Saturday, November 27, 2010

Warriors beat T'Wolves, end five game losing streak

  • The Warriors ended a five game losing streak with a win in Minnesota on Saturday night. David Lee returned to the court and played 43 minutes in his first action since Nov. 11. Lee missed eight games in which the Warriors went 1-7. The last three losses against the Nuggets, Rockets, and Grizzlies were close. The Warriors had the opportunity to win, but fell short. Andris Biedrins had the best game of his career last night in Memphis, going 13-15 from the field, on the way to 28 points, 21 rebounds, and only three personal fouls...all for nought.

    During this five game skid, the Warriors let opposing teams singe them from the three pint line. Raymond Felton and the Knicks, Al Harrington and the Nuggets, the Rockets, and the Grizzlies all shot the three at a high percentage against the W's.

    The Warriors turned the tables Nov. 27 led by Dorell Wright. Wright set a new franchise record for made three's in a game going 9-12. David Lee's presence on the floor helped to clear space on the perimeter. D-Wright cashed in as he striped catch-and-shoot threes all night.

    The first half of the game was close, D-Wright's three point shooting was the only thing keeping the Warriors close. Minnesota's bench was outplaying and outscoring the Warriors and the T'Wolves had a three point lead going into the second half. The game was tied with six second to go in the send quarter when Biedrins fouled a three point shooting Kevin Love, who converted all attempts. It was Biedrins' fourth foul and a turning point in the contest.

    Dan Gadzuric was called into action in place of Biedrins to start the third quarter. Gadzuric and the team on the floor won the game for the Warriors in that quarter by creating turnovers and collecting points off the T'Wolves giveaways. Monta Ellis finished the game with 26 points and 10 assists. Ellis played all 48 minutes and made seven steals. Ellis set a tone of defensive pressure which sparked that third quarter Warriors run.

    While Lee didn't fill up the stat sheets to the extent we know he is capable, his energy was a huge reason the Warriors came away with the win. The Warriors would be in big trouble if they didn't beat the T'Wolves, as the next opponents are the Spurs and Suns at home, then out to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder-all playoff caliber teams.

    Key Stats

  • Turnovers: Warriors 11, T'Wolves 22

  • FG%: Warriors 50, T'Wolves 39

  • Rebounds: Warriors 32, T'Wolves 55

  • Free Throws: Warriors 12-18, T'Wolves 25-31

  • 3 pt: Warriors 12-18, T'Wolves 5-18
The Warriors were out-rebounded and beaten soundly in the battle of free throws, but tightened up that perimeter defense, scored off steals, and took care of the ball to overcome these deficiencies and get a much needed win on the road.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Warriors lose three in a row, spiraling without Lee

The loss to the Nuggets is more disappointing than getting whipped by the Lakers. The Warriors had a legitimate chance to win this game. Reggie Williams led the Warriors by attacking the rim and earning trips to the free throw line and Rodney Carney played his best game all year. Carney was 7-9 from the field and scored 16 points in 19 minutes of play. Denver shot 12-21 from three point range, while the Warriors shot 6-26. The Nuggets shot 24-26 from the free throw line and the Warriors shot 13-16. That's the game in two categories.

Why? Sometimes it's not your night shooting the ball, but it all comes back to David Lee. This is a poor NBA team without Lee. No Lee means no inside threat on offense. Defenses have packed the lanes against the Warriors and rushed three point shooters, knowing there is a forward or center on defense to protect the rim against the Warriors feeble offense. The Warriors cannot live on the perimeter anymore. They shot themselves out of the game tonight. It hurt to watch them die on the perimeter after making a conscious effort to attack the rim in the first half.

Dan Gadzuric played his best game of the season, but the volume three point shooting caused a chain reaction of problems and allowed the Nuggets to pull away-without Chauncy Billups or Kenyon Martin.

The Warriors should have won this game tonight. They played good enough defense and rebounded sufficiently, but it came down to a lack of execution on offense.

