The season has come to a close, and although we’re all probably a little sad to see it end early, we should really be mindful of the situation up north. The Kings are all but assured to head down south to a supposedly “bigger” and “better” market in Anaheim, but the Kings fans, as well as Chris Webber are determined to not be the Seattle Sonics all over again.
As for the game, Wesley Matthews was the only regular starter playing extended minutes for the Blazers, so it’s difficult to take away anything meaningful from an essentially meaningless game. Still, it was a good opportunity to see some of the reserves play in a pressure-free game. It was sloppy at times, for both teams, but there were some real signs of chemistry with their purposeful ball movement and seamless switches.
The Blazers’ backup corp. didn’t put up much resistance on defense which allowed the Warriors to penetrate and dish most of the night. Even offensively, the Blazers were lackluster with a ton of easy misses inside, especially from Chris Johnson who was 1-8 despite grabbing five offensive boards. The Warriors gave an even defensive effort, nothing spectacular since they should’ve won by at least 10 against a rusty, untested bench.
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1st Star: Reggie Williams
Phenomenal shooting night from Reggie, who had it going the entire game, playing all 48. 12-18 from the floor, 4-8 from three was good for 28 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists. He attacked the basket regularly, but never drew much contest. I’d like to see him get to line more, as with all the Warriors, but I can’t argue with the results. Hopefully he gets more consistent minutes next year because the Warriors could use his consistent, steady play.
2nd Star: Stephen Curry
Curry carved up the defense to the tune of 18 points and 9 assists in only 24 minutes. He’ll always be a shooter at heart, but his game has really expanded past the label of a shoot-first point guard. He has made great strides in jump-starting an offense by getting everyone involved. Also, he can still shoot your mother’s tacky dining room lights out.
3rd Star: Dorell Wright
Dorell did a little bit of everything tonight. He didn’t shoot too well, but that’s to be expected when he’s taking those long, long threes. 20 points, five rebounds, six assists, four steals, and a block for the seven-year vet.
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Stephen Curry: His improvement throughout his sophomore season wasn’t mind blowing, but I suspect Monta’s imposing will hindered Curry’s growth. They’ve definitely developed a strong chemistry, a far cry from his rookie year, but Curry needs a higher usage rate to not only reach his potential, but to help this team make the playoffs. Curry is a far more efficient player than Ellis, at least in their current states. I’d like to see him direct the offense more, with Ellis playing second fiddle when he’s not going off for 40. Curry finished this season over 93% from FT, the highest in franchise history, which is all the more reason he needs to increase his FT rate. What good is his sterling FT% if he can’t get more than three times a night? At the very least he needs to draw six a night, as long as Monta will allow it.
Reggie Williams: With all the shooters on the team you could argue that Reggie is expendable. He has average defense, at best, with okay handles and sub-par decision-making. He can’t be the point-forward that Dorell is capable of coming, but I’d hate to see him leave. He’s easily the second best shooter, although his mid-range needs work. His biggest value will come from his off-ball movement. None of the Warriors move particularly well without the ball, instead relying on screens to get open. Reggie could be that Rip Hamilton, Ray Allen type sneaking into open space and using the threat of his three-point shot to attack the basket. Along that note, his FT% needs to come back above 80% to have a significant impact off the bench.
Dorell Wright: I’d like to see him grow into a point-forward like Odom. They don’t have the same exact build, but they have similar skill sets, save for the three-point shooting and rebounding. If he can serve the role of a spot-up shooter with the starting unit and more a facilitator with the bench, I think the Warriors will be better for it. There’s no real solid back up for Curry, so using Dorell at point could create some favorable mismatches. Also, he needs to stop taking those long threes. He can make him, but so can I and you don’t see me jacking them up. He’s a streaky shooter, but those long 3s aren’t helping anyone.
David Lee: He’s a smart basketball player, but sometimes it seems like he fouls players to get a message across to the referees. David’s developed a rapport with both Ellis and Curry, but he needs to become that vocal leader on defense that I think he can be. If he begins holding himself accountable for defensive lapses, I’m certain the rest of the team will follow suit and really take on a more defensive mindset. They’ll always be undersized, but they can’t use that as an excuse to not be at least an above-average defensive squad.
Ekpe Udoh: He had some sweet, albeit simple, dishes to start the game tonight. He should be able to add a few more pounds of muscle onto that lanky frame, which will help him establish better defensive position. As a natural shot blocker, it was only natural for him to struggle on the glass. Shot blockers like to roam a bit and have space to challenge shots. Rebounders are essentially the opposite in that they need to put a body on their man and deny access. Too often Udoh resorts to using his wiry arms to box out, which is not only ineffective, but illegal at times. Fortunately, he already has the timing down, which is imperative to catching the ball at his peak. Let’s hope for health and a new CBA for Ekpe’s sake.
Jeremy Lin: THREEEEEEEE. Awesome way to end the season, with his first NBA three. On that note, he sorely needs to improve his range. His stroke does look a bit broken, but it’s nothing three months of hard work can’t fix. I’m still uncertain of his future in the league, or even his role on the team, but his instincts are solid. He’s not impressive on either side of the ball, but he has a keen basketball sense. As with any young player, I’d love to see him succeed, but I’ll temper my expectations for now.
Bench Play: For now, the goal is to make the playoffs, but to make a real push the bench will need to be productive to give ample rest for starters throughout the season. Monta and Dorell both played around 40 minutes a game, which is a tad much even for a player of Monta’s conditioning. Also, health is never a given which means reserves will be expected to step up, much like Udoh has, and contribute immediately. The season is long and intense, enough for players to suggest a 58-game season. I’m certain the starters will improve, but can the players 6-12 step up as well?
The More You Know: I’m sure you have all heard about Dorell and Curry’s accomplishments by now, but they’re worth repeating. Dorell Wright pushed the franchise record for threes in a season to 194, besting Jason Richardson’s 183 in the ’05-’06 season. Steph became the first player in NBA history to start his career with consecutive 45% FG, 40% 3PT, 85% FT, seasons. His actual percentages are, 48% FG, 44.2% 3PT, 93.4% FT. Unfortunately he basically took the same amount of shots across the board, increasing his scoring from a measly 17.5 to a whopping 18.6.
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The season didn’t end how any of us would’ve liked, but I think every player on the team has shown that our faith is not misplaced. We may not even make the playoffs next year in the ridiculously stacked western conference, but there is real talent and potential on this team. I’m proud of what the Warriors have shown us this season, but they all know the work isn’t done. With the lockout looming, already threatening summer league games, and jeopardizing the season, the Golden State Warriors will need some intense resolve to not get distracted. The season is ending, but everyone here at Warriors World will still be plodding away on our keyboards with fantastic pieces. Everything from the upcoming NBA draft to CBA discussions to player workouts, we’ll keep you all in the loop. Stay tuned.