Wednesday’s season opener was all about Monta Ellis, who just turned 25 on Tuesday. He torched the Rockets for 46 points while missing just six shots. That tied his career high, which he set last season, in February, at the Dallas Mavericks.
ELLIS: “It was just one of those games were shots were going in early on and they just kept falling.”
Ellis was as smooth and as efficient as you’ve ever seen him. Jumper was falling, he finished just about everything, took good shots, took care of the ball (1 TO in 40 minutes).
And it wasn’t just that he was hot. He was clearly the best player on the court. (Well, Luis Scola did look all-world against the Warriors’ defense.) Can he do it every night? Can he be this efficient more times than not? That remains to be seen. But on this night, Ellis was an elite player. He was the guy that gives other teams fits, the guy who when he’s on the court, you like your chances.
I’m not just saying that. Here is some context:
* Ellis’ 46 was the most on opening night since Michael Jordan scored 54 on visiting Cleveland on Nov. 3, 1989. It’s the most by any Warrior on opening night since Wilt Chamberlain scored 56 vs. Detroit on Oct. 23, 1962.
* The last Warrior to score at least 40 on opening night was Latrell Sprewell, who had 45 at Houston on Oct. 31, 1997.
* Wednesday was Ellis’ fifth career game with at least 40. He also tied a career-high with 18 field goals.
KEITH SMART: “At halftime he was 10-for-13 and he was scoring in an efficient way. He’s not wanting to have the ball in his hand a lot, but he’s taking shots in the area where he shot the ball from a couple of years ago, the mid-range pull-up. He’s just got to understand that he has a unique skill where he can shoot the three, he can put it on the floor for the mid-range pull-up, and you can get to the rim.”
Despite a sore right ankle, Steph Curry played 39 minutes Wednesday. He finished with 25 points and 11 assists, the 13th double-double of his career. He also played pretty good defense on Rockets speedy point guard Aaron Brooks, who I thought would give the Warriors fits (Brooks had 13 points on 4-for-15 shooting with 7 assists).
But Curry said his performance was more a product of him gutting it out. Especially the fourth quarter, since he re-sprained his ankle late in the third.
CURRY: “It’s still sore. I took a couple Tylenol. But the adrenalin kicked right back in and I was able to go out there play through it. Like Brett Favre.”
Curry twisted his right ankle in an exhibition game last Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers in San Diego. He sat out the rest of the preseason, including the final three practices. Still, he played the first 13 minutes of the game.
Keith Smart gave Curry a seven-plus minutes rest in the second quarter. But when he returned in the third, giving Ellis a rest, Curry took over. He totaled 12 points and four assists in the quarter. He was looking for his shot and breaking down the Rockets defense by getting into the lane.
ELLIS: “That’s what he has to do. I mean, we have to work off each other. They were playing us a little different. Coach ran a play for us and they picked up what we were doing. Then Curry noticed what (the Rockets) were doing (defensively). That’s what he has to do. When I am going like that and come out of the game, and he’s in the game, he has to make offensive plays like he did tonight.”
But then, towards the end of the quarter, he had a setback. He pump faked on a 3-pointer to get Brooks in the air. Curry, trying to draw a foul on Brooks, leaned in as he hoisted a 3. Brooks landed on top of him, and Curry rolled that ankle again, the same way, he said.
He got up hobbling and took the long route to the free throw line to walk it off
DAVID LEE: “I was a little concerned when he re-injured it. But sometimes, all it takes is to get out there and get back on it.”
Curry played the final 10:38 of the fourth quarter and had seven points and four assists in the period. After the game, he said his ankle was sore and he rushed through his media interviews to get treatment.
Wednesday’s victor snapped a four-game losing streak for the Warriors on opening nigt. Golden State’s last season-opening victory was in 2005. Under Mike Montgomery, the Warriors beat the Hawks 122-97 on Nov. 2.
ELLIS: “It’s a relief. We’ve been going through preseason and training camp for this moment right here. To get the first win to start the season off in the right direction, it says a lot.”
Curry did have 5 turnovers, continue an alarming rate of turnovers from the preseason. But – before he got to view the film, which is his specialty – Smart didn’t seem to mind Curry’s miscues. He actually praised Curry for taking care of the ball.
Maybe it was because Curry didn’t get any of those turnovers trying to thread needles or with carefree ball-handling or trying to make a fancy play.
SMART: “He took care of the ball, didn’t have the careless turnovers. As I said during preseason, I’m not worried about Steph. He’s a smart player. He’s going to figure stuff out. I have to keep him actively engaged in the game and not settle for being a passer, because there is so much he can do for the team.”
Check out these free throw numbers:
Houston: 42-for-52 (Kevin Martin 17-for-17; Luis Scola 8-for-12; Courtney Lee 9-for-9)
Warriors: 22-for-26 (Ellis 9-for-12)
50 personal fouls were called.
Warriors outrebounded Houston 45-39. That was largely due to David Lee’s 15 boards and Andris Biedrins’ 11. Houston did outscore the Warriors in second-chance points (21-18), which kept the Warriors from pulling away. But the Warriors look much better crashing the boards this year. Lee really gobbles them up, and Biedrins looks as active as ever.
You know who looked pretty good in his 17 minutes – Rodney Carney. He’s a pretty good defender. That block was all ball, but the fact that he was able to make a play on that was pretty impressive.
His footwork, his instinct on that end, showed some promise. He finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds. Had he knocked down a couple of his 3-pointers (0-for-3), it would’ve been a pretty rousing debut. He definitely looked like a reliable reserve out there, someone who is going to bring something to the table.