RECAP: Warriors 114, Mavs 104 - Time to 'Step up'

Final Yahoo! boxscore

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Top flight point guards are a must in this league

It's March Madness and the Warriors improved their chances by making it to the NBA versions of the big 'dance.'  The Warriors 'took it to the streets' last night.  If the Warriors were Omarion and Marques Houston, then the Mavs were those nameless kids with the overly spikey hair from the OC (why is it that they have to make the white kids have really spikey hair?).  Meaning?  Those suckas (Mavs) got served!

This game already had that playoff atmosphere to it, even without Dirk Nowitski to emotionally dismantle.  The teams went at each other in the second half with the lead barely extending beyond a few points; not only that but there were tons of highlight worthy plays that us Warrior fans were accustomed to seeing in last season's playoff series versus the Mavs.  From Azubuike's clutch jumpers towards the end of the game to Monta's slice and dicing into the paint like he was the "Miracle blades" -- as seen on TV! -- the Warriors made like Channing Tatum and had to 'step up' to the occasion.  

It wasn't all pretty; the narrative to this game pretty much followed the generic conventions of these horrible dance movies that we all privately go see (or rent) without telling anyone.  The Warriors looked a lot like the lead characters, ala, Channing Tatum, Julia Styles, Omarion and Marques Houston, and that new no name girl in Step Up 2: The Streetz! in that they were broken down early and in the end had to redeem themselves for whatever moral and ethical issue that they struggled from early on (you know, like not being able to hip-hop dance in public).  The Warriors found themselves in a familiar place, being down big early on only to battle back and claim their spot as a contender in the playoff hunt.  Now that's 'taking it to the streets!'

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Monta finds seams like he's a seamstress

It dawned upon me during the 4th quarter that the Warriors seem to have memory lapses or lapses in focus throughout the game. The team doesn't just struggle, its more like they forget what they are supposed to do. As Jim Barnett continuously suggested throughout the game and probably something that we all notice is that there is 'too much standing around.'  The offensive 'scene' is as if there was an accident on the freeway and all the cars nearly stop and drive slowly to see what's going on (which is everyone else watching Baron or Stephen Jackson throw it up with like 2 seconds left).  But in the 4th quarter with about 6 minutes left, you hear Nellie waving his arms and yelling loudly "CUT! CUT! CUT!"  At that moment, with all the Warriors standing around the 3 point line, finally Azubuike makes his move through the paint and people begin to rotate a bit, which ended up leading to an easy bucket.  Shooting threes maybe integral to the Warriors offense, but there needs to be motion on offense to get the defense on its heels or out of the grills of our best shooters.  It makes you wonder if the Warriors just forget to move, don't want to, or potentially have some ballhog-ish teammates.  

The only reason I say this is just for the ease the Warriors by which they scored last night when they dedicated themselves to cutting and passing.  Easy buckets were had by both Biedrins and Harrington in the post when the Warriors rotated the ball (quickly), able to get defenses a little off balance.  The Warriors got sloppy on offense (and not to mention defense, which I'll mention later) midway through the third, chucking threes and long twos with lots of time on the clock.  There was several painful to watch Stephen Jackson-and-Baron Davis-drain-the-clock-through-excessive-dribbling- leading-to-turnovers.  Granted, no team is perfect for all 48 minutes.   Its just extremely frustrating to see the complete opposite ends of the spectrum within the same game or even within the same quarter.  

Monta came up big time again last night pouring in 30 points on 50% shooting, dazzling us as usual.  He's come a LONG way since the beginning of the season where he only knew how to drive to the hoop in a straight line, getting at least 3 charge calls a night.  Throughout the season, Monta has apparently developed some handles, particularly a crossover to the lefthand, which has allowed him to shift directions and maneuver past his opponents instead of just barreling straight into them.  For the summer, I would love to see Monta really work on his handles some; coupled with his speed, better handles might really make those Allen Iverson comparisons legit as far as scoring goes.  

Azubuike came up huge again tonight.  Was anyone thrown off by his fist pumping twirl after he swished in a three late in the 4th?  It was shocking to see the emotional outburst that was further embodied by his mildly furrowed brow.  The Warriors desperately need his help off the bench both in scoring and spelling the starters during this stretch run.   The Warriors have suddenly become increasingly thin at the bench; they're going to continually need Azubuike's 15 and 7 every night.  

Biedrins:  What has happened to you?  You can't knock Biedrin's hustle on the boards.  You can see his length really come into play as he gobbled up rebounds from the Mavs even with three of them swarming him.  He got several offensive boards and was probably the only Warrior, at least in the second half, to attack to go to the basket after a missed shot, leading to a few nice putback dunks.  You can tell that Croshere has been mentoring Biedrins a bit given the ways that Biedrins extends his legs widely and even hangs a bit on the rim with those dunks now.  Biedrins' style on the court is finally matching his street clothes smoothness on the bench.  

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Bass doing his Amare Stoudemire impression, while Biedrins impersonates himself circa his rookie season

BUT, Brandon Bass just dominated him last night.  Biedrins 16 and 14 are nice, but not when the person matched up with you is putting up more, especially if Bass is just an average bench player at best.  Repeatedly in the 3rd and 4th quarter, the Mavs went to Bass who pummeled anyone guarding him (usually Biedrins), getting himself 12 free throw opportunities.  Perhaps Biedrins is still getting his sexyback, but Bass looked like Amare Stoudemire with better fundamentals.   At only 6'8 but a muscular 240, Bass made Biedrins' length practically negligible, taking him off the dribble or kissing shots off the glass from 10 feet out.  There was seriously nothing Biedrins could do to stop Bass en route to his new career high of 21 points.  Maybe its just undersized 4s that are the give him problems.  At this point, Biedrins is looking like a really poor one on one defender if Brandon Bass, et al are giving him this many problems.

Overall though, its nice to see the Warriors grind out this win against a very solid team with or without Dirk (and other Warrior-killer Jerry Stackhouse).   Good things happen when they attack the basket (36 free throw attempts) and forego the 3pt shot (a relatively low 21 attempts)!  Knowing the Warriors and hearing Don Nelson scream from the sidelines to cut, so loud it was super audible through the weak speakers on my Dynex television, lets hope the Warriors have been disciplined enough throughout the season to make smarter decisions on offense.  This win puts the Warriors in a better position -- lets hope they can keep it up against the playoff ready Spurs and Hornets!

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Although Monta is the obvious choice, I'm going to have to go with Azubuike.  Playing some heavy minutes tonight, Azubuike has played out of his mid-season slump and not a minute too soon.  The Warriors need his rebounding at the guard spots in addition to his shooting that we witnessed earlier in the season, especially off the bench as teams have begun to key in on the Warriors own 'big three.'  


(Photos by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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