I’ve figured out how to recap Warriors games going forward: Ignore the coaching, and focus on the players. There’s just so much teeth gnashing I’m willing to do, and, I assume, you’re willing to read. It is completely clear by now that Jackson is committed to playing big all game every game. Even if it means denying his core of supernaturally talented offensive players the system they were born to play in. Even if it means feeding the best-shooting team in the league 16 point first quarters and 22 point third quarters, regardless of opponent, from now until eternity. Even if it means reaching for an NBA reject big man in his first game up from the D-League, without an ounce of experience in his system, to match up with a 6-7″ center on defense, and plug up the middle on offense, in crunchtime.
Mark Jackson is committed, as Adam Lauridsen would ecstatically put it, to playing “the right way.” It’s pointless to argue differently. It’s time for me, as the adage has it, to “lay back and think of England.”
And Thank Jesus for Stephen Curry.
Oops, reading over that, I see a little recap of the coaching leaked out.
On to the players:
Stephen Curry: As I wrote on the last thread, those who are skeptical of Curry’s ability to close games are getting their answer. I guess Iguodala’s injury benefited the Warriors in one way at least.
Players of Curry’s supreme talent don’t need height or athleticism to get their shot off. With his superb handle, ability to pull up on a dime or step back, quick release, and historically great shooting ability, Curry can get his shot one on one against anyone. Give him a sliver of daylight, and it’s lights out. (Is that a mixed metaphor?)
It is remarkable that Curry even had the opportunity to play one on one on the final possession. Carlisle blitzed the Bogut high pick all game long, with great results. Why didn’t he blitz Curry on the last possession? Surely he wasn’t afraid of leaving Bogut open 20 feet from the basket?
It’s a decision I’ll bet Carlisle wishes he had back. I don’t think he, or many other coaches, will make that mistake on Curry going forward.
And why did Curry even call for the high pick from Bogut? Was this a Mark Jackson call? (It’s hard to know as no timeout was called.) Curry had Jose Calderon, one of the worst defenders in the NBA, isolated up top. The high pick risked getting blitzed, and the booby prize was getting Shawn Marion, one of the best defenders in the NBA, switched onto Curry.
Ah hell, I’m already back talking about the coaching.
The Turnovers: Curry’s 8 turnovers were an issue in this game. But as I tweeted to Marcus Thompson after the game, these turnovers are not just Curry’s problem. They are also Andrew Bogut’s problem. It is Bogut’s inability to shoot or finish the pick and roll that has caused Curry to get blitzed like no other point guard in history.
Which means they’re also Mark Jackson’s problem, and GM Joe Lacob’s problem.
Three of Curry’s turnovers also came on failed Bogut alley-oops from the top of the key. Curry usually is on target with those, but they are far from easy plays — particularly with Bogut not jumping as well some games as others. (And it really says something when that’s the most efficient form of offense your 7′ center has.)
I’ve said this before, but I don’t know how to stop repeating myself: Can you imagine how great a player Stephen Curry would be, if he EVER got the chance to play with a center who could finish the pick and roll?
Chris Paul would be looking up at him, and that’s a fact.
Draymond Green: Harrison Barnes didn’t back down against Dirk Nowitzki. David Lee forced him to fade away. Draymond Green made him fade too, and then blocked his shot.
I was delighted to see that, but not completely amazed. I remember We Believe, and the great Stephen Jackson.
But what did completely amaze me was the defense Green played on Monta Ellis. Guarded him in isolation to close the first half, and not only stayed with him, but blocked his shot. Guarded him at the end of the game, and time and time again turned him away or forced a tough shot. Like the one Monta missed at the end of the game.
Green finally had the game we’ve all been waiting for, a game in which he put it all together, on offense as well as defense. Hit the clutch three in crunch time. Made the fabulous cross-court pass to find Curry in the corner. 4-5 shooting. 5 rebounds in 28 minutes (Barnes 4 in 44). 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks.
With performances like this, Green is finally starting to get the recognition from fans and media that he got from day one on this blog (when I eyeballed him in summer league before his rookie season), and from a few analytics types like Evanz as his rookie season unfurled. (If you read what I wrote back then, you’ll see I badly misjudged Green’s ability to guard smaller players. But you know what — it’s absolutely freaky. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one rubbing his eyes last night.)
What do Bruce Bowen, James Posey, Stephen Jackson and Shane Battier have in common?
They were all (are all) Swiss army knife defenders, capable of defending multiple positions. And not just defenders, but stoppers. Eager to take on the opponent’s best player, reach into his jersey, and rip his heart out.
