leonard at the four. This is bad news for Bogut and the Warriors, chiefly because Duncan has the ability to pull Bogut away from the basket with his 18 foot range. If Bogut is forced to guard out on the floor, the Warriors perimeter players will get chewed to pieces by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Even with Duncan by himself, the Spurs will be a much better defensive rebounding team than the crippled Nuggets. That means the Spurs fast break will be difficult to contain. They are an extremely fast-paced team, that runs at every opportunity. This could also spell bad news for Bogut.
The Warriors defense will be put to the test in this series in ways in which it wasn’t against the Nuggets. I think Mark Jackson will again be forced to play a lot of small-ball and push the tempo, in order to keep pace with the Spurs’ offense.
This will be not be a defensive series at all. Two Nellieball teams are going to push the pedal to the metal.
The Warriors are +750 dogs in the series. I’m not tempted to take that. But more interestingly, the over/under for Game 1 is at 201.
I like the over.