As long as David Lee is in street clothes, the Warriors are capable of losing to any team in the NBA.

Key stats:

3 pt: Nuggets 12-26, Warriors 6-26

Warriors field goal percentage: 40

Steph Curry & Monta Ellis: combined 15-43 from the field

Dorell Wright: 2 points

Carmelo Anthony: 39 points, 17-17 free throws

Lakers humilate Warriors

Pau Gasol was 10-10 from the field against the Warriors Sunday and 8-8 from the line. He was perfect. No need to look into that game much further. The Lakers are varsity and the Warriors are frosh. The Warriors didn't show any effort or fight in the loss to LA, so I'll match that non-effort in this post. Disgraceful display.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Knicks deal Warriors first loss at Oracle Arena

The Warriors wasted a 40 point night by Monta Ellis in a 125-119 loss to the Knicks. Ellis' big night was negated by a fluky performance by Raymond Felton, who scored a career high 35 points and hit his first four three point attempts. It seems to happen once, if not a few times per year, a player on any given team plays way above his level and burns the Warriors. Past examples include Luther Head, Brandon Bass, Drew Gooden, Amir Johnson, Beno Udich...Brandon Jennings, the talented second year point guard for the Bucks, will not score 55 points again. He won't top 45.

Felton was more than on fire last night. He should go to Vegas and put one years salary on a number. He sooner hit jackpot than he would if asked to duplicate the wild shots attempted last night. Felton, with the shot clock running down, hit a leaning three pointer from 31 feet. In a later possession, again with the shot clock running out, another Felton prayer was answered as he banked a fade away while falling down after his foot slipped.

Everything about this game was weird: Felton's fluky shooting, a ball was tipped and stalled atop the shot clock box above the backboard, and the Knicks were the team using the fast break to beat the Warriors.

The Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni is an homage to the NBA's all-time leader in coaching wins: Don Nelson. Everyone in a New York uniform can shoot the ball and their strategy is to shoot early in a possession, preferably in transition when there are often defensive mismatches. A chaotic, up and down game favors the Knicks.

The Warriors, with a renovated roster, are in the process of rebuilding their identity. The absence of David Lee halts identity development for now. Over the past four years, Don Nelson shaped basketball philosophy in the Bay Area. Run and gun with smaller, more athletic players and worry about defense later (if at all). It was entertaining and sometimes effective, but it never got the Warriors past the second round nor did it win Nelson a ring.

The move to make Keith Smart head coach and overhaul the roster has turned the Warriors in a new direction. The Warriors appear to have ditched wild shots and no defense along with the nacho cheese colored jerseys of the Nelson era. Last night, I saw the Warriors get way down when they tried to run with the Knicks, then get back in business when they slowed the game down and forced the Knicks into some sloppy possessions and turnovers.

Slowing down is counter intuitive to many Warriors players who grew up under Nelson, (Ellis, Curry, Reggie Williams) but this is how the best teams in the league win basketball games. The Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Jazz, Magic, and Bulls all play rugged half court defense. When the Warriors are healthy and winning again, Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett will be talking about the Warriors getting stops and slowing down the game.

Still, the most glaring problem this year for the Warriors is free throw disparity. In the loss to the Knicks Friday, New York was 27-32 from the line and the Warriors were 12-17.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Warriors beat Pistons 101-97

The Warriors almost blew a 32 point lead, but held on to beat the Pistons 101-97.

The W's went on a 21-2 run in the end of the first quarter and into the second to go up big. In the second quarter, the Warriors were in the middle of a 40-12. They shot 21 free throws to Detroit's 10, Monta Ellis scored 21 first quarter points, and new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber addressed the Oracle crowd at the end of the first quarter. Oracle was rocking and the Warriors were rolling, no one seemed to notice the Pistons finish the half on a 9-0 run. It felt like the Warriors thought they had the game won already.

