The Reverse: Memphis Mistakes
(The Reverse is a recap flipped backwards, possibly shaken–like GSW was against Memphis in the 4th)
Much of the focus here will be on the fourth quarter, wherein Memphis charged back from 17 down and 7:26 to play. The Grizzlies scored 39 points in the period despite only hitting one shot from beyond the arc. The Warriors gave up nine turnovers, 16 fastbreak points. These numbers speak for themselves in blood-curdling shouts.
Post-game coach presser
ESS: ”The Warriors were taking a lot of jumpers, especially on that one possession with multiple offensive rebounds. Do you think your guys stopped attacking the hoop?”
Mark Jackson: “They got underneath our skin, and we no longer looked to be aggressive. More importantly, I’m not concerned with anything offensively. Too many jumpers, anything of that nature. We gave up 39 points fourth quarter points. We gave up 16 fastbreak points in the game. All of them, in the fourth quarter. Those are glaring issues. We gave up ten second chance points in the fourth quarter. We allowed them to take over this basketball game. We should be embarrassed by this loss.”
ESS: “Nine turnovers in the fourth, what do you think caused that?”
Mark Jackson: “Careless. Being careless.”
At first, I didn’t buy into Jackson’s explanation. Coaches love to chalk any failure up to a vague lack of focus, as though players could summon the Great Focus Ferry, if only they had the inner strength to dredge it from the guts. These are professional athletes, and though mistakes get made, I imagine that a great deal is invested into even the failures. There must have been a strategic mishap to explain the Memphis surge, I presumed.
Upon watching multiple replays of the fourth quarter…I’m more sold on “careless.” Some of these botched passes are awful to the point of being morally incorrect. This strain of “self-destructive, without reason” fourth quarter is what you would expect from a latter-stages Nellie team. As in, it’s a bit like what you’d expect from the Wizards. As in, it’s what you would expect if JaVale McGee was running point guard for the Wizards in a game they had to lose in order to get a number one pick.
The fourth quarter collapse began with two consecutive Monta Ellis turnovers that weren’t thrown into traffic so much as they were thrown quite precisely to the wrong team. In the first instance, Ellis runs a pick and roll with Lee, only to hurl the pass far behind DL, and into enemy hands. On the next possession, Monta runs another pick and roll with Lee, throws a pass that could have only found Klay Thompson if Mike Conley lacked arms. To be fair-ish, perhaps Ellis didn’t see Conley because Mike was standing behind David Lee.
The other explanation could be that Ellis expected Conley to help out on the screen-slipping Lee. Perhaps Monta threw it to Klay on the assumption the spot would be vacant. The above slide shows Mike breaking left as though to cover Lee, but Conley’s really using his left foot to launch himself in the opposite direction.
Like so many who prey on Ellis-initiated offense, MC is a cornerback, sitting on a familiar route. Monta lacks the vision or the care to avoid such a trap. Memphis is slickly playing “Three Card Monta,” making it seem as though the worst option is really the best one. Sadly, my best defense of Ellis is to say he should not be put in the position to make such mistakes. He may be a “playmarker,” but point guard he isn’t.
At six minutes left, Ellis receives a pass above the arc. It slips past his fingers and out of bounds. Wasteful as the play was, at least it did not lead to any fastbreak points. Six minutes left, twelve point gap. The un-route is on.
Curry had two of his own turnovers in the final period, the first of which certainly seemed “careless.” He simply tossed an entry pass to David Lee that was far outside Lee’s reach.
Long-limbed Rudy Gay collects the spoils.
On his second late turnover, Curry runs a high pick and roll with David Lee. In a situation quite similar to the Ellis-to-Conley pass, Tony fakes as though to help on David Lee…only to plant off his foot in the opposite direction.
Allen jumps the route when Curry swings the ball to Monta Ellis. The result is a crushing transition bucket that narrows GSW’s lead to one.
Monta Hero Ball
Ellis can be an incandescent talent when playing off the ball. When on the rock, he can play a brand of hero dress-up that often enables villainous victory.
For example, this decisive play with the Warriors down three, with under 20 ticks left:
Oh hey, double screen for Ellis off the inbounds. Something tricky is afoot!
And suddenly, a face palm so hard that it breaks your newly numb-to-pain nose. Yeesh, yeesh. Game over.
Post-game Locker room chatter
The locker room is somber, as I’d imagine most would be under the circumstances. Dorell Wright–appearing shaken and despondent–is one of the few to host a media scrum. He cites the turnover issue and I ask for what caused it:
Wright: “It is what it is. They apply pressure. They lead the league in steals or turnovers, or whatever the case may be.”
A quick glance at NBA.com confirms Dorell’s statement: Memphis does lead the league in steals. Can’t say the Warriors were caught unawares by the onslaught.
Pre-game coach presser: 6PM
Geoff Lepper: “Mark, you’ve clearly, repeatedly gone with Monta out top in isolation. Flatten everybody else out at the end of quarters. Philosophically, why do that other than running a set or doing something else?
Mark Jackson: ”Well I wouldn’t say I’ve gone repeatedly to end quarters. I just think he’s been our best player, our best playmaker, and you can’t argue with the numbers. Not just scoring-wise, but also, facilitating. Now, has he been as successful as I would have liked down the stretch or to end quarters? No. But he’s made great decisions and I trust him with the basketball in his hands.”
(Me, if I were to drop in from the near future): “Mark, would you say that allowing Monta to run the offense in crunch time is a good idea against a team that leads all others in steals? Think about it.”
(Fictional Mark Jackson): “Come on, don’t use hindsight to create a fictional character who asks better questions. You’re better than that!”
Stephen Curry is on the Memphis side of the court, sitting next to Rudy Gay. Hard to miss, as the two are exchanging echoing belly laughs. There is a connection between the former Team USAer and the guy who maintains his jersey. Curry once told me that Rudy Gay is the player he’d most like to play with. They do share an agent. This is not exactly a slowly forming Bosh-Wade-LeBron talent cumulonimbus, but I’ll note the connection whenever “Rudy Gay for Ellis + flotsam” hops on the rumor treadmill for a hearty jog.