Story of the night was obvious. The Warriors got torched by Brandon Jennings.
Guys have big games against the Warriors all the time. But this time, it was a huge number. This time it was a by a rookie point guard, one they could have drafted. The significance can not go understated.
* Most points by a rookie since Earl “The Pearl” dropped 56 in an OT game on Feb. 13, 1968.
* Most points by a player under 21 since LeBron scored 56 in March, 2005.
* Most points by a Bucks rookie, topping Kareem’s 51 on Feb. 21, 1970
* He was a 3-pointer shy – he made 7 of 8 – of tying Wilt’s record for most points by a rookie ever. (Rick Barry had 57 at New York as a rookie in Dec. of 1965
* That was the fifth-most points ever scored against the Warriors. Elgin Baylor had 63 in triple OT (Dec. ’61). Wilt had 62 (when he was with Philly, March ’66). Downtown Freddie Brown had 58 (March ’74). Tom Chambers (Feb. ’90) and Karl Malone (April ’98) each had 56.
Some class Jennings is in.
ACIE LAW: “We were at his mercy. There was nothing we could do.”
Actually, there was something the Warriors could have done.
But, first, for those who didn’t see it …
So, as great as Jennings was, it was largely due to the Warriors’ ineptitude on defense. Surely, they got caught in the moment, like deer in headlights. But Nellie couldn’t push the right buttons to get this guy off his game.
He was 4-for-13 at the half with 10 points. But he noticed a flaw in the Warriors’ defense.
JENNINGS: “The Warriors kept going under the screens and in the first half, I wasn’t taking advantage of it. In the second half, I thought they were going to keep going under screens and I am just going to shoot it until it goes into the basket and luckily I hit the first two and it seemed like the rim kept getting bigger and bigger and I couldn’t miss.”
So, what could the Warriors have done? Chase him off the line! Go above the screen, force him to drive and make someone else, you know, someone for whom the rim doesn’t look like an ocean, beat you by making shots. Jennings made 21 of 34 shots (61.8 percent). Clearly anyone else shooting the ball is a better option. Run a trap at him if you have to.
Another thing the Warriors could’ve done? Knock him on his backside. Is that too old school? (where is Matt Barnes when you need him) Once Jax got matched up with Jennings on a switch. He smothered him and bodied him. Curry did the same on a couple of occasions and it worked. Or, just hit him with hard foul, try to break his rhythm.
JACKSON: “We could have been more aggressive on him and get the ball out of his hands. You can’t let anybody in this league come off the pick-and-roll and hit pull up shots. You’ve got make him uncomfortable and make him do something he’s not used to doing.”
The Warriors, though, were playing defense with pride. Nellie was assigning one guy to try and stay and front. And they were switching screens. They played right into his hands. Jennings is to quick and crafty for an average-at-best defender to stay in front of. And he’s way too quick for the forward who’s supposed to hold him up for a second while the guard gets back to Jennings by going under the screen.
What makes this so crazy is that Jennings had 10 at half time – all in the second quarter. So had 55 in three quarters. He made 12 straight in the third quarter. His 29 points was the most ever scored against the Warriors in a quarter. Voshon, with Denver then, went for 26 in a quarter at Oracle in 2003. He finished with 38. I remember that game. He was hot, but he had nothing on Jennings.
Remember, this was Jenning’s seventh career game.
NELSON: “Well, what a performance. Holy smokes. I think that’s probably the best rookie performance I’ve ever witnessed in my 30-some years of coaching. We tried to handle him every way possible, really.”
Well, not really.
The other major occurrence on Saturday came with 17.7 seconds left on the clock.
Monta Ellis had nailed a 3-pointer to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 124-121 with 29.3 seconds left. The Warriors forced a back-court violation. Down 3, Nellie put Morrow in the game. Moments later, Maggette scored a lay-up to make the score 124-123 Bucks with 19.4 seconds left.
Luke Ridnour was fouled intentionally and missed the second free throw, setting the Warriors up for a chance to steal the game. After a timeout, the Warriors had a set-up of Morrow and Maggette, who had been effective out of the high post, on the right side.
Morrow, who faked a 3-pointer (he must’ve pump-faked himself out of 10 looks Saturday night, like he’s scared to shoot) and gave it to Maggette. Ridnour, who was guarding Morrow, collapsed onto Maggette, who then passed the ball back out to Morrow. Ridnour closed well, but Morrow, after a dribble, jacked up a 3-pointer that banked off the back rim. Jennings grabbed the rebound with 10.3 seconds left and was fouled.
Yup, all that — bringing t took 7.4 seconds. Sounds rushed, huh? It was.
Nellie said the play was designed to get a look at a 3-pointer. But if it wasn’t there, the ball was supposed to go to Monta and have him drive to the basket. But Morrow said he was thinking “go for the win” all the way. This is what happens when the best shooter on the team gets 3 shots in 20 minutes, and then is put in the game down the stretch when you need a basket – he feels like he has to make something happen.
MORROW: “Obviously it was a tough shot. It was a contested shot but I felt like on a fake and pass to Corey, when I came back off, I felt like I had a good look. It was a tough situation coming off the bench in that situation. I thank God coach has enough confidence in me to give me that last shot.”
“I was thinking ‘get the win.’ But at the time, that was the best shot … That’s a shot I would shoot if it was in the middle of the second or third quarter. That was a normal shot.”
“(Ridnour) recovered back, but at the same time, that was the best look I was going to get in the situation, maybe the best look we were going to get in the possession. Just try to take the best shot possible. I don’t like to take bad shots. Obviously, people know that. I try to play within the offense. I felt like it was a good shot. Just missed it.”
Monta Ellis is making $11 million a year and has been pretty good at getting to the cup and getting a good look. He certainly did Saturday, scoring 26 on 11-for-19 shooting. Corey Maggette is making $10 a year and was in a nice rhythm. He even knocked down a couple threes, totaling 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting with 4 assists. Jackson wasn’t on Saturday (21 points on 8-for-17 shooting), but he’s experienced in the situation of making plays down the stretch. Stephen Curry is a rookie, but he’s the best thing the Warriors have as far as a true point guard. C.J. Watson made plenty big shots for the Warriors last year, most of which he got for himself (he was sick Saturday night, however).
So why in the world is Morrow being asked to make a decision and a play? Why put the ball in his hands and ask him to weigh the options and make the right play? I don’t fault Morrow so much for not knowing the right thing to do in that situation. He did what he knows how to do. Shoot. But what happened to putting players in the best situation to succeed? I can see the designed play having him on the finishing end. But having him create the shot?
Maybe Morrow went rogue. Maybe he was supposed to give it up and didn’t. But why is he in that position. Seems like he should be spotting up while someone else creates his shot for him.
I think Jackson agrees.
JACKSON: “All I know is that I’m one of the best scorers on the team, and I was taking the ball out. That’s all I know. My job was to pass the ball inbounds. When you’re in the huddle at the end of the game, you pay attention to what you’re supposed to do. You don’t want to be the one who messes up. My job was to get the ball inbounds, and I did a great job.”
Say what you want about Curry, but he showed some life Saturday. He clearly wasn’t in Jennings’ stratosphere. But he went at Jennings, even ripped him once. Curry was 6-for-9 with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, a turnover and a block in 26 minutes. Not a bad stat line. The 5 fouls is becoming typical, however. But if he is going to be on the court, and thrive, he’s going to have to return to be more than just a distributor on offense.
Monta Ellis went 3-for-4 from the line. The last time he made 3-pointers in a game was Nov. 6, 2007. He was 3-for-4 from 3 in a home loss to Cleveland. He’s made a 3-pointers in a game six times in his career.