The Pistons changed their strategy and drove the ball inside on the Warriors. It was effective, as they shot 21 free throws. The Warriors shot none all quarter. The Warriors went 32 minutes of game time without attempting a free throw. The Warriors struggled to find solutions on offense with both Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry sitting on the bench in foul trouble.

With 9:18 left in the game, Smart couldn't wait any longer and sent his star backcourt mates back in. I thought he wait too long without at least one of his top scorers in the game. Monta immediately picked up his fifth foul on a foolish touch on a jump shooting Ben Gordon. After committing only 9 team fouls in the first half, the Warriors were called for 16 in the second. The Pistons deserve credit for exploiting the Warriors as a team who conceeds excess fouls.

Expect Warriors opponents to employ a strategy of attacking the rim on offense with the objective of living on the foul line, and on defense, sitting in a zone defense and imploring Warriors players to settle for perimeter shots.

On a positive note, the Warriors won the game. They Pistons are a good team, better than their record suggests. The W's played solid defense and made key stops down the stretch, including an Andris Biedrins block on a Ben Gordon jumper and a Steph Curry steal. A big question was how are the Warriors going to make up for David Lee and his 15 points and 11 rebounds? By committee off the bench. Reggie Williams contributed 14 points off the bench and Dan Gadzuric grabbed a team high 11 boards.

The Warriors started hot, went cold, but showed composure by making the necessary plays to secure the win and halt a two game losing streak without one of their most important players, David Lee.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Warriors lose two straight without David Lee

I think it was John Wooden who said, "you learn more from a loss than you do from a win." The Warriors did some learning over the past two games against the Bulls and Bucks.

The Warriors learned they are not very good without David Lee, who sat out to due an infection on his left elbow. Lee injured the elbow against the Knicks Nov. 10 as he connected with the Knicks guard Wilson Chandler's front teeth, an incidental blow that resulted in Chandler losing a tooth.
Without Lee, the Warriors didn't have a trustworthy inside option in the half court set. Biedrins isn't a player who can post up. He likes to clean up misses and lurk around the rim for dump off passes on guard penetration. The lack of inside presence on offense forced the Warriors to fire a lot of (mostly contested) jumpshots. This hurt them in the free throw department as they shot 10 free throws to Milwaukee's 21 on Nov.13. Lee also gives averages 11 rebounds a game, another area where the Warriors were outplayed in the losses.

Brandan Wright was asked to step up in the absence of Lee. He did not. Wright went for 6 points in two games and couldn't stay on the floor. There's still plenty of games to play and it's unreasonable to think Wright could pick up Lee's production, but Warriors fans are losing patience with Wright after the Warriors gave up Jason Richardson for him as the 6th pick in the 2007 draft. Wright has been held back by a shoulder injury the past year, but has shown value with his quick hands and length, specifically by blocking and altering shots. At times, Wright looks a step behind the speed of NBA play and doesn't provide what the Warriors need: rebounds.

Don't give up on Brandan at this point. At this point, he is a player Keith Smart can bring off the bench to protect the rim when Biedrins gets in foul trouble. Don't expect more, just hope David Lee gets well soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Warriors beat Knicks at MSG 122-117

The Warriors have won two consecutive road games for the first time in awhile (since the 2000 season). It was another torturous game, but in the end the Warriors and their fans were rewarded with the victory.

The Warriors were the better team all night and should have beaten the Knicks more comfortably. The W's led by as much as 19 in the third quarter after converting on sloppy Knicks turnovers. The Knicks came back with a 15-0 run to get right back in the game.

In the fourth quarter, the referees forgot that fans pay money to see the players decide the game and went crazy with the whistle. The Knicks realized the refs would call any hint of contact and drove the ball inside. The Warriors couldn't whisper in a New York player's ear without incurring a whistle. The Warriors (with the help of the refs) sent the Knicks to foul line 43 times where they were remarkably effective and cashed in 38 times (88 percent).

