A combination of some pesky Warrior defense and a suddenly cold Mavericks team led to this 7-point victory on Saturday night. The Warriors constantly had to rally back from deficits, something they’re familiar with, but not all that proficient at. Even with Curry sitting out the entire 2nd period after picking up his third personal, the reserves came in to will the team from down 10 to up two with as many minutes remaining in the half.
With a competitive game at hand, Ellis did what makes him so danged frustrating: take tough shots and make them. A couple of early threes, a long two, and a pair of free throws later, and the Warriors suddenly had an 11-point advantage. Monta scored on four consecutive possessions to key his own 10-0 run, eventually outscoring the Mavericks 18 to 17 in the 3rd.
To start the fourth, the Warriors stretched their five-point lead to double digits with significant contributions from Thornton who surprisingly earned his paycheck timely shot-making and defensive hustle. Golden State had a chance to let Dallas back into the game with two minutes left and a 93-90 edge, but Steph calmly drained a three with a hand in his face to effectively put the game out of reach.
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1st Star: Monta Ellis
His obvious offensive contributions aside, Monta actually looked eager on defense. He ended Beaubois’ night early with solid defense, which proved to be a difference maker after Beaubois averaged 16.5 points in the previous two meetings. Monta brought a balanced attack with some ridiculous finishes around the rim, a 6-6 showing at the line, and just a bunch of shots he had no business making. 32 points (11-20), five assists, and 4-8 from distance.
2nd Star: Al Thornton
The first of perhaps two surprises tonight, Thornton also showed a pulse on both ends of the court. He hit from all areas of the court in a variety of ways, but also had two timely blocks on Barea who was a pest all night long. With Udoh on the bench with a bad case of the PFs, Thornton stepped up to fight the battle of the boards. He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. As much as I dislike Thornton, I couldn’t ignore his contributions tonight.
3rd Star: Louis Amundson
Your second stunner tonight, is Amundson making his first appearance on the Three Stars list. Again, with Udoh sitting most of the night, Amundson played 28 minutes, the most this season, and made the most of it. He registered 8 points, 10 boards, and two blocks. Although the rebounds were locked at 43-43 by the end of the night, it most certainly would’ve been a losing effort had any other player replaced his minutes.
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Stephen Curry: If it’s not turnovers, it’s foul troubles. He’s still figuring out the game, but he should realize that he’s fighting an uphill battle. At a physically unimposing 6’3″ and 185lbs, with good, perhaps great, quickness, Curry must rely on his basketball smarts to give him an edge. He’s obviously a talented shooter and a skilled passer, but he’s also instinctively sneaky and crafty. The only thing holding him back is experience, which he’ll obviously get, but part of me fears Monta’s ball-dominating ways will hamper his learning curve. Also, Smart hasn’t proven he’s fit to teach Curry the finer points of the game. Just some things to look for as we close out this season and start the next.
Ekpe Udoh: Like stealing, shot blocking is a risky art. Knowing when to go for the block, when to challenge, when to leave your feet are all split-second decisions that are made instinctively more than anything. Yes, he’ll grow defensively, but he’ll still have nights like these. Such is the life of a shot blocker. It’s clear he needs help down low to avoid those weakside help fouls, but it’s also unlikely he’ll receive any soon. On that note, I wonder what a Amundson/Udoh tandem would look like. I’m not saying it’ll work, but having two capable, if not average, defenders would be refreshing.
Dorell Wright: He was the only Warrior not hitting tonight, going 5-18. While I’d like to see really utilize his pump fake to get into the lane, it’s nice to see him confidently put up shot after shot. The worst thing a shooter can do is become hesitant and nervous about missing. 5-18 hardly shows any signs of slowing up. The key is always shot selection. As long as he’s taking high percentage or high reward shots, he has my approval.
Rad Vlad: What has Rad Vlad done, or not done, to fall so far off the radar? I can appreciate what Thornton brings, but Radmanovic is, at the very least, just as effective.
Dallas going cold: 5-25 from 3pt and the starters going 13-40 (32.5%) from the field basically killed the Mavs tonight. Despite the Warriors best efforts, they still got good looks, but they simply could not convert. In the first eight minutes of the 2nd half they could only muster seven points while the Warriors reeled off 20. Admittedly, it was a somewhat meaningless game for the Mavs, who were really only holding onto a slim chance at grabbing the 2nd seed.
Still, Dallas cared as evident by Dirk’s fourth quarter tech and Mark Cuban’s incessant rambling from the sideline.
J.J. Barea: Boy, he’s a real pest. From the flop against Curry, to the scrappy offensive rebounds, Barea gave the Warriors fits all night long. He’s a smart basketball player who knows his strengths and limitations, something that can’t quite be said about any Warrior yet.
The More You Know: With two more threes tonight, Dorell tied Jason Richardson’s single season of 183 with Golden State. Barring an injury or a sudden change of heart, Dorell’s got this record all but locked up. The rest of the league should take notice.
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With another two days of rest before heading to Portland Tuesday, the Warriors could have Biedrins back to deal with the Blazers’ length. Portland is playing competitively against quality teams every night, and with the deadline acquisition Gerald Wallace playing his best Blazer basketball the Warriors would be lucky to pull one out on the road. With Matthews, Batum, and Fernandez all putting time in at the 2-spot, the Warriors will need to support Monta any way they can. I’m intrigued to see how Curry will play against Miller who takes his craft more seriously than most. He a consummate pro, and kind of a jerk, but as a man with limited physical gifts and weak jumper, he’s had a very successful career. I’m feeling a blowout, but what do I know? 108104 W’s.