For one night, and one night only, Monta Ellis put himself in the same stratosphere as Kobe Bryant, by scoring a career high 48 points. Granted, Kobe often leaves us with the impression that his huge scoring nights can occur whenever he desires (remember that time he put 61 points on the Knicks almost on command two seasons ago and also how he exploded for 37 points in the All-Star game last season?), but Monta still matched Bean’s season high Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ellis’ huge night came as a result of him being in a terrific rhythm coupled with OKC’s unwillingness to double-team him in the contest. In the first half alone, Monta was a sight to be hold as he went MJ on Russell Westbrook (get it, he went MJ on Russell?) and poured in 30 points right before the halftime buzzer sounded.
The great scoring night masked a game in which Monta Ellis’ shot selection was often suspect, but the fact that he hit most of his shots made it as such that it was hard to find fault in some of the things that he did on the court.
Monta contributed on the boards, getting seven rebounds and also got himself two steals. The most impressive part of Monta’s game against the Thunder that didn’t revolve around his offense was the things he was able to accomplish on defense. Granted, Ellis gambled on occasions for steals and did a very poor job of fighting through screens on the ball, but when matched up with Westbrook one-on-one, he actually gave the Thunder point guard some trouble.
So far this season, Westbrook has been able to post up opposing guards and score on them rather easily, but Ellis refused to cede any ground to him on the block and forced him into some turnovers. Also, Monta was able to deflect the ball on a few occasions from Westbrook on the perimeter and gain extra possessions for the Warriors. With that said, whenever Westbrook tried to set up Ellis with dribble fakes and crossovers, Monta immediately backed off and gave his opponent an uncontested jumper that he made more often than not.
Monta Ellis has some instances in which he is a committed defender, but they do not seem to happen often enough.
The Warriors’ leading scorer still managed to erase his defensive shortcomings Tuesday night thanks to his impressive scoring eruption. Monta Ellis was a force whenever he got to the basket, converting 10-of-11 field goal attempts at the rim according to Hoopdata. In addition, he took hits and went to the free throw line 10 times, making nine.
And just to keep the defense honest, the 48-point man converted 3-of-6 field goal attempts from 3-point range.
The way Monta was playing gave all of the fans in attendance as well as the viewers watching at home the feeling that he was quite simply unstoppable. And really, he was.
He set up defenders with his jump shot and also weaved through the defense with his ball handling and rarely looked out of control. His first step was a thing of beauty as he routinely blew by his defender to get inside the paint. When the Thunder defense adjusted and tried to deny him the ball, he cut backdoor and caught the ball for a few finishes at the rim. Indeed, three of his scores at the basket came off assists from his teammates.
Although Kevin Durant was on the court, for most of the game, Monta looked like he was the best scorer on the floor until the closing minutes of the contest.
With the game hanging in the balance and Ellis doing his best impression of Frank’s red hot sauce (he puts that **** on everythang), one player that we expected to deliver did just that while one we thought might come through for his team did not.
Durant took high percentage shots that he usually attempts and put his team in a position to steal the game on the road.
Ellis on the other hand did what Warriors fans have become accustomed to: dribble, dribble, shoot. It’s one thing for the Warriors to isolate their leading scorer on the wing and ask him to carry them home, but it’s an entirely different issue when this said player bails the defense out by settling for long contested jumpers.
As good as Monta Ellis was Tuesday night in getting 48 points on 18-for-29 shooting, he faltered down the stretch because he failed to attack the basket late in the game. Instead of catching the ball and attacking directly, he tried to size up his defender which gave the defense time to come load up on the strong side of the court and cut off his driving angles.
On the night, the 6’3 guard converted a mere 3-of-8 field goals from 16-to-23 feet, and yet late in the ball game it was his preferred shot. To be fair, during the 2011-2012 campaign Monta has been deadly late in ball games from midrange; according to Stats Cube, Ellis has converted 7-of-14 field goal attempts from midrange in clutch situations so far this season (clutch situations are defined as the last five minutes of the game with the scoring margin within five points).
Consequently, one can understand why the star guard took those jumpers against the Thunder, but it’s still worth pointing out that they were contested nonetheless.
Warriors fans were treated to an incredible shooting display, it’s just unfortunate for them that the home team didn’t walk off the court with a victory…
But Monta still gave them something to cheer for.
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