29

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