No, our eyes didn’t deceive us last game. The newly Nellieball Golden State Warriors are a better team than the San Antonio Spurs.
Jump for the reasons why:
The Myth of Tony Parker: First of all, the Tony Parker we’re seeing right now is not the real Tony Parker, the guy we saw for most of the regular season. Parker had a really bad ankle sprain a few weeks ago, that he will not recover from this year. He is a step slow.
Secondly, Parker struggles against length. That was proven in last year’s playoffs against OKC. The Spurs looked good getting out to a 2-0 lead, then OKC shifted Sefolosha onto him and swept the Spurs out. Why? Because Parker operates in the confined spaces of the paint. He likes getting into the paint on pick and roll, and pulling up for short jumpers, or continuing for layups. Bogut is contesting his layups, and Thompson and Green are denying his short jumpers. 7-17 in this game.
Third, because Parker doesn’t spread the floor, he is always looking to score two points. As the modern theory of basketball (which more and more confirms the validity of Nellieball) is fond of pointing out, even 59% from two is not as efficient as 40% from three.
Tony Parker is NOT as good a point guard as Stephen Curry.
The Myth of Manu Ginobili: One of my favorite players of all time. James Harden before James Harden was James Harden.
Guess what? He doesn’t exist any more. He didn’t exist all season long. Lowest minutes since he was breaking in, plummeting scoring average. Bad shooting percentage. Even his free throws suffered.
Ginobili’s legs are shot. He has hamstring problems in both legs. He’s slow to the hoop, his jump is gone, he can’t feel his three point shot.
And this once all-pro defender can’t be put on Curry.
The Myth of Low Post Basketball: I don’t want to take anything away from Bogut and Ezeli. They were fabulous on Duncan tonight. But the fact of the matter is that low post basketball, as Mike D’Antoni is fond of pointing out, is the least efficient form of basketball there is. It’s turnover prone, and it converts at under 50%, even in the hands of masters.
It is simply not a match for 40% from three, which the Warriors have been producing regularly — against playoff competition — using Nellieball.
Duncan was 9-20 for 23 points in this game. A nice effort. But he’s playing for two, while the Warriors are playing for three.
The Myth of Matt Bonner: This is a little unfair to Bonner. He’s a fine stretch four, a 44% shooter from three, and a very useful player.
Against bigger players. That’s when Bonner is effective, when he’s matched up against conventional fours and fives that don’t want to leave the paint.
But the Nellieball Warriors are not matching up big against Bonner, they’re matching up small. With Draymond Green. And in this matchup, Bonner is transformed into a terrible player. A liability. Green has no problem covering Bonner at the 3 point line, at running him off his preferred shot. And that’s the sum total of his game.
What’s left is an indifferent rebounder and a wretched defender.
Pop gave Bonner a seat on the pine to start the third quarter, going with Kawhi Leonard at stretch four. This may become a theme.
The Myth of Tiago Splitter: Like sprained ankle Kenneth Faried, sprained ankle Tiago Splitter is not Tiago Splitter. He is very likely not to return to full strength in this series.
Tiago Splitter dominates Carl Landry. Carl Landry dominates sprained ankle Tiago Splitter.
The Nellieball Warriors: Enough with the Spurs, why is it that the Warriors are so darn good right now? Why is it that they are a far more dominant team in the playoffs than they were all season long?
This is familiar territory for the readers of this blog. I believe it’s because they are finally, after three long years, matching up small, pushing the tempo, spreading the floor, and playing pick and roll. They are finally playing the system that allows Stephen Curry’s ungodly talents to flourish.
A lot of people will point to the fact that the stellar defensive play of Andrew Bogut in these playoffs has been equally important to the Warriors’ dominance. And I will absolutely grant that, right up front.
But even on the defensive side, look what happens when you start the Nellieball four Draymond Green alongside Bogut. All of a sudden, and for the first time all season, the Warriors have two all-world defenders on the court. All of a sudden the Warriors can defend the perimeter, as well as the paint.
Even when the Warriors started Barnes at four and Jack in the backcourt, they were a better defensive team. And no, I’m not picking on David Lee, whose man to man defense (against conventional big men, not stretch fours) is severely underrated. It’s because all season long Barnes has been a mediocre to terrible defender of threes. He’s simply a better defender when playing the stretch-four, because of his quickness advantage.
Simply put, since Lee went out, the gains the Warriors have made in quickness have far outweighed what they’ve lost in size on the defensive end. By a large margin.
