By Geoff Lepper
Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 11:31 pm in Monta Ellis.
As Monta Ellis took two quick-step dribbles and pulled up to drain another 18-foot jumper, you couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere in Mississippi, a former high-school opponent of Ellis’ was yelling at his TV, trying to tell New Jersey’s Richard Jefferson — or Minnesota’s Sebastian Telfair, or Cleveland’s Daniel Gibson — “Now you know how I felt!”
That’s how dominant Ellis has looked lately with his mid-range game. My Dean Mob colleagues Glenn Reeves and Adam Lauridsen have already covered this ground, but it bears repeating, especially because it was the topic of the day at practice this afternoon: Ellis is just killing people from 15 to 20 feet.
I asked Ellis if he thought the guys he used to torment in the Jackson Public Schools league could commiserate with Jefferson, Telfair or Gibson.
“Anybody that really knows me, and knows basketball in Mississippi, they’re not surprised at all,” Ellis said.
And as for the scoring (24.0 points per game) and field-goal percentage (59.7 percent) over the Warriors’ last five games, Ellis deferred the credit to the guys working with him in pick-and-roll situations, such as center Andris Biedrins.
“Him, BD, Al (Harrington), everybody who comes and sets a screen sets it so good I have that shot open all the time,” Ellis said. “The gap is so big, you don’t have a choice but to take that shot. And that’s my shot. It just takes the concentration and confidence to knock it down. . . . If you look at it, it ain’t nothing but the high school 3-point line. That’s it.”
That’s important, because Ellis — a career 29.1 percent shooter from distance — has stopped jacking up treys, averaging just over one per game. That’s a almost 50 percent decrease over the previous two seasons.
“Our team, we’ve got a lot of great 3-point shooters,” Ellis said. “They don’t need for me to shoot the 3 when I’ve got the ability to get past the guy and go to the basket and finish. That just allows me (to take) an 18-20 foot jump shot or get to the basket. That’s it. I get my 3-point plays like that.”
It doesn’t hurt that Ellis is showing simply phenomenal quickness with the ball right now.
“I think Monta’s the fastest guy in the league on the open floor,” Warriors forward Matt Barnes said. “Tony Parker is fast, and there’s a couple other guys that are fast, but in the open court, (Ellis) will start at half-court and he’ll beat someone from the free-throw line to the basket. He’s a hard guy to cover.”
Nevertheless, teams have got to find a way to stop Ellis if they want to derail a Warriors team that has won 17 of 23. Are double-teams the answer? Or will they come up with some other plan?
“They might (double-team), and when they do, trust me, we’ve got a counter for it,” Ellis said. “I can’t let you know what the secret is, but we’ve got a counter for it. We watch film just like they watch film.”