David Lee took it to Zach Randolph! 23 points 11 rebounds versus a measly 15 and 6!
Is that the storyline, or is it that Mark Jackson finally got the matchups right? That he crossmatched Bogut on Randolph all game long, giving Zebo absolutely nothing inside?
The crossmatch was made a little easier by Gasol being replaced in the starting lineup by Kosta Koufos. Or was it? Gasol is a high-post player, ideal for Lee to guard, Koufos a low.
Of course the real storyline, as everyone knows, is that the Grizzlies are as decimated as were the Nuggets in last year’s playoffs. They’re not going to win too many games with both Gasol and Tony Allen shelved.
But them’s the breaks in the long NBA season. The Warriors have been pretty unlucky so far this season, and deserve some breaks of their own.
We’ll take it.
Stephen Curry: Curry quite clearly got an earful after the Houston game. In this game, he didn’t look at all for his own offense until the third quarter, making sure to get both Thompson and Lee going first.
15 assists, 1 TO. Yes, he was facing a shell of a team. But it was still a good look.
We may see more of this mindset going forward.
Klay Thompson: Mark Jackson “broke” his offense to get Klay the first two shots of the game, and did that make a difference in getting him going?
Not that Klay doesn’t deserve some blame for his Houston performance. He has been known to disappear on occasion when the opposing team puts a good defender on him, and gameplans to shut him down. San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard come to mind. In Houston, Klay had trouble with the length of Chandler Parsons, and wasn’t aggressive trying to drive around him. The presence of Dwight Howard in the lane might have had something to do with that.
But I think Klay’s disappearances also have something to do with Mark Jackson. When Jackson forces individual offense, it starts with Curry, of course. But after Curry comes Lee in isolation, and then Barnes in isolation. And Iggy is in the mix — he’s received many of the point-guard postups in Barnes’ place this season.
Thompson comes after all of these other players in getting his number called. Jackson is on record as expecting Thompson to get his shots in the flow of the offense. So much so, that there have been games when Jackson seems to completely have forgotten about him. After one such game this season, when Thompson got a total of 7 shots against the Clippers, Jackson stated defensively that he wouldn’t “break his offense” to get Klay shots. And yet that’s exactly what he did in the next game to get Klay going.
Just as he did in this game.
Klay doesn’t yet have the veteran standing of Curry, Lee and Iguodala on this team. He’s a very young player playing on a team with some very accomplished veterans. It wouldn’t do for him to get in their face and say, “Get me the damn ball!” That’s just not on.
And maybe it’s not in his personality to say that. It’s what a superstar would say, though. It’s what Reggie Miller would say, and Klay Thompson is a better player than Reggie Miller. Better at everything.
Andre Iguodala already knows what he has in Klay Thompson. He stated in a postgame interview that “Klay is my favorite player,” and that he’s going to make sure Klay gets fed the ball. And Iggy did exactly that in the early going.
Maybe it’s time that Mark Jackson took the same initiative as Iggy. Because whenever Jackson “breaks his offense” to get Klay the ball, good things happen.
And if Mark Jackson won’t do it, maybe it’s time for Klay Thompson to open his mouth.
Like a superstar should.
More Thompson: Fabulous defense on Conley in this game, though no doubt aided by not having to run around Gasol screens. (Klay’s length and hoops IQ make him a very good defender of point guards who like to operate in the paint. It’s against smaller wings out on the perimeter that his lack of elite athleticism betrays him.)
5 assists. His playmaking ability continues to blossom. Of particular note to me in this game were an alley-oop to David Lee, and a drive and dish to Bogut in the lane.
David Lee: Speaking of “Get me the damn ball!”, I’m pretty sure that’s essentially what the mild-mannered, team-oriented Lee said in his post-game interview. His exact words were something like:
I got 6 or 8 shots up last game… I came out thinking I’m going to be aggressive… I think I can help this team win….
In other words: Get me the damn ball!
