How about this for a change of pace: the Warriors didn’t fall apart in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth.
Warriors won the third quarter and outscored Chicago 60-44 in the second half, a detour from the trend of hot starts and third quarter meltdowns. And they did it all with virtually six players: Ellis, Maggette, Curry, Biedrins and D-Leaguers Cartier Martin and Anthony Tollilver (Devean George started and played 5:39, and Chris Hunter played 8:51 off the bench). Ellis/Maggette/Curry combined for 94 points on 34-for-71 shooting.
NELLIE: “So here we are, limited. Just about 7 and a half players, but we found a way. That’s good. As you guys know, we’ve actually been playing decently. Usually have had pretty good first halves and then the third quarter has been a problem for us. But tonight we won the third quarter and we had a big fourth quarter. So a very good game for us.”
Center Andris Biedrins had a breakout game, on the heels of his first double-double of the season. Goose dominated Joakim Noah to the tune of 9 points, 19 rebounds and 8 blocks (Noah had 4/12/0). He played a season-high 39 minutes. He was active and had a bounce in his step unlike anyother point this season. He said he’s not 100 percent yet, but about 90. Still, his presence was welcomed.
CURRY: “It’s huge. He’s getting blocks, rebounds for us, those extra possessions that we need to make runs. He’s allowing us to do that. Just having his presence on ball-screens, pretty much anywhere on defense, really. He’s always there to back us up and get those rebounds and we can push. That’s what we’re best at.”
Still, the talk of the night after the game was his free throw shooting. He set a new season-high for free throws made in a game: 1.
It became a unique situation late in the third quarter. Biedrins came into the game 0-for-7 from the line. He missed three more in the first half. Then he stepped to the line with 2:22 left on the clock in the third quarter. The first one made a b-line to the front rim, banging off the bottom of it and dropping straight down.
Boos began to simmer through Oracle Arena. But then the Warriors faithful began to drown those boos out with cheers. The home crowd is usually silent when one of their players take a free throw. But this time, Biedrins took his second free throw in the middle of an ovation. And he made it. The crowd erupted.
So when Biedrins went back to the line at the 28.2 mark of the third quarter, he took his free throws with a chorus of cheers in the background. He missed both, each a line drive colliding violently against the rim. He said the noise during his free throws doesn’t bother him.
BIEDRINS: “Naw, not really. That’s how our home crowd is always. Great feeling when they cheer you on. “
After the game, Nelson disclosed that pretty much Biedrins’ free throw situation is helpless. Nelson said Biedrins spurned the suggestion to shoot underhand free throws, or even one-handed free throws.
Nelson said when he first got here, he brought Rick Barry in to teach Biedrins how to shoot free throws underhanded. After about an hour with Barry, Nellie said Biedrins decided he didn’t want to shoot that way. Nellie says he jokes with Biedrins now saying he’s going to bring Barry back, which Nellie said usually gets Biedrins to get up some extra free throws.
NELLIE: “I mean, that free throw doesn’t have much chance. I know it, you know it and he probably knows it. … I thought (underhanded) was his one chance. Because anything over his head, he’s just so fundamentally unsound. We’ve worked with him and tried to show him. But he basically can’t change that. It’s his wrist, it’s his motion, it’s arc. And he chooses not to change his free throw. I even talked to him about the one-hand free throw, which I shot, which I think helps some players overcome that problem. But right before he shoots, he tips his hand this way, a little bit like Shaq, so he can’t hold it in one hand. He tries to flip it. That isn’t going to work. But I thought the underhand free throw had a chance.”
Biedrins hardly sounded like someone unwiling to change. He sounded like someone willing to try anything. He was clearly frustrated, and embarrassed, and irritated, about his free throw shooting after the game.
BIEDRINS: “I mean, it’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s really frustrating. … I’ll do anything to get it back to at least how I shot it last year, close to 60%. At least I’ll be confident in myself if I go to the foul line.”
The last three seasons, he’d shot 55.1, 62.0 and 52.1 percent from the free throw line. But he said he tweaked his shot this summer. He said he went back to the national team and changed a couple things. He said he regrets making those changes and plans to go back to how he was shooting it before. His stance and rhythm was different, and he had at least a smidge more arc.
