Mark Jackson joked in the post-game that his role in this nearly historic Warriors comeback victory against the Raptors was nothing more than “spiritual advisor.” And the players and media pundits I heard credited the victory to the Warriors simply coming out in the second half with more fire in their belly, and playing hard.
I think we all know that’s not true. Mark Jackson’s decision-making was central to the outcome of this game. Jackson was instrumental in digging the Warriors a 27 point deficit, and he was equally instrumental in allowing his best players to dig their way out.
In the first half, while the Raptors were playing small with Amir Johnson at center and Steve Novak at stretch-four, pushing the tempo and spreading the floor, Jackson insisted on staying big. And fed his team three straight threes from Novak, whom Lee struggled to get to at the three point line, and a huge game from the mobile Johnson, who Bogut literally couldn’t locate on the court.
While the Raptors were playing the most efficient basketball possible, layups and threes, Jackson had the Warriors playing the most inefficient basketball possible, isolation offense and midrange twos.
Can Steve Novak match up with Harrison Barnes any better than Matt Bonner did in last years playoffs? Can Amir Johnson and Novak defend the rim against the Curry/Lee pick and roll? It is completely perplexing to me that Jackson is not asking opposing teams these sorts of questions this season, after having been armed with the evidence of last season.
In the second half, Jackson solved his matchup problems by getting Draymond Green in the game to take out Rudy Gay. And getting Jermaine O’Neal in the game in place of the lethargic and ineffective Bogut.
And he solved the Warriors offensive problems by scrapping his wretched isolations, and unleashing his best players to do what they do best.
Pick and roll.
Stephen Curry: I will not say that a closer is being born. I’ll leave that to the mainstream media. This closer was born in his rookie season, under coach Don Nelson.
A closer is being reborn.
At least until Mark Jackson gets his hands on Andre Iguodala again.
We haven’t heard much debate lately about whether Curry is a point guard, have we? 10 assists again tonight. And he’s now third in the league in assists.
Pretty remarkable considering the fact that he has NEVER played with a big man who could catch the ball and finish. Unless you want to count Jermaine O’Neal, who finished this game for the Warriors for the first time all season.
Or David Lee, the best pick and roll center in basketball, who has never been allowed to show that while working for Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson.
Except when Kwame Brown and Andrew Bogut can’t go.
Klay Thompson: Huge fourth quarter, but he really got torched by DeRozan in this game. And I continue to feel that he’s at a significant defensive disadvantage against quicker and more athletic two-guards.
When Iggy comes back, who would you have him guard on this Raptors team? The obvious answer is Rudy Gay, but I think it’s an interesting question. I think DeRozan is both a more efficient offensive player than Gay, and a tougher player for Thompson to guard. I would love to see Klay matched up on Gay.
I have been arguing since Klay came into the league, against some pushback, that he has extraordinary playmaking abilities. The Warriors haven’t had much need for it early in his career, with great playmakers like Curry, Jack, Lee and now Iggy dominating the ball.
But since Iggy went out, Klay has stepped nicely into his role, with 8 assists against the Hornets, and 7 in this game.
Case closed. The kid is a basketball genius.
Draymond Green: For three quarters of this game, Rudy Gay had Harrison Barnes on a spit, turning slowly and roasting nicely over his campfire.
And then, suddenly, Draymond Green roared into camp and ate Gay alive.
Gay had a nicely efficient 16 points on 6-11 shooting through 3 quarters against Barnes. In the fourth quarter, Green held him to 2 points, on 0-1 shooting.
To say that Green completely disrupted the Raptors offense in the fourth quarter would be an understatement. He TERRORIZED the Raptors offense. And inspired his teammates to do the same.
As Mark Jackson said in the post-game: “That is the best 3 point, 1 for 5 game I have ever seen.”
In other words, +26.
Jermaine O’Neal: Quite a bit was made of O’Neal’s halftime speech in this game, and his veteran leadership in the locker room. I take my inspiration from his play on the court.
Great defensive presence and rebounding is something you can always expect from JON. But I predicted in the preseason that it would be his offense that would have the biggest impact on Stephen Curry and this Warriors team. And after a rough start to the season, that is exactly what we are seeing.
It is wonderful for Curry and Lee to be able to play with a center who WANTS the ball under the basket. Who makes himself available and ASKS for the ball. And who SEEKS to get himself to the line, and shoots free throws with confidence.
It is no accident that this fourth quarter — the first in which Bogut was benched — was the most efficient of this Warriors season.
The old man still has NBA game.
Harrison Barnes: This was a pretty good game from Barnes. No need to mention who he scored on and who he didn’t, who he defended and who he couldn’t, his 3 rebounds, his -8 for the fifth straight game (Bogut’s -17 kept him from taking team-worst honors for the fifth straight game), or the fact that he watched a better player take his minutes in the fourth quarter.
Only a hater could bring that stuff up after a game like this.
I do have something positive to say about that three he hit in crunchtime, coming into the game cold. Barnes showed in the playoffs last season that he has ice-water in his veins on big stages, and in big moments. He showed it again with that shot.
I have something else to say: Barnes was in for Lee when he hit that shot, and that is one of the few times all season that the Warriors have had a stretch-four on the court in crunchtime. There is simply no way to guard this Warriors team when they spread the floor.
And one other thing: Did you see all of those wide-open threes Draymond Green got in this game? They came out of the offense.
Those could be Barnes’ shots, all night long, if Mark Jackson could simply restrain himself from using him in isolation.
Andrew Bogut: This game did nothing to dispel the concerns I developed over Bogut’s health during the Kings game. At halftime of this game, Bogut had 1 rebound. He finished with 5.
Jackson never posted Bogut up against the 6-9, 210 lb. Amir Johnson when they were matched up. Why? (Not that I wanted it to happen. I’m just curious as to why it didn’t, if Bogut is healthy.)
Once the Warriors were down 27 in the third quarter, Jackson did figure out that Bogut was being left unguarded by the Raptors, and fed him 3 dunks in a row out of the offense, to rescue what would otherwise have been a disastrous line.
And then, mercifully, Jermaine O’Neal happened.
David Lee: I’m beginning to worry about Lee’s health as well. This was his second poor rebounding performance in a row, although it was redeemed considerably in the fourth quarter. And his minutes have been severely restricted this season. The player who the last two years led the league in minutes among big men is getting only 33 minutes so far this season.
It’s quite possibly just part of Lacob’s Bogusaurus master plan. But I wonder.
Offensively for Lee, this was a game of two halfs. In the first half, when Jackson was using him in isolation, he sucked. In the second half, and particularly in the fourth quarter, when he was allowed to run pick and roll with Stephen Curry, his genius shined.
Free David Lee!
We saw something interesting in this game for the first time: Barnes being substituted for Lee on defensive possessions at the end of the game. That’s probably a good idea.
But when Iggy comes back, it will be Draymond Green.
Kent Bazemore: Bazemore got an opportunity to guard DeRozan when Thompson got yanked for terrible defense early in the third quarter.
He didn’t do too good.
But in the post-game, Jackson graciously credited Bazemore for waking up Thompson to what he needed to be doing.
Me, I think I’ll give the credit to Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal.