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Game #14 (5-9): Spurs 118, Warriors 104

Monta Ellis can make scoring look effortless sometimes. When his shot is falling, especially. Get him a better handle, and he’d be Dwyane Wade, a lighter version anyway.

No matter the circumstances, 42 points on 25 shots is good. But when you throw in the fact that Ellis came into the game having played 48 minutes in consecutive games, and he was staring at 48 minutes in San Antonio, 42 points on 25 shots is really impressive.

ELLIS: “Hey, I’ll play 48 minutes whenever I need to play it.”

That being said, Wednesday’s game had some obvious revelations. While Ellis is a beast, the way he played Wednesday is not conducive to the Warriors’ long-term success. It should be encouraging for Warriors fans to see Ellis resolved to put the Warriors on his back against a team that has owned the Warriors. But this game clearly showed that the Warriors can’t afford to play the sit back and watch Monta offense.

Monta Ellis was certainly treated a star. The Spurs defense, perennially one of the best in the league, started running a double-team at Ellis after he dropped 18 in the first quarter. It was the second-most points in a quarter by a Warrior this season. (Believe it or not, Maggette had 21 in the fourth quarter at Milwaukee)

Smart countered by bringing in Curry and taking Ellis off the ball, having him operate from the wing.

Late in the third, the Spurs started to deny Ellis the ball with full-court pressure. They were successful for a stretch, as George Hill, who blanketed Monta, made passing difficult. But that was because the Warriors didn’t have a passer in the game. Smart put Curry in and moved Ellis off the ball. Ellis was most effective Wednesday night while at the top of the key. He has more room to operate off the pick-and-roll at the top than he does on the wing, though he can assuredly attack from either area.

But Ellis was in full-on attack mode Wednesday. But the Warriors had a season-low 15 assists, four by Ellis, and shot just 46.5 percent despite Ellis going 16-for-25. Certainly, him penetrating off the pick-and-roll was working. But no one else got a rhythm or was involved in the offense much.

Morrow had just 7 shots, which is usually an indicator of poor ball movement. The Warriors are better when Ellis plays like he did at Dallas. He took 29 shots, but he had eight assists because the Warriors was getting out in transition, he was playing a lot off the ball and looking more to create for others. Wednesday, he was just feeling it. But when he’s hot and the rest of the team isn’t clicking, it may not be the best scenario for the Warriors.

Part of Ellis’ development is going to be making his teammates better. Its going to be understanding situations and the flow of the game enough to know when it is time to start getting others involved. When to get Morrow going. When to use his ability to score as a decoy, etc. Sounds like a lot to throw on him so fast. But he is the best and highest-paid player on the team.

SMART: “It’s still going to be a work in progress for him. But for the most part, I think he’s doing things that we need him to do as far as trying to lead the basketball team. He can get to the rim at any time against any team. That’s going to be there for him. But he’s doing the things that we need him to do as far as trying to keep the team moving in the right direction mentally and making sure he’s ready to play every night. When your best player is ready to play every single night, now you move to the next guy. And that’s where we’re trying to grow with him. And that’s what he’s doing, playing hard every single night knowing that the guys before him, Jack, Baron Davis, those guys understood you have to play at a high level every night. He’s starting to understand that.”

ELLIS: “I always can carry a big load. That’s no surprise to my game. It’s just been that feeling, that moment I had. Every shot that I let go it felt like it’s good. Like I said, my big men setting picks, me getting to the basket. Everything is clicking. It’s not just all on me, giving me the praise. You’ve got to give it to the big men for setting screens and giving me the opportunity to (be matched) up against the big men and get to the basket.”

************************************

Stephen Curry had a double-double in his first college game. Half of that double-double was 13 turnovers.

Since then, he said he’s prided himself on being sure with the ball. He clearly has the handle and vision of a player who has control of the ball. But, for some reason, turnovers are a real problem for him. Wednesday, he had six, his second game this season with as many. It was one of those games where you wasn’t sure if he was going to make some nifty assist or just hand the ball to the other team.