Biedrins is 1-for-14 from the line this season, which is 7.1 percent.
In the fourth quarter, at about the 5:16 mark, Luol Deng fouled Biedrins intentionally at the opposite free throw line. Nelllie panicked. He thought they were resorting to the Hack-a-Goose strategy. Nellie immediately subbed in Chris Hunter.
Seconds later, Biedrins was headed back to the scorer’s table. Nellie realized it wasn’t time for Hack-a-Goose. It was only Chicago’s second team foul.
NELLIE: “I told him, ‘As soon as they’re in the bonus I’ll take you out to make sure they don’t embarrass you.'”
Corey Maggette was 19th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating, and that was before he had 32 points on 11-for-14 shooting with 6 rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes.
That’s 30 in three of his last four games. What’s craziest is his efficiency. He’s up to 20 points per game for the season. He’s shooting 54.3 percent from the field. Of the players who average at least 20 points per game (through Monday), only Amare Stoudemire (56.1) and Tim Duncan (55.2) have higher field goal percentages.
Though Maggette has probably spent most of his time at PF, he’s really a small forward. Among all qualified small forwards, shooting guards and point guards, no one has a higher field goal percentage than Maggette.
Simply put, Maggette is a beast now.
Stephen Curry outplayed Derrick Rose, which came as a shock to yours truly. (I’m a big Rose fan) Rose has been down this year, but he had been playing well of late. With Rose’s strength and athleticism, I thought it would be curtains for Curry. It wasn’t.
NELLIE: “Oh, he’s been terrific defensively for the last month. He’s turned into quite a defender, actually. Not very good when he first arrived, but man, he’s worked hard at it. He follows our gameplan. Pretty darn good defensive point guard right now.”
Curry 43:28 min., 26 points, 9-for-18 FGs, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 5 TOs
Rose 34:49 min., 19 points, 7-for-19 FGs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 4 TOs
Curry had three fouls in the first quarter, and never really changed his defense on Rose. Late in the game, during the Warriors run to pull away, Curry blocked a fade-away by Rose, a fitting cap to a night in which Curry seemed to bother Rose consistently. Plus Curry made several big shots and, along with Ellis, consistently broke down the Bulls defense off the dribble.
One thing that has stood out about Curry, in addition to his turnovers and propensity to pick up fouls, is his competitiveness and toughness. Dude does not back down (which is partly why he’s foul and turnover prone) and it is paying off. Of course, though, Nellie had to take it to another level.
NELLIE: “I don’t know if you’d call (Tyreke) Evans a point guard or not. Other than that, I don’t know any rookie points guards better than him, that I’ve seen. I know (Brandon) Jennings is really good. They’re both really good. But true point guard, understanding the defensive concepts… total package. He’s quite a point guard.”
Is Curry the best rookie point guard? I find it hard to make that claim for a guy whose team is 15 games under .500. But no doubt, Curry is looking really good these days.
Had a discussion with a colleague I respect who said Monta won’t make the All-Star Game. He’s right.
Here are the West Starters:
G Kobe, G Nash*, F Carmelo, F Nowitzki, C Stoudemire (*assuming Phoenix fans stuffed ballots the last five days)
That leaves two guards, two forwards and two centers to be selected by coaches as reserves:
G, Paul, G Roy, F Tim Duncan, F Kevin Durant, C Chris Kaman
Finally, the two wild card spots. I’m of the mind that one guard at the most will be used for this spot. But I wouldn’t be surprised if neither is a guard. Here are the options:
Guards – Ellis, Deron Williams, Chauncy Billups, Tony Parker
Forwards – Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol, David West, Rudy Gay
Centers – Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson
I think the coaches will give the two wild card spots two Deron Williams (yet to be named an All-Star) and Zach Randolph. And I can’t say I would disagree with that. Deron Williams has good numbers on a better team. Zach Randolph is one of the best stories of the year. He’s resurrected his reputation and the Grizzlies, even have them competing for a playoff spot.