32

Game #40 (12-28): Nuggets 123, Warriors 118 OT

Another thriller between Denver and the Warriors. Certainly, Denver is a better team with better players. Certainly, Chauncey Billups was playing on a whole other level, making up for an off night by Carmelo Anthony. Certainly, Denver’s big men had a mismatch against the depeleted Warriors first line, which featured two legitimate big men, size wise, in center Andris Biedrins and D-League call-up Anthony Tolliver.

Still, with that being said, they should’ve won that game. But Monta Ellis, Don Nelson and Stephen Curry dropped the ball late.

CURRY: “It’s tough, you give all that effort, you play that hard the whole game and you have it in your hands and you want to walk away with that win, at home, especially. It’s tough for us, but we have a back-to-back Friday and Saturday, so we have a chance to continue the momentum we have and try and get two wins.”

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

By the way, guard Anthony Morrow won’t be back Friday, as the team suggested was possible with its 1 to 2 week diagnosis. Two weeks was always the realistic minimum. He did say he will be back and healthy in plenty of time to compete in the 3-point Shootout. He hasn’t heard from the league office yet (which is not a good sign, if you ask me). But he wants it to be known that he still wants to compete and still thinks he could win it. This sprained knee will not deter him.

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

Not sure if Ellis’ shortcomings, lowlighted by his missed free throw late, is his fault. He’s being run into the ground. He’s played three straight complete games, including overtime. He’s averaging 46.2 minutes for January. You almost have to expect things like missed free throws, settling for the 3-point shot too often, or loafing on defense. Ellis is a world-class athlete, but this is even too much for him. He’s got to survive somehow, and no question he is not at his peak down the stretch.

Gotta wonder how all these minutes in this lost season will impact Ellis towards the end of his contract. Remember Baron played every game his first three years or whatever?

ELLIS: “I feel great, feel good. Great game… left it all on the court.”

His machismo is getting the better of him. Nellie is never going to sit him. Ellis needs to ask for a rest, which he won’t do. Instead, he just won’t practice ever again.

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

Nellie’s philosophy of not calling a timeout came back to haunt the Warriors. Again.

Warriors had the ball down 3 with 22.1 seconds left. Instead of calling  a timeout to set something up — like he did at the end of the fourth when they ran the play to free up Ellis for a 3, tying the game at 105 — Nellie had Ellis push it and make something happen.

Here’s the thing about timeouts. They bring order to the chaos that is the final seconds of a close NBA game. They allow you to put in the proper personnel. They give players a chance to breathe and re-focus for this critical possession. It allows the coach to run a play that has been practiced instead of trying to catch the defense off guard.

See, when you don’t call timeout, the guy open in the corner for the game-tying 3 is a D-League call-up who is 0-for-6 from 3-point range since being called up a few days ago. If you call a timeout, you can put Devean George back in the game and maybe he is open in the corner. Or, better yet, you can run another play to get Ellis or Curry a look.

Instead, Anthony Tolliver airballed.

ELLIS: “We’re all NBA players. Everybody is here for a reason. … Coach says if you’re open, shoot it.”

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

Warriors got a tough decision to make on Cartier Martin, who got his  second 10-day contract Wednesday.

The Warriors have two options after Jan. 29. Option 1: Let Martin go and risk another team picking up the player they’ve eyed for a while. Option 2: Sign him for the rest of the season and give away one of their assets.

MARTIN: “I don’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens.”

The problem with option No. 1 is that the Warriors like Martin. But do the Warriors like him enough to give away a valuable asset, especially one they could use before the Feb. 18 trade deadline?

Cutting Speedy or Raja Bell is out. Obviously they won’t cut Watson or Morrow. That leaves Chris Hunter or Devean George. But even George’s $1.6 million expiring contract could come in handy on the market, especially when coupled with Claxton or Bell’s expiring contract.

The leaves the safest option for keeping Martin would be to cut Hunter. I know, I know. They just signed Hunter on for the rest of the year. Well, that would only be about a $200,000 mistake.

Or, the Warriors can waive Martin and hope no one picks him up, leaving him free to re-sign after the trade deadline. That way, they will have used the expiring contracts they are going to use. Or Martin could decide not to sign with any other team until then, if he wants to stay with the Warriors.

The optimum option, and I forgot to mention this in my story in today’s paper, is making a trade that gives them back at least one fewer player than they gave up. That would free up a roster spot without costing the Warriors anything.

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

Ellis said the stuff about his ankle, which he said was causing him pain at shootaround, was overblown. He put to rest any fears that his surgically repaired ankle was acting up. He said the metal plate in his left ankle, mixed with the rain, was giving him discomfort.