With the Warriors down  14 early in the fourth, his routine pass from the top to the right wing went directly to Spurs guard Roger Mason, who turned it into a fast-break lay-up at the other end.

It’s easy to see Curry is getting a little tired of being a turnover machine.

CURRY: “We’re here to make plays. The turnovers I had tonight were pretty lazy, which is why I was frustrated with myself. I think if I’m attacking the basket stronger and trying to make a play and I make a mishap, I’m fine with that. But the top of the key,  one-handed passes getting stolen, and finding myself trapped and getting those passes stolen, those are just dumb plays. That’s why I was frustrated. (ellipses) It’s just me being dumb. Sometimes, instead of just keeping my dribble, I feel like I either got to make a play or get rid of it.”

Curry is averaging 2.6 per game. That’s no Stephen Jackson, but he’s not handling the ball nearly enough. A few reasons might explain his high turnover output.

For one, he’s still adjusting to the athleticism and size of NBA players. So many of his passes are deflected or picked off because it seems like he’s misjudging how quick and long these players are. Sometimes, he’s throwing casual passes when he needs throwing off-speed when he needs to zip it.

Another reason, and I think the biggest, is that he’s just too blahze with the rock. He’s throwing one-hand passes off the dribble with either hand. He’s making passes while hardly looking, relying on his instinct, I guess. He’s been, a few times, a little bit fancier than he needed to be. It’s hard because sometimes, it results in a pass that no one else on the team can do, and he helps promote the ball movement the Warriors’ need. But he is still, obviously, learning the gravity of ball security at this level.

Another reason, though not as frequent, is that he’s caught between decisions more than he’d like. Mostly because he over thinks. But I think oart of it is because he’s young and he wants to keep everyone happy. He’s been known to force it to the likes of Morrow and Ellis (and Jax when he was here) out of obligation. Sometimes, his desire to please the vets conflicts with his understanding of what the right pass is to make.

In the home game where he made the key turnover down the stretch earlier in the season, he didn’t get the ball to Jacks, who was walking into a 3-pointer. Instead, Curry through a cross-court lob to Biedrins that was picked off. Afterwards, Curry had this grand explanation behind his decision making. But Jackson said “Don’t think. Just give me the ball.”

I think plays like that, plus the looks the likes of Ellis and Jackson shoot at young players when they don’t get them the ball, set a tone for the quandry Curry often faces. Make the right pass or give the ball to our hungry scorers?

SMART: “I just think he’s a young player. In the NBA, you’ve got to grow. He’s playing against some good players the last couple of games. I just think he’s a little indecisive right now. It’s the first time he’s had a back-to-back against a high-level team, night one and then night two. And you’re playing against a high-level point guard and off guard. But he’s going to grow out of it. He’s a smart kid so he’s going to figure things out.”

********************

Early in the game, Tony Parker drove to the basket and was tripped. Though he never got the shot up before spilling to the floor, Parker was He was awarded two shots, drawing a mild outburst from the Warriors’ bench. Keith Smart protested the call to official Bennett Salvatore, who told Smart he thought Parker was shooting.

SMART: “He could’ve been going to get a Bud Light. You don’t know.”

*********************

By the way, members of the Warriors organization are feeling REALLY good about Ellis. Before, there was concern about the direction he was going. But since Jackson has gone, they’ve been elated with his progress and how he’s stepped up.

The only question now is whether they are happy because he is looking like the franchise player they invested in, or because his trade value is soaring by the game. The fact remains, Curry and Ellis is a backcourt that comes with its disadvantages, and Ellis is the most-likely piece to land the difference maker the Warriors need.

They are committed to Curry (and Morrow and Randolph). But is Ellis’ play of late is a sign of what is to come, the Warriors may have to look long and hard at keeping both and talking Ellis into being a full-time shooting guard and just deal with the disadvantages that come with he and Curry together.

No doubt, the easier solution is to use Ellis to land a Chris Bosh or somebody like that in a trade. (The danger with that is if Curry doesn’t become the star point guard) But the Warriors may have to use Biedrins to get the help they need because trading Ellis might not sit too well with the fan base.

Marcus Thompson

  • jm95054

    First, I think we can all stop with this Ellis bashing and trading.

    Second, Curry was a turnover machine last nite. His job is to be the pg and he can’t be calling his own plays where he thinks he’s Ellis. there were many times last nite that he didnt even bother passing and just kept the ball to himself. Curry aint no Ellis.

    We lost because nobody Curry failed to get the balls to our other players.

  • CURSE OF MULLIN

    Marcus,

    I think you are drawing too many conclusions from the Spurs game. First, re Monta, even though the Spurs had a nice shooting night, the Warriors had a chance to win the game IMO if they weren’t so dead tired. Monta got no help on offense. Vlad and Curry were dead. If they have decent nights, it’s a tight game down to the end and we have a chance to win. Yes, we need ball movement, but one reason we didn’t have many assists last night was bc everyone but Monta looked dead tired and no one else’s shots were falling.

    Second, re Curry. He had a terrible passing and shooting night last night. Again, he looked tired at the end of a tough back-to-back. Other than last night, his passing has been fantastic for a rookie. Look at his assists-to-turnover ratio before last night. For a rookie, are you kidding me? And he’ll get better with more experience. The one-handed passes were not a problem before last night. The kid needs the freedom to experiment with different types of passes to see what works at this level. He can make different types of passes work than the rest of us. He’s on a different level that way.

  • Livermore Joe

    I don’t think the Warriors willl ever be in a position to land a “difference maker” until the team has a new owner and a new front office. Until then, I will view every potential trade scenario with great suspicion and ask myself, was this move made to make the team better or to satisfy a political agenda within the organization?

    I would like to see what Keith Smart could do with a healthy Biedrins, a happy Ellis and a developing Randolph.

  • http://vittoriodezen.wordpress.com Vic De Zen

    Ellis is surely complicating this situation with his great play. A week ago, everyone seemed to want him out.

  • Burke

    Great analysis as always, MT. You actually give arguments why you think a certain thing, rather than just stating it as fact unlike other warriors columnists, bloggers etc. For instance, I am a big nellie supporter but your criticisms of him in the past have been very convincing.

    For curry, morrow, and randolph, I guess that is the thing about being a young player. Being consistent every night. We as fans see something one day and expect that player to be able to do it all the time, and then complain when the player doesn’t get adequate playing time. But sometimes they just fall flat.

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    Suberb analysis, Marcus. You really took the ball to the rack with this.

    And loved the Jack anecdote.

  • Harp’s Dubs

    Marcus, today I’m thankful for your blog and the fact that you are insightful enough to see the way to Warriors’ future success is by trying to get Bosh from Toronto for Ellis. Do you think the Raps go for Bosh and DeRozan for Ellis, Randolph and Speedy?

  • commish

    Happy Thanksgiving Marcus! This team has so much to learn so let’s hope Nelson stays out of the way so the team of the future can really develop. I’d be most thankful for that.

  • alwaysafan

    don’t trade ellis

  • joel

    Good stuff Marcus, I know where to come when I want the real info. on the Warriors minus all the hype and garbage.

    Now if you could just get rid of that slight lean towards the players you have(just an observation) you’d be unstoppable. ;)

    thanks!!!

  • mwlx

    Love the analysis, Marcus. LOL at the Keith Smart quote. Hate the typos. Can’t diss Curry for turnovers when you are making them at the keyboard. =)

  • Wilson

    After a loss, any loss, the natural tendency is to figure out what lessons are to be learned for the future. Against San Antonio, Marcus, your conclusion was sort of that Monta’s scoring 42 points was the problem. But it wasn’t, really. Everybody else was just cold that night. Bad shooting = low assist totals. And Curry wasn’t taking care of the ball. And the Spurs played really well offensively and took advantage of every Warrior mistake.

    42 points is only 5 more than the 37 he scored the night before in a win at Dallas, and on fewer shot attempts. So the problem wasn’t that he was hogging the ball, it was that the rest of the team had off nights. Happens. Move on. Beat them next time.

  • earl monroe

    At least Curry is clear and accepting of his mistakes, I would rather watch this team lose now because potentially some of these young guys can be great. Stay the course play Curry, Morrow and Randoph lots of minutes with Ellis and one big. Might be lots of ups and downs but you have to love the effort.

  • Wilson

    Agree, Earl. Curry is a rookie and very advanced for a rookie but still has a lot to learn, which will happen quickly compared to most. A couple of months from now he won’t have many games like that one.

  • petaluman

    Marcus,
    I thought we would have to release Hunter in order to activate CJ, but that obviously was not the case, as they both played in SA. From warriors.com:

    Golden State’s roster now stands at 16 players. The Warriors are able to add Hunter to the roster under the NBA’s hardship rules, which allows a team that has 15 players on its Active and Inactive Lists and is unable to meet the minimum number of players requirement (8), the ability to sign an additional player.

    We played 9 in the last game. Can you please find out the exact terms of his employment as a Warrior?

  • oaktownlar

    Marcus:

    Great analysis as always. To the list of reason’s for Curry’s turnovers, add fatigue: A lot have come in the 4th quarter. Playing long minutes, expect this to increase as we get into the “hit-the-wall” part of the season in January/February.

    On the other hand, I disagree with your comment about “one-handed passes off the dribble.” He made a beauty to Maggette in the lane for an easy two the other night–a Stockton-esque pass that probably no other W could have made. It is that kind of ability that will eventually lead to +10 assists per game. Just as the concern over his shooting pre-season has disappeared, so will concern over TOs.

  • deano

    OTLar @ 15: I agree. Curry is smart enough to learn, quickly, from his mistakes. He deserves all of the minutes he is getting. We can be patient with his mistakes, because he has shown steady improvement. I wish the same could be said for Randolph. He is a very slow learner, who shows regression as often as progress.

  • earl monroe

    When Randoph’s aggressiveness is curtailed he plays a different game, the coaches are trying to make him into a Lamar Odom type forward, I think he is a different breed, although he does need some fundamentals, somewhere along the line, the fine line has been blurred and he no longer plays with the zest he had early last year, now he almost slowly comes down and takes shots in a very calm demeanor. He hardly runs all out on the breaks nor does he make hard cuts to get the ball, defensively he is providing weak side defense either.

    I hope that the aggressiveness will one day meet the fundamentals at the right place and ignite a great talent. Only time will tell, like the potential in the kid though. And remember he is very young, basketball wise, physically and mentally.

  • petaluman

    We’re all hoping for great things from AR and SC, but teams have now seen them both play, and are exploiting what they’ve seen. That means creating turnovers on offense, and fouls on both ends of the court when they’re too aggressive. Randolph was repeatedly scorched earlier in the year when he sagged off to help on D against players who could (and did) hit the open jumper.

    Having to think instead of react always slows a player down. Both players will have to either adjust their games and find a new comfort level, or they’ll never reach their “potential”.

  • earl monroe

    Petaluman-I think Hunter was signed on a league exemption, because of injuries

  • sartre

    I read via GSOM that the dubs can retain Hunter so long as 4 or more on the roster have been out for at least 3 weeks. That means he should be around for another month or two with Buike, Wright, Speedy, and Raja all some way from returning and George only just returning to practise.

  • sartre

    CORRECTION – I should have said missing 3 consecutive games, not 3 consecutive weeks. And the quote I read about this via GSOM turned out to be one of Marcus’.

