Too much AI
What a frustrating game. When you put up 120 points, you usually expect to win. But when the other team shoots 51% and goes to the line nearly 36 times, you're going to have a tough time winning. As Fitz seems to say too often, "This is the best that the (Insert Team Name) can play." That's what happened tonight, the Nuggets played very well and shot the lights out. It seemed like they could do anything at will. The Warriors should have been blown out considering how hot the Nuggets were. What could have won the game? What kept the Warriors in the game? Find out after the jump.
Foul! AI's still at the free throw line right now.
Where was the D?
What could have won the game?
Simply put, defense. The Warriors played man to man defense nearly the entire game. There was no trapping, no swarming, no double teaming, just straight up man to man. Playing AI and Melo one on one is exactly what Denver wants you to do and it's not the style of defense I'm accustomed to seeing the Warriors play. Nobody can guard AI or Melo one on one, they're just too good of scorers. You might stop them a few times, but eventually they'll get their buckets. With that man to man defense against guards who can penetrate, you need an enforcer down low someone like, I don't know, Marcus Camby. The Warriors don't have that guy who blocks or at least makes you change your shot. Biedrins is the closest thing but I don't see anyone being intimidated or think twice about driving the lane with him in there. So why not run that chaotic, scrambling defense that we've seen before? Make someone else beat you.
In the first few quarters, with Melo using the post so often, after Barnes and Pietrus had their turns of guarding him unsuccessfully, throw a second defender at him in the post. Make him a passer. He had all of 0 assists for the entire game. For a guy who touches the ball so many times, he just doesn't want to pass, so make him pass.
I can understand not doing double teaming for the first 3 quarters since the Warriors kept it close and saving it for the 4th quarter so that the Nuggets have less time to figure out how to adjust to it. Here's my plan for the 4th. With Melo sitting out with 5 fouls, double team AI every time he touches the ball. Again, make someone else beat you. Make AI into a passer rather than a scorer. I would much rather have Linas Kleiza, Eduardo Najera, Nene, Marcus Camby, Anthony Carter, and Chucky Atkins beat me than let AI continue to draw fouls and score all the points from the free throw line. He played a great game and I think the Warriors let him do it. If Chucky Atkins goes off for 20, I'm okay with that. He's not going to do that very often, so I'll take my chances that he won't do it this time. Just don't continually play man defense on AI and let him drive at will.
I'm sure other teams have tried the double team tactic, and it doesn't always work. But I think you have to switch up your D when it's as porous as it was. Monta and Jax couldn't stay in front of AI and Pietrus and Barnes could defend Melo. Hopefully Nellie tries something else on Sunday or else it could really turn into a blowout.
On a side note, I'm just throwing this out there, but with the Nuggets style of play on offense, it makes me wonder whether or not they're a better team with both AI and Melo on the team. That offense is not based on movement, it's based on AI and Melo going one on one while everyone watches and then Marcus Camby collecting some offensive rebounds. They had 13 assists on 43 made shots whereas the Warriors had 29 assists on 44 made shots. It doesn't feel like the two superstars play off of each other, rather they take turns scoring. If they're always going one on one, does that really utilize the other guy's talent as much as it should? Having AI there when Melo was in foul trouble was huge for them tonight, but in the long run let's say you trade AI for a dead eye spot up shooting guard and/or a penetrating, pass first PG. The Nuggets are pretty poor shooting 3 point team (Eduardo Najera leads them in 3pt %). Build around Melo's game rather than the your turn, my turn, offense right now. Does that make them a better team?
What kept the Warriors in the game?
There were two things aside from Baron that kept the Warriors in the game tonight. The first was the offensive rebounding, 19 offensive rebounds! The Warriors really hit the glass hard offensively. Since they weren't shooting nearly as well as the Nuggets, they offset that with just getting more shots off. They also did a great job taking care of the ball, no travelling, charges or passes out of bounds. Basically, they made the most of those offensive rebounds given that they were shooting in the 30's for most of the game.
The second thing that kept the Warriors close were the 3 pointers. They shot 14-36 from 3, good for 38.9%. They were just one wide open Stephen Jackson 3 from taking the lead in the final seconds. If he hits we have an entirely different ballgame. But he shot it long and that was the game. Here's where the 3's helped. There were so many times the Nuggets made their run to push the lead to 6 or 9 and the Warriors would fire back with a made 3 to keep the game manageable. The 3's kept the game close. I don't think we can have it both ways with this team where sometimes they let loose and shoot 3's, and other times they have to be conservative. These were wide open three's they were taking, they just missed too many of them. This team thrives on the 3 and when they shoot it at nearly 40%, you take it. The 3's kept the game close and they were able to get so many more offensive opportunities because of the offensive rebounding.
- Denver just swarms you when you drive. Seemed like every time the Warriors drove the lane there were 2 or 3 Denver bigs waiting to block the shot. Camby, Nene, Melo, Kleiza, and Najera clogged up the lane and made it difficult for the Warriors penetration tonight.
- Kelenna had some big rebounds. He just seems to get up higher than anyone and always catches the ball at the height of his jumps. When he's routinely mixing it up on the boards, we're a better team.
- Monta had an off night and we needed him to score. He missed his midrange jumpers that he had been hitting the past 5 or so games. Did this make Jax to think he had to shoot more shots even though he was shooting poorly? Maybe.
- Milk carton: Al Harrington. I thought he had a chance to have a big game with Camby guarding him. Had a lot of open looks from 3 but didn't knock down any. He was brought off the bench to give the bench some spark and didn't do it.
- Even with Al going 5-15, Monta 5-16, Jax 9-27, the game was still close. Thank the offensive boards and the made 3's.
- Same ol' Pietrus. Just doesn't seem to know how to play within the system such as where he's supposed to be on defense and offense.
- Biedrins played well. I thought they could have gone to him more in the post against Najera and Nene especially with Al, Monta, and Jax shooting the high volume of shots at a low percentage.
Baron excited about another Warrior Wonder
Baron Davis: Baron just does it all. Scores, runs the offense, plays great D. When he was matched up on AI in the 4th, the Warriors made a little run to come back. When he was matched up on Melo twice in the final minutes, he forced Melo into two misses that allowed the Warriors to tie the game. I wish he took that last shot instead of passing out to Kaz, but it led to a wide open 3 for Jax. Can't argue with the shot we got, it's just that I would rather have Baron take a driving layup. Magnificent game from Baron with his 29 points (10-17), 13 assists, and 5 boards.