A loss would have been hugely disappointing after working to build that 19 point lead, but this team deserves major credit for fighting through the fouls and finding a way to win. As Warriors telecaster Jim Barnett says, "defense travels well".

Monta Ellis didn't play to his high standards, but it was amazing he was able to be on the floor at all after the injury to his lower back he sustained Monday night. David Lee busted out with a team high 28 points and pulled 10 boards. Steph Curry scored 25, Dorell Wright scored 15 points off 3-5 three point shooting, Biedrins scored 10, Reggie Williams scored 12, and Brandan Wright 7.

Keith Smart has to be pleased with two road wins. The Warriors have played good team defense and rebounded as a team. They have also been patient in the half court offense and shown good shot selection. On the other hand, they must find a way to foul less and limit turnovers.
It's early in the season, but the Warriors look like they deserve to be in the playoff conversation and they'll only be better when the get Ekpe Udoh and Louis Amundson. If they can beat the Bulls tomorrow, it will already be a winning road trip.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warriors beat Raptors for first road win

The Warriors won their first road game of the year on Monday over the now 1-6 Raptors. It was a game they should have won. The Warriors got out to big lead in the third quarter, but almost gave the game back to the Raptors with some sloppy turnovers.
Monta Ellis and Steph Curry carried the offense and combined for 62 of the Warriors 109 points, David Lee and Andris Biedrins combined for 21 of the Warriors 42 rebounds, but the bench provided some strong minutes.

Brandan Wright had his best game of the year so far as he scored 8 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and blocked 2 shots in 21 minutes of play. Wright used his long reach to contest shots and gave the Warriors a nice defensive presence while Biedrins and/or Lee rested.

Jeremy Lin's stats 3 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots in 15 minutes, don't do him justice. He gave the Warriors good play from the point guard position and showed he can put pressure on defenses and dribble penetrate.

There was a bitter side to the sweetness of the W's first road win. Monta Ellis left the game in the fourth quarter and didn't return. The NBA's leading scorer landed awkwardly on an attempt to drive to the rim, hyper extending his knees and landing on his back. CT scans show Ellis has a lower back strain. Reports list Ellis as day to day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pistons edge Warriors 102-97

The road can be cruel in the NBA, as the Warriors found out in a frustrating loss to a previously 1-5 Pistons team in Detroit Sunday. It was poor shooting and a low field goal percentage which hurt the Warriors in the first half, but it was ugly giveaways that made the difference in a five point loss.

It was apparent from opening tip the Warriors were not on their game. Dorell Wright was the only player who could get anything going. Monta Ellis still got a team high 24 points, but he shot 11-23 from the field and missed all five of his three point attempts-something that wouldn't likely happen at Oracle.

Statistically the game was even, yet ugly, with no flow or rhythm. Both teams finished with 46 rebounds. The Warriors committed 14 turnovers to the Pistons 13, the Warriors shot 42 percent from the field to Detroit's 45, and the Pistons shot 28 free throws to the Warriors 23.

Detroit's Rip Hamilton had a solid game, going for a game high 27 points. He killed the Warriors with his midrange jumper. Rodney Stuckey's penetration crated matchup problems and opened up the game for Hamilton. The Pistons game plan was to attack Steph Curry and his injured ankle, whether it was Hamilton or Stuckey. It worked. Also, the Pistons made 9-17 three pointers to the Warriors 6-23.