Some of y’all out there know about that. How your knee hurts when it rains, or your elbow feels funny when it gets too cold. There is an explanation. Something to do with fluid in joints and change in environment. Whatever. Ellis insists he’s fine. Which 53 minutes of action supports.

Oh yeah, how did Curry contribute to the L? Twice late he got caught up going under screens, giving the hot Nuggets shooters good looks. For instance, that 3 Smith hit in over time was because when the ball reversed, Curry floated under the screen and into traffic in the paint. When the ball swung back to Smith, Curry was out of position to contest the shot. Bucket.

Marcus Thompson

  • TimTom

    Warriors suck. Bored.

  • Bleep

    That was a tough loss. Again Ellis fouled somebody at half court at the end of a period. Not sure if it would have really meant the game this time, but you would have thought he would learn from last game not to give the refs an excuse.

    But I’d still rather watch a tough loss than a blowout, where the W’s are overmatched from the start. Being competitive got old a long time ago, but it is still better than not being competitive at all.

  • Marcus Thompson

    Bleep,

    I forgot about that. I asked him if he would now stay away from players while they are taking desperation heaves from halfcourt. His response, jokingly, was: “Who said that? Marcus? OK. I got something for you.”

  • earl monroe

    Thats funny Marcus, and yes Curry was out of position defensively late, but you gotta love the kid in late game offense situations, that set shot 3 was a beauty, especially after tweeking his ankle

  • James

    Marcus,

    Who do you consider a better 3pt shooter, Curry or Morrow? I think most would say Morrow, but when you look at the %’s Curry is averaging 43.6% (3.5 attempts) and Morrow is averaging 44.3% (4.1 attempts). While Morrow’s stats are slightly better, Curry is able to create his own shot while Morrow shoots his 3′s mostly as catch and shoot. Is there any way you can have those two do a shoot out? What do you think?

  • James

    Marcus,

    Feel free to make a post about my previous question ;)

    I wonder what everyone else thinks as well.

  • jsl

    Cheap shot at Curry, MT.

    Sure, he WAS out of position on that one play — but he was just four minutes shy of Monta (who’d pulled another blockhead foul at the end of Q3 and missed a key FT in OT, if you were watching), he played very good D the rest of the game (killing Lawson and handling Billups nicely in the first half, before Monta took over), and he kept shooting, even on a horrid shooting night, making several key threes at the end of regulation and in OT.

    Pay a little more attention, please. On a poor shooting night, Curry still had a very good game. Ya might have mentioned that before the cut at the end. Sheesh!

  • Marcus Thompson

    James,

    Morrow is a better shooter pure shooter. Curry is better at creating his own shot. He looks like a completely different player now that his shot is falling, huh?

    Jsl,
    What, are you the anti-Chris Cohan? He gets on me for loving Curry too much. You accuse me of taking cheap shots at him. Jeez. Calm down.
    Hardly a cheap shot. So every time I say something bad, I have to say something good? So, when I wrote a post about how Curry is looking really good lately, did I have to say something bad to even it out?
    I would say its a cheap shot by you against me, then. (whiny voice) Why didn’t you point all the times I said something good about Curry? :-( … lol.
    The point was, down the stretch, Monta, Nellie and Curry made mistakes that cost the Warriors the game. It wasn’t an evaluation of Curry’s night. Nor did I say his mistakes were inexcusable.

  • James

    Marcus,

    One last thing. Can Curry dunk? Have you seen him dunk at all during practice?

  • Bleep

    Although I am a big Nellie supporter, I have to agree with you, MT. This is a young team with a revolving door, players in and out. Not the kind of team that really knows each others tendencies and can create something out of nothing in a high-pressure situation like that.

    A completely unrelated beef — what’s the big hate on for the warriors at ESPN? They’ve lost all their credibility, imho. Even with his mistakes, Curry is much better than Lawson. Hard to even compare their stats when Curry is given so much more responsibility.

    With Maggette showing how much better he is at the 3, what position will Buike come back as next year? Or do you think they are still trying to trade Maggette? I’m warming to him.

  • James

    Bleep,

    At least NBA.com gives Steph credit. He’s the #2 rookie in their rankings:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=nba_com-rookie.rankings-20100120&prov=nba_com&type=lgns

  • DW

    Hey Marcus,
    In my opinion it wasn’t a mistake to push the ball up the floor. Again in my opinion the W’s cannot seem to run a good play from a timeout at the end of games. I’ve seen them throw the ball away or just not get a good shot off too many times. They are way too fast to slow it down and have a better team get their defense set.

    Oh By the way, Can injured players be traded? I always thought they could not. Thanks !