On the offensive end they were role players. Facilitators with the crucial ability to spread the floor and bury the open three.
And one last thing: They were all World Champions.
Whatever it is that those four World Champions had — that basketball IQ, that desire, that heart, that will to win — that ability to grab their teams by the scruff of the neck and drag them to victory — Draymond Green has in spades. And I have little doubt that he could one day play a major role on a championship team. If not on the Warriors, then on another great team that recognizes his qualities. He is that good.
Unfortunately for Green, he is absolutely buried on this Warriors team. Andre Iguodala has much of the same stopper ability and intangibles that Green has, while being a much more complete player. As well as a much better fit in the starting lineup. The Warriors are desperate for a second playmaker to take the pressure off Curry, and move him off the ball, and Iggy is superb in that role. And given Klay Thompson’s size, and difficulty guarding small perimeter players, Iggy’s a better fit than Green on the defensive end as well. (Despite his success against Monta in this game, I don’t think you want to make Green a two-guard.)
Green is also stuck behind a lottery pick in whom management is heavily invested. I think you know who I mean. I think you also know who the better NBA player is. If not, you should.
And he’s stuck behind David Lee, for reasons both good and bad. The good: David Lee is a great player, and Green is too small to be a starting power forward. The bad: Despite having one of the best offensive teams in basketball history, Mark Jackson is determined to win with defense. And thus determined not to play Lee at center, and move him out of Green’s way.
Despite the fact that lineups with Lee at center and Green at power forward led the Warriors in plus/minus last season. With most of their minutes together coming in crunch time, when it mattered. That was the lineup that beat the Heat in Miami, and carried the Warriors to the playoffs.
Ah hell, I’m back on the coaching again. Back to Green: he’s screwed. He is demanding minutes with his play, but when Iggy returns, he’s very likely not to get them.
Bob Fitzgerald: I have to say, I love the way Mark Jackson is sticking it to Fitz after every great performance from Green. Calling out the way Fitz used to perpetually whine about Green shooting the three last season.
I was there first.
And while we’re on the subject of me, I was also the first (and only) to describe the adjustment that Green needed to make, and did make from last season to this, in order to straighten out his three point shooting.
(Note to Evanz: That’s how you brag. Straight up, no chaser.)
Harrison Barnes: As much as I hate to leave me as a subject, I’ll tear myself away to give Barnes an honorable mention.
Barnes was virtually never posted up by Jackson in this game — because he was never guarded by a point guard. Instead he lurked around the perimeter, and got his offense in the flow of the game. In other words, he was played the way he should be played.
He might have had a huge game, if his three were falling. But despite his poor shooting, I thought this was one of his better games. Made several strong and decisive moves in the lane.
And his defense was pretty decent as well, particularly on Vince Carter. That’s what earned him 44 minutes from Mark Jackson.
He was given the honor of guarding Nowitzki in crunchtime. Not an unqualified success, but I was impressed by how he held his ground and made Dirk work. And I have no idea why Jackson didn’t send a double-team to hel…
Nope. Not going there anymore.
Monta Ellis: For all his speed and quickness, and ability to get himself open, not quite the closer Stephen Curry is. Because once you create that shot, you’ve got to hit it, don’t you?
Nevertheless, I think Monta played a phenomenal game, on both sides of the ball, until he ran into Draymond Green. He is a fantastic point guard/facilitator in Rick Carlisle’s system, and with Dirk Nowitzki to play pick and roll with. His teammates left between 5 and 10 assists laying on the ground.
Speaking of the Nowitzki pick and roll, I’m wondering why Carlisle opted for Monta isolation over it at the end of the game. That pick and roll is virtually unguardable, and a Nowitzki shot is obviously preferable to a Monta shot.
Ironic, isn’t it? Carlisle opted for isolation when pick and roll was better, and Jackson chose pick and roll, when isolation was better.
Hey, it all worked out. And I really can’t help myself, can I…
Let me close (Finally!) with a note on Monta’s defense. This is now two straight performance in which Monta has destroyed the much bigger Klay Thompson. And it should be clear this is no accident. Monta does the same thing to Klay that he did to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Brandon Roy, when he turned each of them over 7 times in one game.
He uses his dominant quickness to press up and disrupt Klay’s dribble. And his lightning fast close outs to rush Klay’s shot.
I have been arguing for years that Monta Ellis is an extraordinarily underrated defensive player, despite all the negative sausage stats that were generated about him while he played on crappy teams. What he has needed to become a recognizably great defensive player are simply the right pieces around him, to keep him from getting worn down. And to give him some stakes to play for.
He’s got some of that now.
And if you were watching, you saw it last night.