The loss hurt as it could easily have been a win if the Warriors would have taken better care of the ball. This Eastern conference road trip only gets tougher as the Warriors play the Raptors tomorrow followed by the Knicks and Bulls on Wednesday and Thursday. They finish up against the Bucks on Saturday. These are difficult games and should give us a clue of how good the Warriors are. Right now, they are 0-2 on the road.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Warriors out-grind Jazz 85-78, now 4-0 at home

The Warriors have sharp new uniforms, new colors on the hardwood, a new logo, and new players. The gritty victory over the Jazz last night legitimized the Warriors as a new look team and erased the perception of the Warriors as a "soft", no defense team. The win sweetened a bitter taste in the mouths of Warriors fans left over from the heartbreaking loss in the second round of the 2007 "We Believe" playoff run.
The Warriors didn't win by shooting lights out (38 percent from the field). The Warriors slayed the Jazz with their own sword, as they dominated the glass 52-46 and grabbed 21 offensive rebounds to Utah's 10. The Warriors took 93 field goal attempts, while the Jazz only took 76.

In the spirit of Giants baseball, this Warriors game was torture and similar to some of the pitching duels that occurred during the 2010 season. The Warriors made it difficult for the Jazz to score and did well to clean up the defensive boards, but there were stretches when they just couldn't buy a shot. In the end, Steph Curry (who played on an injured ankle in a cumbersome brace) and Monta Ellis entered the game after resting the early part of the fourth quarter and closed the game like a two headed Brian Wilson. (Apologies for the shaky baseball analogies). Curry made some keys shots with less than five minutes left and Monta Ellis hit the shot to separate the Warriors for good.

The Warriors are undefeated at Oracle and continue to improve game by game. Players are finding roles and playing within themselves. Expect Curry and Ellis to take on the burden of scoring, while Biedrins and Lee will fight for every rebound and protect the rim. Dorell Wright is a trusted three point shooter and Reggie Williams is an all-purpose scoring player. I'm excited to see who else will contribute. Even Dan Gadzuric, despite some problems catching the ball, provided important minutes off the bench.

Keith Smart deserves credit for giving the W's a defensive identity for the first time in a long time. This team continues to improve on it's faults, as they have committed less fouls and
turnovers
The rock-concert electricity of Oracle Arena suits this defensive identity, but this upcoming road trip will be the true test.
Key individual stats: David Lee 14 points, 15 rebounds; Andris Biendrins 20 rebounds; Monta Ellis 23 points, 7 steals; Steph Curry 20 points

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lakers trounce Warriors 107-83

We learned two things by watching the Warriors get shellacked by the Lakers last night: 1.) The Warriors offense, especially Monta Ellis, is heavily reliant on Stephen Curry being on the floor 2.) Barring an injury to Pau Gasol or Kobe Bryant, the Lakers should win their third consecutive championship.

People don't want to hear that, but let's be honest with ourselves, the Lakers are a class above the field. Bob and Jim discussed the Lakers roster during the telecast and made the point that the Lakers are even better than a season ago. They have a variety of weapons for a variety of matchups. They will pound you with the triangle, pack the lane with long defenders, and score every time an opponent makes a turnover.

The Lakers dared Warriors not named Ellis to shoot perimeter jumpers and no one could connect. The Lakers compounded the Warriors shooting woes by picking them apart in the half court and earning consistent trips to the foul line.

The Warriors shot 40 percent from the field, but it should have been 30 if not for garbage time play. David Lee gave the Warriors nothing, literally, as he was held scoreless and completely overwhelmed by Lamar Odom. Lee typically excels when he matches up with a bigger, slower player. He was clearly uncomfortable matched up against a dynamic big like Odom who lives out on the perimeter. No reason to get down on Lee. I'm sure he took it personally and I expect him to bounce back with a big game against Memphis on Wednesday.

The Warriors were 6-13 from the free throw line, while the Lakers were 23-30. The Warriors were plus two in the turnover category and there's no shame in getting out rebounded by this group of brutes that is the Lakers, but the free throw disparity is a problem.

I would like to see the Warriors attack the rim more on offense, rather than settle for outside shots and, in turn, crisp up the footwork on defense to avoid unnecessary fouls. I call it like I see it, and honestly, the Warriors are not as bad as they showed Sunday night at Staples. They need Curry to have a chance against any team.