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    “Nellie’s philosophy of not calling a timeout came back to haunt the Warriors. Again.”

    It’s Marcus who’s dropped the ball with this analysis, not Nellie. This play occurred after a made free throw, not a rebound. And Monta was not “pushing it,” he was running a play. The play was called DURING THE FREE THROWS. There was no need to call a timeout. And yes, it is easier to run a play with the ball already inbounded, against a defense that is not yet set.

    The play was run to perfection, Tolliver just missed the shot. Why run the play for Tolliver? I’m guessing that Nellie thought it might catch the Nuggets napping. And it did: Tolliver was open, and he was the ONLY Warrior who was open. Yes, he’s a D-leaguer, but he’s got a known ability to hit the three. Jerry Sloan relied on d-leaguer Sundiata Gaines to beat the Cavs, and Nellie relied on Tolliver. FIRE JERRY SLOAN!

    I know a Marcus Thompson post is never complete without a gratuitous Nellie bash, but at a minimum, I think we have a right to ask that he gets his facts right.

  • ddog

    Great comment on Curry, Marcus. Let’s count the blessings:
    1) A rookie 1st round draft pick, is playing significant minutes
    2) He’s noticeably improving (especially on post defense and fighting through screens).
    3) The expectation level is that he should be held accountable for contributing to a loss
    4) His turnovers are becoming less egregious

    I agree about Monte’s minutes, and by extension, the minutes of Curry and (to a degree) Maggette. Of course, there are not many healthy bodies, but when there *are* healthy bodies, does Nelson develop a bench?

    Marcus, has anyone in the Warrior organization has articulated to you a clear, long-term vision for what this team will “ultimately” be given their style of play? If so, what is it, because it sure seems like they’ve got some nice pieces, and if they muck it up further, they will completely (instead of partially) alienate their fans. It’s one thing to be Bad, but to be Bad with no talent while watching previous Talent thrive is just too much to endure- AGAIN.

  • earl monroe

    Marcus, keep calling them like you see them, “Chris Cohan” just has personal issues with Curry and he doesn’t even know him.
    No question dude was out of position, but he has improved tremendously on the defensive end, those things are going to happen,
    Curry is about to hit the wall, but that does not diminish how good a basketball player he is, I doubt he would miss a free throw down
    the stretch.

  • frenemy

    A few comments:

    I’m not a big Nellie fan but I have to say I have been impressed with how competitive this team has been lately given the injuries, d-leaguers, etc. even against the elite teams (or maybe especially).

    How much does this team miss Buike? Think of all the key rebounds he gets at crunch time — last night it seemed there were multiple times the W’s could have pulled ahead with a key defensive rebound rather than ceding them to K-mart.

    Curry is the real deal. Remember folks he is a rookie…

  • jsl

    MT @8: Point taken.

    But since your only Curry mention — in a game where the kid played 49 minutes, thru leg cramps, and showed he could defend both Billups and Lawson — was of his inability AFTER 49 MINUTES to fight out to wave a hand at JR . . . well, you get my point. Just sounds a bit “whiny,” so to speak.

    To me — an admitted Curry fan (as soon as I saw the Bobby Knight piece on Curry’s passing on YouTube, I was hooked) — the more important story was that (1) Curry played a strong 49, (2) played excellent D (much, much better than Monta) overall, and (3) kept on shooting, even tho it was an off game for him, hitting his biggest shots at the end — when it counts most.

    P.S. I’m hardly the anti-CC. He and I agree on just about everything. . . . .but Curry. He’s dead wrong about that, of course, but he’ll come around. I sense his anti-Curry flailing is in the death stages now. And he’s just too smart to miss all the fun Curry brings to a game.

    And BTW, regardless of my carping, the MT blog is much improved this year. Thanks.

  • Mack-Mullin

    Why is Cohan anti-curry?

  • A’s in 2010

    C’mon now… Nene/KMart set a nice double screen to free up JR Smith(who was having awful game to that point). It was just a nice play drawn off the Billups/Melo two man game on the other side. Which was KILLING us all game long, and even when they miss KMart and Nene are gobbling up the offensive rebound. We were throwing a third guy at Billups/Melo everytime, it’s 2 on 3 on the other side. What can you do?

  • commish

    Our guys have so much heart. I just can’t forgive Nelson for not resting Ellis as any sane coach would do, not to mention his crazy substitutions of hot players for not. Anyway, giving credit where credit is due, this group of inglorious bastards have sure earned my respect.