  • dubfan

    There is a glimmer of hope now with this team…something that did not appear to be apparent when Jackson was still here, even before all the injuries. They appear like they can at least be somewhat consistently competitive, and more entertaining to watch.

  • sartre

    As long as the team maintains its effort, is competitive more often than not, and players continue to grow I can take satisfaction from a non play-off season. I really like our team even though it lacks defence, rebounding, and low-post offense and we have two roster spots in Speedy and George that were never filled to contribute. Thank goodness we lucked out with the Jack trade. Radman has helped make this team better than Jack did, and should Raja return we’ll be notably better off for the trade in terms of performance, team and fan morale, and player chemistry.

  • petaluman

    Marcus,
    Thanks for the clarification regarding Hunter at the bottom of your Tribune article at:

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/warriors/ci_13882880

    Despite possibly having 11 players available, the Warriors still qualify for the roster exemption they were granted to sign center Chris Hunter from the NBA Development League. The league requires at least four players who have missed the last three games and aren’t expected back for at least two weeks. Brandan Wright (shoulder), Kelenna Azubuike (knee), Speedy Claxton (knee) and Raja Bell (wrist) all fit those parameters. Still, the petition for an extra roster spot must be renewed every two weeks.

    Looks like the Warriors were able to (at least temporarily) turn Jackson into 2 bigs. We still looked small against the Lakers, even with Turiaf active. It’ll be nice to get Andris back.

  • http://chriscohansucks.blogspot.com/ Chris Cohan

    Petaluman,

    When will the team trade Radmanovich for the extra year of salary it’ll cost on James Posey?

  • http://chriscohansucks.blogspot.com/ Chris Cohan

    (For those who have forgotten, Petaluman went thru the fan forums quizzing folks about how angry they’d be if the team signed Miki Moore for no good reason… two weeks before the signing).

  • http://chriscohansucks.blogspot.com/ Chris Cohan

    Mikki Moore sucks and takes minutes from players the fans would rather see, including Chris Hunter.

    It’s like they knew they’d be benching/trading Biedrins or something….

  • Perry

    Our whole front line sucks, “Chris”….

    Having Andris back and Ronny at full strength helps our off the ball defense, help defense and rebounding a little bit….but all in all, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum looked like they were playing against a high school front line in the Laker game.

    Less of the case, the following night against New Jersey for the Lakers. While Josh Boone and Sean Williams are no defensive juggernauts, Brook Lopez and his offense along with his defensive presence caused more problems for the Laker front line that did our front line. Pau Gasol finished with his usual production.

    Let’s look at the Laker front line Saturday night against us:

    Ron Artest 19 points/5 rebounds
    Pau Gasol 22 points/12 rebounds
    Andrew Bynum 12 points/7 rebounds
    Lamar Odom 8 points/10 rebounds

    Sunday night, the Laker front line against New Jersey:

    Ron Artest 8 points/2 rebounds
    Pau Gasol 20 points/7 rebounds
    Andrew Bynum 8 points/6 rebounds
    Lamar Odom 5 points/6 rebounds

    Big difference in points and rebounds between the 2 games………..I know, I know, no Andris, and Ronny not a 100% probably would cover the rebound differential, but all in all, our front line is very inferior.

    Anthony Randolph is a “push-over” on defense in the low block and too immature of a defender when he’s further away from the basket. On offense, 70% of the time, Randolph is an absolute mess.

    Monta is having his best season since his Most Improved Player campaign. I say he is showcasing to some extent, even though it appears that he HAS established less of a “trade me now” approach.

    If he is showcasing, I agree with “Harp’s Dubs” ……….we should use him to acquire a difference maker the caliber of a Chris Bosh……

    Ellis is and always has been our most marketable contract and best trade asset.

    Use him now, throw in Anthony Randolph, dangle another contract less marketable like Claxton, Azubuike, Turiaf, Biedrins or Maggette and get yourself a player that can take over in the 4th quarter and help this team win games….