Warriors 107 - Jazz 100
Blog Buddy: SLC Dunk
The Mississippi Bullet doesn't have the right ring. I've spend enough time in Mississippi (not much) to know how unfortunate it is to be saddled with a moniker connecting one to the state that makes Arkansas look great. Sure, the general lack of any other "Monta" means he's unlikely to be confused with your garden variety average NBA player, but still for one as widely regarded as the Golden State Warriors' star, Monta Ellis has been sorely lacking an acceptable nickname.
It's time he got a good one.
If the majority of the last month of play has shown us anything, it's that Monta Ellis is driven. Whether he'd admit to it or not, he's hurt by the lack of consideration for this weekend's festivities in LA. But rather than crawl away, he's taken the opportunity to shine against winning teams and certain All-Stars. His play of late is speaking louder than any nod in the NBA's mid-season popularity contest. He's letting his game tell it.
Monta Ellis. The Statement.
There haven't been too many 'round these parts who have been more critical of Monta Ellis than myself. 25.5 points per game a year ago? Superficially impressive, it hardly warranted "star status" as the high shot volume dramatically inflated the figure. Couple that with an extraordinarily high number of turnovers, and it should not be a surprise that the team performed better in his absence. And while most of this season has seen some oscillation between the ball-hoggedly shot-happy 2009-10 model and the efficient lightning quick off the ball score threat model that earned him his present contract, things are changing within Monta's game.
And that change is good. Monta's shooting is dramatically improved from what it was a year ago. He is enough of threat from behind the arc to warrant taking the shot and to warrant being covered when he tries it. And while he's had ups and downs this year, the trend of late looks promising, more willing to pass and more patient with his shot. He now sees the picks developing to get him free for clean looks and open paths to the basket, more able to tell when he has the one on one duals that he's likely to win instead of the blind one on three rush into traffic that seldom results in success. The team is now beginning to win, and he's a very large part of the reason why.
Does it sting him that he's now had the better night in a winning cause against All-Star guards Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, and now Deron Williams? "We got to treat this game like it's an All-Star game...I mean, uh, a playoff game." The stumble of speech was telling. The omission stings. But if he continues to play like he has of late, playoff games could likely follow.
While last night's game was a more balanced effort, there was a much clearer focus to tonight's triumph. The defense was there when it needed to be. When we needed them Andris Biedrins' secured valuable rebounds in the 4th quarter to keep it close contact. Certainly Dorell Wright's efficient and effective contribution was key. Without a doubt Reggie Williams' 15 off the bench was more than welcome with Curry's off performance. Williams managed to outscore the Jazz bench by himself. A group effort kept the Jazz's backcourt ace from torching us. Deron's 18 points and 11 assists was considerably better than Chris Paul's outing against Golden State the night before, but it's a pretty typical night for him. He wasn't allowed to explode as he has in earlier matchups. And just when it looked like Monta's mission might go to waste, when Utah has pulled within a possession with less than a minute to go, Stephen Curry sealed a clock milking possession with a thrilling drive around the right, finishing an up and under reverse layup for his only basket of the evening. If you watched closely, you even saw some solid productive minutes by Brandan Wright.
But watching the game, you noticed Monta, noticed him for all the right reasons. His game made a statement. It took 6 wins in 8 outings against winning teams this month to get there. It's taken a team playing like a team, a real basketball team. Win 26 came 27 games earlier than it did a year ago.
There will be more.