  • MWLX

    A tough loss to swallow, but then I have to step back and ask:
    How in heck does Nelson take that roster and push the Nuggets to overtime? An amazing coaching job by Nellie, and great leadership by Monta, who has matured tremendously. If your star doesn’t put his heart on the line, no one else will, but Monta is doing it every game, inspiring the team to be competitive. Makes them fun to watch, even with the excruciating losses.

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    @19 A’s: Word. You nailed it.

    @21 MWLX: What is your over/under on when someone in the main-stream media writes what you just wrote?

  • Greg Ballard fan

    Hey Marcus,

    Are the W’s even in the ballgame if Saint, Musselhead, or Monty is coaching? I think Nellie is holding the fort with what he has. Now management decisions… that’s another issue.

  • Marques8

    It was amazing to me how close the Nuggets and Warriors were in the head to head stats before the game. With the exception or rebounding, they were mirror images. Marcus is off on their defense in his mid-seasons. That’s such an easy rap. Compared to some other Don Nelson teams, this team plays its concept pretty well. Its guards are so small and so overworked that guys like Chauncey, Kobey, are going to eat them alive. But if they had a better big man who played in a more classic way in getting rebounds and blocking shots, a lot of things would get better in a hurry on the defensive end. As for the rebounding, it goes with playing small. Against the Nuggets, it looked to me all those rebounds were hitting the floor because everyone was tired. The new power forward might have helped and then again he might have hurt.

    I don’t think any other coach in the league would get more wins out of this team. The failure to execute in the final minutes is really not on the coaching. It’s on the floor and the fact that they really don’t have a take-charge point guard. That hurts them most in closing them out.

    Monta needs to work harder on making his mates better.

  • OliverStone

    Marcus, Jim Barnett on the Curry play, did say that while he was late in popping out on Smith, “Curry was held by Nene.”

    Curry is the best “Help defender” on the team, to a fault. That play was an example.

  • earl monroe

    #18 Cohan is anti-Curry because most of the stuff he spews out is ill written, poorly researched, way off base and usually of a personal nature especially when it comes to Curry-the name calling of Curry is way unnecessary. Not to mention the way he has
    put Curry under a microscope for every mistake-without regard for his positive attributes.

  • Mountain Jim

    There’s a huge difference between calling a timeout with 22 seconds, when one option would be to go for a quick two and foul, and 4.5 seconds when you have to have a three or lose. It’s disingenuous to treat those situations as the same thing.

  • rigged

    #19

    Translation: DAN got burned by George Karl on that play sequence :(

  • Marcus Thompson

    Love the discussion. Last comment on this because I am not bashing Curry. Whatever criticisms I have about Curry’s game, I usually tell him. Ditto for the praises. The evidence is on NBA.com. The highlight video is on the box score. Curry is loafing in the paint while the ball is on the other side. Once the ball comes back to his side, he is held a bit by Nene as he tries to get out. Why not stay glued to a KNOWN SHOOTER when the game is on the line? To me, it was a mistake to drift into the lane, away from your man, who is known to make shots. It’s like OliverStone said. Curry is a help defender to a fault. That was a situation where they needed him to stay glued to his man.

    Feltbot,
    I’m not sure what’s worse. The fact that you think its OK not to call a timeout after a FT, like so many other coaches do, or that you think it is OK to call a play that gets ANTHONY TOLLIVER open for a look.
    By the way, did I bash Monta? He made a mistake, too. Probably the most critical. Is pointing out a mistake equivalent to bashing?

    Greg Ballard,
    I don’t know. But Saint or Muss or any other Warriors coach wasn’t making $6 million. Am I the only one who thinks being close is not enough? Pushing a good team to the brink doesn’t get you a cookie. Being in the game against a team that is coasting until the fourth quarter is just not impressive to me.

    Seriously, though. Great discussion

  • earl monroe

    Its very hard to finish games when you are exhausted, what I like about the team now as opposed to 13 games ago is that at least we are seeing some competitive spark. (no excuse for being anywhere near Lawson though, although Lawson clearly walked as evidenced on the replay)

  • Chris Shields

    “Not sure if Ellis’ shortcomings, lowlighted by his missed free throw late, is his fault.” MT

    Monta homer.

  • Ken

    Well, Nelson was vindicated when Tolliver made the very next 3 point shot he attempted (albeit it 46 hours later).

    In any event, people cannot grasp that every point in the game COUNTS EQUALLY. Thus, the totally gratuitous 3 points given to Denver by Ellis were clearly the difference – the Ws would have won without OT.

    BTW, I am definitely warming to Tolliver. His value is exactly the sort of thing that does not show up in the stats (much like Vlad Rad). Tolliver is always in the right place, and he is always paying 100% attention to what is going on. This is one reason that he has so many rebounds per minute.