On the offensive end — forgive me for recapitulating three long years of argument — but this is what Nellieball has done for the Warriors in the playoffs:
Gotten Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson wide open looks at early offense threes. Klay was 8-9 from three in this game, many of which would have had Marcus Thompson yelling “Noooooooooooooo!” earlier in the season, and ranting in his blog about forcing shots and not running offense.
It’s no longer a secret known only to Don Nelson and a handful of acolytes (Greg Popovich and George Karl). Now it’s the stuff of Sloan Conference papers. 40% from three in the open court cannot be defended. 40% from three cannot be outscored. 40% from three is unbeatable.
What else is Nellieball doing for the Warriors? The spread floor in the half court, of course. And what does the spread floor do? Allow the Warriors to run pick and roll for Curry without the danger of getting blitzed. Allow Curry to create in isolation at the three point line. Allow Curry to bomb at will from the three point line. And something else we haven’t seen since his rookie season under Nellie: get into the lane off the dribble.
Turn Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green into better players at the four, in the playoffs, than they were at the three, in the regular season. Make the Warriors unguardable on the perimeter. Get Bogut wide open dunks, which is his best and only offense. Not counting his supreme passing ability, which is also magnified when the floor is spread.
Klay Thompson: I called Stephen Curry a potential Hall of Famer — to much derision –towards the end of his rookie season. And I called Klay Thompson a potential Hall of Famer — to much derision — at a time of this season when it seemed every Warriors fan was down on him.
That’s feltbot’s brand. To be first, out on a limb. And to be right, every single time.
That, and self-congratulatory masturbation. (Comment 1.)
Mark Jackson’s Adjustments: First, he ditched the Festus at four idea in this game, starting Draymond Green at four. A brilliant adjustment, that worked to perfection in two ways:
- Winning the matchup with Bonner, as discussed above.
- Allowing Green to switch onto Tony Parker on screens, instead of forcing Klay to chase him. Quite obviously, this helped keep Klay out of foul trouble in this game, and probably kept his legs fresher as well.
Second, to my eye at least, he kept the Warriors in attack mode throughout the fourth quarter, instead of trying to run clock.
Third, although he gave away one possession to Hack-a-Bogut, he got Bogut off the floor immediately, instead of stubbornly resisting it. Next step: anticipating it entirely.
Fourth, when Pop tried to hide Parker on Barnes, he attacked the matchup mercilessly. On the surface, this did not go well for the Warriors. Iso’s and backing down smaller players are the least effective part of Barnes game. He’s extremely prone to being trapped, leading to turnovers and bad shots.
But what it did do is completely gas Parker, if you can trust that shot of him grabbing his shorts under the basket as we went to a commercial timeout.
George Karl was announced as the Coach of the Year today. And it’s hard to argue with the way he had his Nuggets playing before Gallinari, Faried and Lawson got injured. Big late season road wins in OKC and San Antonio with major playoff seeding implications on the line.
Tom Thibodeau has done an extraordinary job with a severely crippled squad. Eric Spoelstra made the radical adjustment to Nellieball, and had the Heat performing at a supreme level.
But there’s been no better coach in the NBA this season than Mark Jackson.
Pop’s Adjustments: First, Pop found a defense in the second half that was extraordinarily effective in containing Curry. Instead of having Danny Green face-guard Curry, and leaving him exposed to Curry’s all-world crossover and step-back, he had Green force Curry side-to-side. Usually to the right, which is a tougher direction from which to square up and pull up for jumpers.
Curry had no alternative but to abandon the three-point line, and drive towards the basket. Where he was picked up and trapped by a bigger help defender.
Curry struggled against this defense in three ways. First, it took away his three point shot. Second, he forced some difficult runners over the defense. And third, he found it tougher to find open teammates.
Now why didn’t George Karl think of that? This is a somewhat worrisome development.
Second, Pop had the Spurs far more aggressive in crashing the offensive boards. Leaving Danny Green on Curry freed up Leonard in this role. This helped get Bogut and Draymond Green in foul trouble.
Pop has one more very obvious adjustment he can make: returning Splitter to the starting lineup, if his health allows. This could radically alter the dynamics between the two teams, simply by forcing Mark Jackson to match up big. It could also put even more pressure on Bogut’s ankle — which didn’t look as good tonight as it did in the previous two games. And it could create foul trouble.
The Series: The Spurs are not fazed in the least by being on the road in the playoffs. I have seen them steal countless Game 3’s after dropping a game at home to inferior teams.
The problem for them is that the Warriors are not an inferior team.
Warriors in six.