By: Billy Hoyle/ @wwnetbillyhoyle
The paper work has been filed, the assets divvied up and all parties are in agreement, the divorce is official. Being welcomed back to the arena to what best may be called a smattering of applause, like the greeting of a former father in-law to the absentee parent of his grand-children, Baron Davis returned to the Arena at Oakland and immediately set about making himself completely unwelcome.
Not through his amazingly inspired and long missed basketball prowess however, far from it in-fact. Baron set in to Steph Curry with the “veteran” psychological warfare that we Warrior’s fans had hated to love and the overt cheap shots that we now love to hate. Baron Davis is officially persona non grata at Oracle Arena and with good cause. The cheap shot he took on Curry towards the beginning of the second half was nothing short of deplorable. Yes, he was, to a large part, successful in removing Curry from the first half but the kid has a will to win, as shown with his beautiful tear drop to end the half and his inspired play at the beginning of the third quarter. That inspired play wasn’t cut short by a Baron Davis cheap-shot, he rose from that indignation and hit one of two free throws. No, Curry’s chance at a revival ended on the top of Blake Griffin’s sneaker with a third rolled ankle in two weeks. He ended the night with 16 points and 6 assists and the status of his return remains unknown.
While starting the game relatively under the radar, by his standards, but still contributing, Monta really stepped up for about a quarter when the game was in the balance and played some very solid point guard, directing his teammates and dictating the offense. Even though he still called his own number as needed, he made smart plays and found his teammates when he got in trouble. On one particular play he drove the rim and got caught up in the air doubled, fortunately Lee was rolling behind him and Monta dropped a pretty leave for Lee to finish. Monta ended with a pretty 15 points and 11 assists on 6 of 12 from the field and it was actually more impressive than the stats show. With his 3-ball falling ( 3 of 4) and playing smart, he is a tremendous weapon for the Warriors.
Coach Keith Smart is force feeding me my comments on him during the off-season. He is actually coaching and coaching to win. He’s got these guys buying into the team concept and has them playing over their heads. It really is refreshing to have a coach actually be involved in what’s going on in the game instead of just trying to create match-up issues and hoping for the best. A prime example is with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd the Warriors had missed a few shots in a row and were looking sloppy. The score had slipped to a 16 point advantage and in years past with Nellie, he would have just let them shoot their way out of the win. Coach Smart called a timeout and calmed everyone down. He is NOT letting them jack shots early in the shot clock and they are playing a much more thoughtful type of basketball without sacrificing any of the tempo or fire power.
Blake Griffin had some nice dunks but was largely ineffective as was Chris Kaman, neither of whom ever seemed to get going. Baron Davis did a disappearing act after trying to take Curry’s head off during his hot start in the 2nd half. Eric Gordon threatened a few times to heat up but as the case was with the rest of his teammates, he sputtered and failed to really impact the game.
David Lee played great, never giving up too much defensively, hustling for rebounds and scoring tough points when he needed too. He still has almost no post game but he never forces it down low and very similarly to Dorell Wright, he takes what he is given. He has very quickly become a leader on the team and was coaching on the court in the fourth quarter to help preserve the lead with both Steph and Monta off the court.
Andris Biedrins is the seeming catalyst that makes the first team go. The team started hot with he and the rest of the starters on the court and cooled off, even losing the lead when he had to sit with 2 fouls early. He has shown signs of a post game displaying 3 or so different post moves against Chris Kaman. Andris’ defense is improving, helping to hold Kaman to 13 points and 7 rebounds. I am excited to see if his game will make that jump that it always seems like its about to do. Despite his paltry stats (8 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes of play), when you watch the game you can really tell everyone feeds off his hustle. I wish his contribution were more easily quantified but I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it, his minutes matter.
The pick and roll was in effect with both Biedrins and Lee being the recipient of some nice passes from both Curry and Monta. At one point Lee even made the entry pass on a pick and roll to Curry who had a nice highlight with his first nba dunk. This aspect of the Warriors offense has been long awaited and the glimpse or two we caught was exactly as pretty as I thought it would be.
The constant throughout the game had to be Dorell Wright hitting big shots, primarily from distance going 6 of 8 for the game and leading the way with 24 points and a mighty 8 rebounds. Dorell is the consummate role player and plays well within his means, rarely looking to create his own shot and taking what he is given. If this is the player we will see for the rest of his stay in Golden State, well, we’ve got a fantastic player for a long time and I’m very happy to have him.
The bench should have been the real story of the game, opposed to Steph’s ankle, where previously was perceived a weakness has shown to be a strength.
- Rodney Carney was hot from the corner hitting 2 big ones and playing some good defense. He is a very smart player who defies traditional NBA logic by being such as well as a tremendous athlete.
- Dan Gadzuric gave some great minutes in the first and second quarters playing tough defense and hustle offense running the break for a dunk and some nice put-backs.
- The best effort off the bench was by Vladimir Radmanovic who displayed some surprisingly tough defense and intelligent shot selection by driving to the hoop multiple times and drawing fouls. I wouldn’t count on him to play this way game in and out but it’s much easier to win when he does.
- Brandan Wright even showed up and made a couple of good plays on both offense and defense. He really seems to play much better when no one is expecting it. His offense was looking smooth and he also had 2 blocks (I’m sure he changed many more shots though) in 14 minutes. This is definitely a game he can build on.
The Clippers are a sleeper team with a veteran presence and a bunch of young athletes. The Warriors should be proud of this 18 point win and can really find a lot to build on.
I would expect to see Curry sit out the Laker game. It’s not one we really need to go in and win at this point in the season and he needs to let that ankle heal. It isn’t time to put his toughness and determination to the test, it’s time to really look towards the future and make some smart decisions. The Warriors are off to a hot start and we have a lot to look forward to.