The maturity of Monta Ellis was on display last night, before he went down with a lower back injury.
He’s still unable to keep his emotions off his face, so it was obvious when he was frustrated. On a couple of occasions, Stephen Curry came down and took a forced shot, or the one time David Lee lost the ball trying to dribble around his back, or when Jeremy Lin was wide left with a pass to Monta,
But Ellis could literally be seen taking a deep breath, biting his lip and keeping his composure. Not once did I see him walk to the bench screaming at his teammates, or pout off to the side.
During one third-quarter sequence, the Warriors went about five possessions without him getting a touch. What’s more, three of them were turnovers and each time, Ellis was the one hustling back on defense.
Once, Ellis was streaking down the left side on a break, but Curry’s pass was behind him and deflected. In the past, Ellis would have certainly through a mini temper tantrum and given up on the play. This time, he chased down the losse ball, outhustling a Raptor, and fed David Lee under the basket. Lee was fouled and made the two free throws.
He perhaps gambled too much and reached too much. But at times when things were going badly, he was clearly locked in on the defensive end.
Nobody played with more defensive intensity than Ellis on Monday.
KEITH SMART: “That’s what the good players do and that’s what he’s doing. He’s proving himself to be as good as he said he wanted to be. And that’s what he’s doing with the way he’s playing, the way he’s approaching the game, the way he’s competing.”
Curry finally got fed up with the brace and took it off near the end of the first quarter Monday. The same brace he’s worn for about a week, protecting his ankle, Curry said was simply too limiting on his ability to manuever.
So he got rid of it. Happily. In the imaginary furnace in the athletic training room.
CURRY: “I just opened it and threw it in. Smoke coming out the top of Air Canada Centre from my brace. … I just feel more free. My ankle is in good shape right now, but the brace is too restricting.”
Curry promised early he wouldn’t be wearing the brace come December. But it turns out he was able to safely shuck it sooner. He had a slight scare after landing on a camera man after a lay-up. But it’s safe to say he performed well without the brace: 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Curry was able to literally take over the game in the fourth quarter, and he did it in a way that showed his ankle is much improved. He made a couple of tough driving lay-ups in traffic, including a pirouette in the lane that he scooped in off the glass. He also iced the game with a cross-over dribble that led to a pull-up jumper.
Curry finished with 16 in the fourth. It was a drastic turnaround from the multitude of poor decisions he made passing the ball, which included five turnovers.
SMART: “He’s still in that growth cycle. … And maybe in a year, he will be up there with the Jason Kidds and guys like that, (Deron) Williams and (Chauncey) Billups, where they know how to manage a game. I have to be very, very patient with that so I have to deal with the bad.”
By the way, Curry’s missed break-away dunk at the end of the third, he said it was blocked by Leandro Barbosa at the end of the half. I didn’t see the replay from that play yet. But this is from the same guy who said he last injured his ankle when he stepped on Blake Griffin’s foot (I think he said his “heel glanced the top of his shoe lace) and not that he was crossed up by Eric Gordon.
CURRY: “He blocked it. I knew he was one of the fastest guys in the league. I thought if I laid it up, he would’ve gotten to it.”
Guess who got more than 13 first-half minutes??? That’s right, Smart opted for Jeremy Lin in place of Curry, instead of swingman Reggie Williams, who had been playing point guard.
LIN: “I didn’t think he would call my name that early in the game. I wasn’t expecting it. But I was like, ‘All right. Let’s go do this, then. Once I got out there, it was a joy to be in the game again, get up and down.”
Guess who the first player off the bench was? In correct. It was not Vladimir Radmanovic, or Rodney Carney. It was Brandan Wright. Remember him?
Lin and Wright got significant minutes off the bench. Lin saw 15 minutes of legitimate action, and responded with three points, three assists, two steals and two blocks. One thing that stood out was his hustle on defense and his ability to get in the paint off the dribble.
LIN: “The more time I get, the more comfortable I get. I think I can definitely get to the rim at this level. I think I surprise a lot of people with my speed, my quickness. That’s just something I try to do. That’s just my style – to be aggressive and attack.”
Wright got 21 minutes after logging fewer than six minutes in Sunday’s loss at Detroit. At Toronto, Wright finished with eight points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Does that mean he’s in the rotation now? And Radmanovic, who saw just 6:17 on the court, is the odd man out? Nope. Smart said he is taking it game-by-game. Each night, the likelihood is someone who people think should be playing will end up riding the pine. From the sounds of it, Rodney Carney is the only reserve who you can ink in for consistent minutes off the bench. My gut says Reggie Williams will usually get time over Lin. But if Lin keeps impressing, who knows.
SMART: “We’re just playing basketball. I shared with the guys that I can’t look at getting guys minutes just to get him minutes. I’ve got to look at how the game is going and what I feel is right. I communicate that to them. To get a guy on the floor just to say he got on the floor, I can’t do it that way. … We’ve got a long NBA season. At some point, it’s going to be Reggie’s night again. He’s going to come back and have a great night. And now it’s going to be someone else you’re going to ask me a question about it.”
Rookie guard Jeremy
With Wright and Lin getting a nice chunk of minutes, Williams and forward Vladimir Radmanovic drew the short end of the stick Monday. Radmanovic did play all of his 6:17 in the forth quarter, coming up with a critical block when he charged out to defend a 3-point attempt in the final minute.
This is perfect. This was a coming out party for how he plays.
There is a new addition to the locker room spread. The fruit is there. The energy bars. The candy. But now, there’s a big jar of peanut butter. You will never guess who started the peanut better tradition. Actually, you might.
He said he eats a peanut butter on a bagel before every game. He’s now got Vladimir Radmanovic and Dan Gadzuric eating it too.
LEE: “That’s my only contribution to the team so far.”
That’s not true. Lee gets plenty rebounds. And Monday, he got some shots to fall. He finsied with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He knocked down a couple of midrange jumpers, which was a welcomed sight.