The Warriors did a much better job of that in this game. And interestingly, not by giving him the stupid postups Jackson has been torturing him with this season. Lee got his isos further out on the wings, allowing him to use his speed driving to the bucket. And he was hit several times on cuts, and on spot-ups.
That’s how you use David Lee. Assuming, of course, that you’re not going to allow him his bread and butter: pick and roll.
That’s a gripe for another recap.
Harrison Barnes: I don’t know if you noticed, but in this game where the Warriors offense flowed like a crystalline mountain stream, Barnes got virtually no isolations. When the Warriors “broke” their offense, it wasn’t for Barnes, but for Thompson and Lee.
Did a lightbulb suddenly go off in Mark Jackson’s head, or was this just a byproduct of the Grizzlies guarding Barnes with their small forwards, instead of their point guards? If the latter, we can give the Grizzlies rookie coach partial credit for this win.
By “virtually no isolations,” I mean exactly three. And in all three, Barnes turned the ball over in ridiculous fashion. The ball flew wildly out of his hands, in the spasmodic throes of moves he had no idea how he was going to finish.
This makes two straight games in which Barnes has been guarded chiefly by his counterpart at small forward, and two straight games in which his offensive game has been wretched. The games in which he’s been efficient this season, he’s been guarded by point guards.
I don’t intend to pick on Barnes all season long. I think we’ve already had enough of a sample size this season to confirm what I predicted before the season: that those people who were hyped up by his post-season performances at power forward, were going to be greatly disappointed by his performances at small forward in the regular season. I have been countering not a little hype from media members, fans, and yes, the Warriors PR machine itself, by accurately pointing out the true strengths and flaws in Barnes’ game. At this point, I don’t think there’s any need to pile on further.
The fact of the matter is that Barnes has been completely miscast by Mark Jackson and the Warriors brass this season. He has an extremely long way to go to make himself a competent NBA small forward (and I, for one, don’t believe he has the tools to do it). And his post-up offense, intended to punish opposing teams for putting their best defenders on Curry and Thompson, has been grossly detrimental to the flow of the Warriors team offense. Opposing coaches have been setting a trap for Mark Jackson, and he has fallen in head first.
17 points, 7 rebounds. Do you recognize those numbers?
That’s what Barnes averaged in the Western Conference Semi-Finals last season. Playing power forward.
That’s what Barnes is, a power forward. Or more specifically, a stretch-four. It makes him a nightmare to guard. Gets him more open on threes. Opens up his drive against bigger, slower players.
It also helps hide his most glaring weaknesses. Most particularly his defense — he is a far better defender of bigger players. But also his rebounding — because he’s far better using his quickness to get to loose rebounds in a spread floor than he is fighting with the trees in big lineups. And his ballhandling — because power forwards can’t challenge his dribble.
And playing Barnes at the four makes the Warriors team as a whole a nightmare to guard. Spreads the floor. Opens the middle for cuts and slashes, and for pick and roll.
Now, I don’t mean to agitate the contingent led by Ethan Strauss, who came into this season believing that David Lee was “in Barnes’ way” at power forward. That’s simply not the case, because Barnes is way too small to be a starting power forward. His role in the NBA, his best position, is to come off the bench at stretch-four.
Mark Jackson has gone back to pounding square pegs into round holes. Not only with Harrison Barnes, but with this Warriors team as a whole.
The Warriors will not reach their full potential until Jackson takes the chains off their smallball unit.
Mavericks 108 Blazers 106
I can’t resist mentioning that the Mavs stole one from the Blazers in the Rose Garden tonight. Wondering how they did that?
I’ll give you three reasons: 1) Carlisle double-teamed LaMarcus Aldridge, and braved the Blazers’ three-point shooting as the lesser of two evils; 2) Carlisle crossmatched his small forward Shawn Marion onto Damian Lillard, hiding Jose Calderon on Nic Batum.
(Just to mention two things that Mark Jackson didn’t do.)
3) A closer by the name of Monta Ellis. Carlisle got him the ball on the move for the last second game-winner.
(Just to mention a third.)