Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything. — Mr. Miyagi
As I foreshadowed in my preview, it was obvious from this Game 1 that the Pelicans match up much better against the Warriors with Omer Asik off the floor. Asik was -18 on the game, which means… counting fingers… the Pellies were +11 with him sitting. Noting that Ajinca was +3, that means that the Pellies were +8 with Anthony Davis at center.
The differences that playing AD at center made were manifold and huge: AD had only 7 rebounds for the game, almost all of which came at center in the second half. Why? Because when playing the four, he was guarding Dray out at the three point line on defense, and on offense, the Bogut and Dray front line had little trouble boxing him out. But get Dray isolated down low against AD at center in a smallball scenario, and that switch is flipped. AD is going to own the paint.
AD at center also opened the floor for the Pellies, which got his pick and roll game going. He was the best pick and roll finisher in the game this season, and you saw why in the fourth quarter.
And AD at center allowed the Pellies to get quicker all over the floor, with a smallball four, and two small guards in the backcourt. Quicker, in fact, than the Warriors. (Particularly when Shaun Livingston was on the court.)
I read on twitter during this game that Monty Williams consulted with Gregg Popovich before the series. Pop’s hands were visible in much of Monty’s approach to this game: From the crossmatch of Quincy Pondexter onto Stephen Curry to start the game, to the smallball approach to the fourth quarter, to the Hack a Iggy down the stretch.
Now, the $64 million dollar question: Does Monty Williams have the balls to bench Asik, and START Anthony Davis at center? If he does, this series could go from a bore to a blast.
Tyreke: Got a knee boo-boo and had to retire from the competition, probably from crashing like a runaway freight train into the Great Wall of Bogut.
Before he quit, he was 0-2 from the field for 1 point, with 1 rebound and no assists in 12 minutes. Anyone surprised by this utter massacre of a line?
And was anyone surprised by the fact that the Pelicans were much better with him off the court? I think quite a few people might actually have been surprised, but I’ve been arguing this about Tyreke and what passes for his game since before he was mistakenly handed the rookie of the year award (what a disgrace for the national basketball media that was). Norris Cole in his place opened up the entire floor for the Pellies, not least of all because their ball movement exploded. Anthony Davis probably got more fourth quarter touches this game than in any other this season. Good touches.
What does Monty do when Tyreke returns? I’ve already stated what I’d do: play him at power forward.
Rhino and Jrue: You saw the rustiness, right? The extra pounds Jrue is carrying (could he spare a few for his brother)? And Rhino’s inability to guard Dray?
Although to be fair to Rhino, the way Monty uses him is abolutely inexplicable. Post-ups? Not using Anderson to space the floor when the Warriors have a Bogut – Green frontline should be a firing offense. Anderson should be getting 10 threes a game in this series, regardless of how he’s shooting it. By what other scenario do the Pellies have a shot to steal a game?
Pop, your work is not done.
The MVP: QPon is long, which is good when guarding Curry, but he’s not Kawhi Leonard nor Danny Green, which is bad.
And Monty’s defensive scheme did not pay any undue attention to Curry: He was not blitzed coming off screens, which allowed him to frequently drive for layups. Not sure if Monty’s strategy will survive until game two. Now that he’s got a look at QPon’s ineffectiveness, I expect an adjustment.
Any attempt to guard Stephen Curry by ordinary means will be met by death.
Klay: Got the wake up call. Playoff Klay is here, and PK is determined to get to the line.
Multiple drives, not always successful with the pterodactyl that is Anthony Davis circling. But look at those 9 free throw attempts.
I said before the playoffs that Klay should look to average 8 to 10 free throws in games in which his outside shot was being taken away. Only way the Warriors could win the championship.
Dray: As predicted, Dray did a great job boxing AD out, and a great job harassing his dribble.
Until AD was moved to center, when the middle was open and his dribble drive became far more assertive, and boxing out a swarming horde of smalls all by himself became a nightmare for the Warriors 6-5″ center.
But that’s a problem for another time. Just look at this floor game: 15 points, 12 boards, 7 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks. Completely nullified the Pelicans traditional lineup. Devoured a rhino. Facilitated the offense beautifully.
What a player.
Barnes: Hit an acceptable number of his open shots, but was strictly hit or miss on the defensive end. Simply waved at the small guards as they went by, and missed several rotations on pick and roll. One in the first half led to an on court chewing out by Draymond Green.
That seems to be a daily occurrence of late.
The 30 Point Line: I speculated before the playoffs that Green and Barnes would have to average 30 points a game in order for the Warriors to get by the better playoff teams.
They only got 27 in this game, but that had largely to do with the fact that Monty didn’t sell out trying to stop Curry. It’s anyone’s guess whether that changes later in the series, but change it will, as the Warriors go deeper in the playoffs.
Bogut: Playoff Bogut is back, and this time he’s
Bogut has been a special player this season, healthier than he’s been in years, and better utilized in Steve Kerr’s offense than he’s ever been in his career. No Warriors fan is happier for him than I am. No one gets to the level of skill and hoops IQ that Bogut has attained without living and breathing the game. And those are the kinds of players I love. It’s great to see Bogut finally get the chance to fulfill his destiny on the hardwood.
As for this matchup with Asik, it’s a dream. Bogut should show up to the next game with a knife and fork and a bib. That’s how tasty it is. Asik is big, but not nearly as gifted. Has no shot to pull Bogut away from the basket. Can’t beat him down the floor. A dream.
Long may it last.
Jeff van Gundy did make mention of a possible dark cloud on the distant horizon: Hack a Bogut. Given the airball we saw tonight, and the Hack a Iggy as well, it’s pretty clear this dark cloud will become an crashing thunderstorm as the Spurs approach.
Shaun Livingston: -21 in 13 minutes. Unable to contain the Pellies’ quicker guards, unable to return any of the fire he was taking. A ridiculously bad fit for Steve Kerr’s system.
This is a problem I have been detailing since the season began. Nay, since the very day he was signed, when I called it one of the worst signings in Warriors history. (Because I felt it might cost the Warriors their chance at a title.) And I took as much heat for this opinion as I have taken for any other basketball opinion I’ve had in my life (except perhaps for my opinion of The Black Falcon).
I’m not taking any heat for it now.
Can Kerr live with this throughout the playoffs? Against the Spurs? The Cavs?
I made a silly tweet during the first half, questioning whether we’d ever get to see Curry play in the second half of games in this series. Curry logged 40 minutes in this game.
By the end of the playoffs, that might seem light.