Kay Slay should be the Warriors mascot. The DRAMA KING!
The Warriors are action like Van Damme movies, suspense (and sexy) like (old school) Sharon Stone flicks, and drama like Kay Slay. Not only that, but there’s enough history between the Warriors and Wizards that goes back "ever since ‘honeys was wearin'’ (Vidal) Sassoon.’
The Warriors didn’t just do the impossible; it should really be called the idiotic. Though the Warriors are battling injuries of their own, they struggled against a team that was without their top three players (wow, déjà vu). Perhaps the fear of getting chewed out by Nellie was what sparked their interest with the game on the line. Or maybe it was having to come to terms with the embarrassment that Roger Mason Jr. and Brendan Haywood (Ostertag 2.0) were going to be ESPN highlight worthy. At any rate, coming back from 23 down is not exactly a great game plan.
As Atma highlighted in his excellent interview with Mike Prada from Bullets Forever, the trade history between these two teams is deep. Would those histories prove to be more hype than actual drama? Well, Webber was pretty much a non-presence in the game. There were not shots of Mitch Richmond at all. Antawn Jamison quietly and unconventionally did his thing as always. Gilbert Arenas had a fly suit on and was seen jawing off on the sidelines after his interview, which was confusing. Yet, the ghosts of Warriors past haunting the Oracle were sideline to the Warrior Killers of the present.
As usual, the first half was unbearable. It was absolutely quiet -- from what I heard through the TV -- in the Oracle. A friend called from the game to tell me there was more action in the Smirnoff lounge than the actual game. Without Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas, and Antonio Daniels, Roger Mason Jr. and DeShawn Stevenson made it look as if they were still there. The Warriors failed -- and frequently -- to fight over screen giving both Mason Jr. and Stevenson more than enough space to drop in jumpers from deep with ease. Mason looked like the real deal as he scored with an assortment of drives and jumpers. Even when sagging on the screens, they Warriors failed to stop the drive, which yielded easy jams for Brendan Haywood on multiple occasions. Who the hell is Roger Mason Jr. anyway?
Introducing ... Roger Mason Jr.
Well…Roger Mason Jr. coincidentally was also picked in the 2nd round, number 30th overall JUST like the man he replaced in the Wizards starting lineup, Gilbert Arenas. Coincidence? He’s billed as a scorer -- a slasher even. His favorite dish is Chicken Alfredo. BUT, his favorite home cooked meal is lasagna. Can you say he’s got a fetish for Italian cuisine? If you want to get to know him more, just click here.
Roger Mason Jr. ALSO loves nice cars!
Anyway, turnovers were plenty in the first half. The offense was inept with the exceptions of Harrington and Monta. Harrington did an amazing job keeping the Warriors within 20 with his array of post moves and threes. It was nice seeing Harrington finish strong, slamming it in the grill of whoever was guarding him. Monta, too, has improved his abilities to finish at the rim this season.
The king of unorthodoxy challenges shooting normativity against the Warriors
...also teaching youngsters like Nick Young how to score as well. This is why veteran presence matters.
Flashing forward to the 4th (since the 2nd and 3rd quarters featured more of the same), the Warriors began moving the ball effectively and found ways to cool Roger Mason Jr. by actually getting in his grill on defense. DeShawn Stevenson looked like he was fearing the return of Arenas and thankfully looked to shoot whenever he could, dribbling out the clock only to throw up a wild runner in the lane on several occasions. The defense picked up some though Nick Young had a series of nice drives and jumpers, seemingly picking up where Roger Mason Jr. left off in the first half.
But the Warriors made several defensive stops and actually started rebounding both on the offensive and defensive end as Barnes, Harrington and Biedrins were tapping it out for long rebounds. With 30 seconds left and the Warriors only up by two, Stevenson ran down a long rebound, but Monta didn’t give up, tipping it out of his hand and having it bounce off Stevenson’s back and out of bounds. The Warriors battled hard for second chance opportunities and its this type of rebounding tenacity that has been missing all season. The Warriors finally started moving the ball effectively, swinging it around or setting up Harrington on the block to do his damage against the unseasoned Andray Blatche.
When Jax is happy, the Warriors are happy
Stephen Jackson has also looked like he is emerging as the team leader. Not just an emotional spark plug, Jackson, in recent games and particularly last night, played within himself. He’s not just making his shots, but he’s taking a lot more high percentage shots (44-86 in the last 5 games, 16-37 from 3). He’s been much more patient on the offensive end, looking for flow rather than just taking it one on five each time. If Jackson continues his recent play, he definitely deserving of some MVP considerations. But you know how that voting goes and a player flashing a piece is practically equivalent to the scarlet letter for life.
We’re on pace to finish 49 to 50 games at this point, but to struggle with focus issues against mediocre teams just won’t cut it against a stacked Western conference. Biedrins and Webber were in there for a split second together and I’m curious to see what that might look like against the Utahs, Nuggets, and Lakers if Webber can get into game shape. His weight has inflated like his former girlfriend Tyra.
The Warrior Wonder for last night's game is obvious. Austin Croshere. Just kidding, it's Stephen Jackson. Though he doesn't necessarily start games well, he definitely knows how to finish them (which is what matters right?). Nellie has found a way to transform Jackson's energy into productivity: 41 points on 11-18 shooting and 15-17 from the line. Stats aside, Jackson's controlled demeanor has not meant diminishing intensity.
Photos courtesy of Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images