Phew. Breathe. Who would have thought the Warriors would be down 14 to the worst team in the league and be trailing by 8 at the half? Not me. A loss tonight would have been downright embarrassing and it nearly happened. In his post-game interview, Al Harrington put it best:
Tonight, that's exactly what happened. 1, 2, 3, JUMP!
Coasting in the First Half
Can a team play any more lifeless than the Warriors did in the first half? It looked like the Warriors were too cocky or thought themselves to be too good in really bringing it tonight. The offense was there, but the typical scrambling, havoc-causing defense was nowhere to be found. M.I.A. They just let the Wolves have anything they wanted on offense.
The Wolves were the team with all the energy, life in their legs, and fire in their belly. The young guns were playing well and gaining confidence as their lead grew and they held the lead longer. Gerald Green was knocking down jumpers even with his headband worn all funky. Rashad McCants was not only scoring but setting up teammates. The Craig Smith-Al Jefferson combo was scoring in the post. Nellie was trying to mix and match lineups to get some sort of life out there - nothing seemed to work. In the first half, the Twolves had, I think, 2 turnovers. TWO! This is a team with a backup point guard (Telfair) starting and a two guard who averages 1.8 assists (McCants) taking over the point guard duties. How many ball handlers could there be out there?
Despite the poor play, the Warriors got a late surge at the end of the 2nd quarter, punctuated by a Baron 3 to cut the lead to 8 and finally show some life heading into the tunnel for halftime.
Nellie's Halftime Speech
"&#$%, $%@, #$%@, and you better start %#$@$@$ playing defense.
Now let's hold hands and sing Kumbaya."
I have no idea what Nellie said at halftime or if he said anything at all, but that locker room could not have been a nice place to be. Down 8 to a team that may not win double digit games? Shudder. Perhaps Nellie's pre-game speech didn't quite light that ass on fire (I'm sure Busta and Pharrell didn't mean it this way), but his halftime speech sure did.
Let's play some Warriors basketball!
For this team, it all starts and ends with defense. Everyone talks about their offense, all the 3's, the fast breaks, the layups, but it really does all start on the defensive side of the ball. If the Warriors shut people down, they get more rebounds, leading to more fast breaks and chances at keeping the game uptempo. When the Warriors are active on defense and the guards dig down on the post players for steals or people step in the passing lanes for deflections, they get easy buckets. Being active on defense gives the team the energy it needs to just blow teams out of the water. When it happens like it did in the 3rd quarter, it's a beautiful thang. The Warriors outscored the Wolves 37-17 in the quarter and essentially won the game in the quarter. The Warriors started the quarter down 8, but wound up finishing the quarter up 12 and with a W safe in hand.
The entire team stepped up their D in the 3rd quarter with everyone scrambling and moving their feet. Baron who was guarding Telfair would just leave Telfair to double down on the big man Jefferson or Smith and leave Telfair WIDE OPEN. The ball never rotated over to Telfair and so the Warriors were essentially playing 5 on 4 on defense. Baron harassed the big men with his double teams, didn't let them catch the ball deep in the post, and made sure they thought twice about dribbling.
The other player that stepped up his D was Monta. He drew two legitimate charges (not his usual flops). One was on Telfair who is super quick. I have to say that in order to take a charge on Telfair on the perimeter you have to be ultra quick moving your feet. That's exactly what Monta did. Usually, I'm not always too happy with his one on one perimeter D, but tonight he was finally using the quickness he shows on offense and applying it to the defensive end. What's more is that in this 3rd quarter, he seemed to hit everything. His mid-range jumper is money right now. It feels like he makes 75% of his mid-range jumpers. He's tough to challenge on the perimeter because he's so quick you have to give him a little extra space and he elevates high enough on his jumper that he gets a good look. Seems like every week he's improving some aspect of his game.
I couldn't finish this section without a bit of Al Harrington love. He carried the offense in the quarter and the players were more than happy to keep feeding his hot hand. He knocked down a couple three's, took the ball to the hole, and got his post up game on.
I guess I expected him to be Dwight Howard-lite after all the hype about him. I was underwhelmed. It was like going to watch a movie that everyone is raving about only to find that while the movie was good, it just didn't match the hype. No doubt about it, the guy is skilled and is going to be a very good big man for his career. He is elusive in the post, very strong, and uses his body well. In this game at least, I just didn't see that spark, that special quality you see from some of the All-Stars. Yea he's only 22 and it's only one game, but does anyone disagree with this statement? He will be a good player, but never make an All-Star team. Maybe I'm crazy, he did just drop 24-14.
The Warriors were able to win this game with a magnificent 3rd quarter. They essentially played only one really good quarter. The 4th was uninspiring because they couldn't put the Twolves away. Playing well for just one quarter is simply unacceptable. They're going to lose games if they keep this up and honestly, it seems like it's happening more and more often. They have to consistently put a full game together in order to be a top team. The talent is there, I'm just waiting for the heart and energy to consistently show up.
Baron played 42 minutes tonight. That should not have happened, but it had to in order to win the game. Nellie's going to probably keep him out of practice the next 2 days leading up to the Nets-Cavs back to back. I think Nellie tried tonight to see if Marco could contribute some solid minutes and figure out if he can spell any of the guards. Nope, not tonight at least. But, it looks like Nellie is going to give him some PT in order to see if he can get anything out of Marco. Tonight, there was nothing, maybe this weekend, he puts some more crooked numbers in the box score. Mullin's going to have to go get a backup PG if for nothing other than to run the offense in practice because Baron will be resting, he ain't practicing.
Al Harrington: He made shot after shot after shot after shot on his way to 14 points in the 3rd quarter. He finished with 25 and barely played in the 4th. He carried the team offensively tonight and was the main reason for the 20 point differential in the 3rd quarter.