The Warriors weathered the storm. The quiet storm that is.
Off the bench buddies, Harrington and Pietrus work on their double teaming. Or do they look like they're taking pics for the Sadie Hawkins dance?
Like the U.S. Postal Service (bless them!), the Warriors managed to battle through all sorts of bad weather (literal and figurative); the recent poor starts, horrible shot selection, porous defense, lack of bench support is equivalent to rain, sleet, snow and high winds. But even that was not going to stop the Warriors from attacking the Spurs. I know "Quiet Storm" is CJ Watson's nickname, but it is totally better suited for Tim Duncan who steadily and unexcitingly (though highly effectively) worked against Harrington and Biedrins, putting them both in foul trouble. Like an annoying light drizzle, Duncan quietly and steadily put up 32 points and 13 boards. Yet that wasn't nearly enough as the Warriors, like the rains last week in the bay area, refused to let up.
From the moment that they "turned down the lights" for the introductions, you know it was going to be a party like 'Monsoon Wedding' up in the Roaracle (especially since all the players were drenched in sweat much like the actors/actresses drenched in summer rains). The game featured impressive displays of offensive firepower (251 points combined) from both teams. The Warriors, despite their first quarter woes and recent shooting slumps from the likes of Jackson, Barnes, Azuibuke and Pietrus, somehow managed to find the bottom of the net: 51% from the field, 45% from beyond the arc, and 88% from the line. Maybe it was just the matchups for the night, but the Warriors looked like they had made some adjustments from their disasterous games against the Mavs and Hornets, particularly on the defensive end.
Biedrins gets his hand in Parker's face...and possibly a knee to the groin.
We should probably just start calling the Warriors "El Nino." Doesn't it seem like anytime there are irregular weather patterns, we just blame it on "El Nino"? Its like anytime there is some weather irregularities that are unexplainable to meteorologists, "El Nino" is there to assuage the average citizen with never any additional information of what that actually means. The Warriors inconsistency, like "El Nino" is unexplainable and when it rains, it pours. But on the flipside, when the going is good, the hot hand and defensive prowess is contagious like chicken pox amongst young kids. But maybe last nights win was a step in the right direction in the sense that it wasn't just another display of streaky play between quarters but a relatively consistent, for this game at least, attempt at seriously controlling tempo.
Given that the Warriors mantra is to outscore opponents, the Warriors looked to make good on their defensive shortcomings of the last few games. This isn't to suggest that the Warriors were shutting the Spurs down. Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan each had great games (offensively) and Ime Udoka and Michael Finley were often left wide open, either in the corner for a wide open 3 or in the lane for a layup. The Warriors did not rotate particularly well, which explains the wide open wing player. Yet, inspite of these typical problems that plague the Warriors night in night out, they prevented the Spurs from going on any long, uninhibited runs. Matching them point for point might explain this, but the Warriors also forced them, in some ways, into poor outside shots. With the exception of Duncan's low-post work, the Warriors generally collapsed and crashed the defensive boards or clogged the lane. We could attribute this to the fact that the Spurs lack any real efficient big men like the Hornets though. But still, the evenness of the rebounding is partially indicative of how the Warriors did not just leave Biedrins alone to handle the rebounding duties alone like some other games of late.
Pietrus must have knew Parker liked to drive baseline, poking the ball out at the right time!
In fact, Pietrus has put together two solid games in a row now...at least on the defensive end. Don't let his 5-9 shooting fool you; he is still shooting erratically. Stepback, fadeaway jumpers from 22 feet don't exactly sound like great shots do they? Yet, like the Jazz series (when he wasn't bricking free throws), Pietrus was crashing the boards and hustling on the defensive end. 6 boards doesn't sound like a whole lot for the night, but he also managed to alter a few shots in the lane. We've seen Pietrus do this a few times now, which is hustle back on fast breaks to block/alter layups/dunks. His defensive play has earned him some extra minutes (if not just his potential trade value) and maybe his confidence will boost his offensive output, too.
His own poor shooting was too difficult for Jackson, himself, to bear. Ginobili and Duncan console
The Warriors finally got some contribution from the bench. Azubuike was a perfect 7-7 from the floor and it probably helped that the Warriors were calling his number more this game than in the last few. He showed his deep, midrange, and inside game tonight making the most out of limited minutes. It was nice to see Jackson defer to him and others a few times, setting screens or seeing/passing to him for some open threes.
Though Jackson shot pretty horribly this game, you could see that he took a stronger leadership role, seeking to make up for it on the defensive end and even in distribution. Okay okay, he still shot 21 shots and bricked a ton, enough to keep a mason in business. Even Barnett noted that he was pressing a little. But Jackson, seems to be taking his captain role a little stronger, facilitated the offense some, looking to find Azubuike and Biedrins on several occasions. Granted, his passes weren't exactly crisp and at times off or forced through a crowd of Spurs players. But that's a step in the right direction?
Biedrins finds great position for two of his 13 points
But he found his shot when it mattered most. Jackson and Baron Davis were like E-40's classic track "Hurricane" (or "Slurricane"); they were "strong enough to start an engine maaaain." Jackson and Davis made clutch shot after clutch shot (we're talking about freethrows here). Interestingly (and sadly), they combined for 19 of the Warriors 23 made freethrows; those free throws at the end really mattered too in the 4th as the Spur even led at one point (and the Warriors shooting poorly for a bit) but couldn't seem to keep their hands to themselves. When will the Warriors attack the basket more, getting them some trips to the charity stripe? When will they listen to the gospel of Jim Barnett and even out that free throw disparity that opponents use to kill them almost every game? Or create open shots through better ball movement or movement without the ball? Do the Warriors believe, as JB (or was it Bloodsweatanddonuts) alluded to in a recent comment, that throwing up threes will open up the lane like a balanced running game will open up the passing attack?
Even Jessica Alba is disgusted with the poor ball movement. Or she wonders why she and Cash are having that baby...
Anyway, Jackson and Davis were two of six people in double figures. Biedrins, one of those six, had another solid game. His offensive repertoire has improved and he seems more patient and confident in the lower block, up to what looks to be 6 feet from the basket (twice his game last year). He moved well without the ball a few times, finding open spots when teammates drove. Further, team defense improved some this game as well as boxing out, which no longer forced Biedrins to fend off 3 opponents to grab the board. But was it a little disconcerting to hear Barnett and Fitz mention how Biedrins struggles physically and tires quickly against larger centers? There are quite a few centers out there that are bigger and stronger than him; Biedrins build doesn't necessarily scream center either. And if his game is improving like it has been the last few games, we're definitely going to need him on the court longer than the 26-30 minutes a night that he's usually getting (40 last night). It's evident that he's feeling comfortable offensively and slowly blossoming into the player that a lot of us hope for, but will that offset the defensive liabilities that he might create (perhaps Amare Stoudemire is a good example of this).
But the most important stat of last nite might have to be this:
Though Udoka took on the role of potential Warrior Killer, it was nice to know that some completely random scrub didn't cost the Warriors the game. Maybe the Warriors have made some adjustments....?
The battle between the top rate point guards lived up to the hype, more so than my Manu vs. Monta flop-fest. Baron Davis deserves the Warrior Wonder for providing some clutch shooting when it counts and for making those free throws. Thank you!!! It was Baron Davis' party and he had +14 vip guests, as he found hooked up his friends for easy buckets, netting 14 assists to go with his 34 points and 6 boards.
Mini trivia: Can you find all the weather related references?
Photos by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images, Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images, and AP Photo/Ben Margot