In any meaningful context, this loss would be tough to stomach. The Warriors were winning with scrappy play, forcing turnovers and challenging shots. Unfortunately, with scrappiness comes inconsistency and a 15-4 run by the Kings to start the fourth had the Warriors suddenly on their heels.
Monta, however, was the big story of the night with a bum left leg limiting him to only 7 points in 26 lackluster minutes. The real blow came with a minute left in the game when he collided with DeMarcus Cousins and came crashing to the court banging his head on the hardwood floor. It was a scary moment as he laid their motionless for a bit, but he eventually got up with the help of his teammates, and Cousins, and was immediately inspected by a trainer.
There isn’t much word out except that he’s expected to miss the next matchup against Denver and he told the rest of the Warriors he felt fine before heading to the hospital. You can never be too cautious with concussions, or any head injury really (see Sidney Crosby), but thankfully Ellis has no need to rush back with the season ending Wednesday. Hopefully he’ll be back for the season finale, but if not, at least he’ll be able to recover fully and not risk further injury. He’s earned his rest, playing a league-high 40.5 minutes per game this season with today’s game being his first DNP.
Back to the game, the Warriors really could’ve used Monta’s quickness and general playmaking abilities. Even with one healthy leg he still managed to beat his defender and penetrate the paint. Barring some kind of 8-25 night, which we all know he’s capable of, the Warriors pretty much had this in the bag. Curry was spectacular with pinpoint passing, Lee was still doing the dirty work down low and Dorell was every bit of a disruptor that he’s certain to become.
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1st Star: Stephen Curry
You wouldn’t be wrong in choosing Lee in the top spot, but I gave Curry the nod here with the way he led the offense. Not was a stellar 11-17, with 27 points and eight assists, but he looked supremely confident against the long and physical Kings lineup. Dalembert and Cousins are hardly slouches with Evans and Thornton both being tough assignments. If he avoided the silly touch fouls he seems to have grown a fondness for, then he could’ve easily managed 40+ minutes which would’ve likely been the difference in the game. At least Curry looked the part of a real point guard.
2nd Star: David Lee
24 and 14 for Lee who seems to have established a steady rhythm a tad late in the season. Past the scoring, rebounding, and surprisingly good defense against the physically imposing Cousins, David’s continued to impress with his passing. The way he nails some of those sweet outlet passes is really invaluable to a team with a ton of transition players. Out of post, he’s just as good, but those opportunities rarely come up. He almost never operates out of the post and when he does, he’s not a double-team kind of threat. Still, his passing is probably the most underrated aspect of his game which should only improve as he moves into his second year with the Warriors.
3rd Star: Dorell Wright
He shot a ton, missed a ton, but he essentially played the role of Monta, at least he tried to. He was 8-22, jacking up threes in a hurry, 2-10, but he played the full 48 while snatching some momentum-shifting passes on his way to a career-high six steals. Dorell needs to find that balance between launching threes and using his best offensive weapon, the pump fake, to take it inside and make the defense work. The effort was there, especially considering his minutes, but he’s got to improve on his decision making.
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Jeremy Lin: I’m still not seeing the value he brings to the team. I understand he’s a work in progress, but I still haven’t figured out his game yet. Offensively, he doesn’t have much of a shot and he doesn’t carve up the defense with drives or dishes. Defensively, he’s got solid technique, but with below average athleticism, he’ll hardly be a menace to the Chris Paul’s and Rondo’s of the league. He doesn’t make many mistakes, but he also doesn’t create many opportunities. He fits into the offense, but doesn’t direct it. I’ll give him time to show us something, but not everyone likes playing the waiting game (see the Lacob and Guber).
Battle of the 2010 ROY candidates: At the beginning of last season, Evans was looking like the next big thing. Even with Curry’s late-season surge Evans still managed to win the ROY while becoming only the fourth rookie to average 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. With another full season under each player’s belt, Evans’ stardom is a bit questionable while Curry’s is all but assured. Evans’ sophomore season obviously comes with a disclaimer as he’s battled plantar fasciitis for a bulk of the season, but he hasn’t expanded his range or his vision. It’s only a matter of time with Evans, but I think most Warrior fans are glad we got “stuck” with Steph.
DeMarcus Cousins: In the previous matchup I compared his mannerism and competitiveness to Kobe. Although their basketball IQs differ greatly, I still stand by this assertion. Cousins is still rough, unpolished player, but he clearly knows the game of basketball. He’s got an overpowering post game, to a fault really, and that’s the most striking similarity I see between the two. Kobe knows what he should do 99% of the time, but he’s too stubborn, and a tad too selfish, to actually do it. Cousins is the same way in that he insists on having his way as if to prove everyone else is wrong. The refs were wrong to call an offensive foul. His teammates were wrong to not feed him in the post. He’s immensely talented, he just needs to channel that talent in a positive and effective way.
The More You Know: With 22 points and 14 rebounds Lee has now had three consecutive 20-10 games, his first with the Warriors. Over that span he’s averaged 25 points, 17 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block while shooting 59%. Keep in mind he averaged 20 and 12 last year. Let’s hope nothing disrupts his rhythm early next season.
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The Warriors have a back-to-back at Denver tonight where they’ll have to play, dang near perfect to win. The Nuggets are suffering a few injuries of their own, with Afflalo, Gallinari, Mozgov, and Chandler all ailing, but the Warriors will sorely miss Monta’s scoring. Reggie Williams should slide into the starting lineup and with heavy minutes last night for Dorell and David, Amundson and Thornton will need to give an inspired effort. Nene will be a lot to handle down low, but the Warriors cannot forget about J.R. Smith on the wing. If they can contain these two and win the battle on the boards and the stripe, they’ll have a decent shot at winning. This is by no means an easy task, but they’re essential ones.