Keith Smart emerged from the locker room Wednesday to the awaiting press. You could tell he knew what he was going to be asked about it, because he answered it before he was even asked. The post-game interview started with the usual soft ball, asking him his impressions of the game. His answer, after a deep breath:
SMART: “Well, I’d like to say a few things, but I can’t communicate (about what’s) down at the bottom of that stat sheet.”
He went on to talk about how another slow start had them playing catch-up all game. Again. He went on to talk about how un-smart play down the stretch cost them a chance to steal a game against a vulnerable Houston squad. Then, he was asked the question he’d already tried to answer. He dodged it again.
SMART: “Well, I can’t comment there. You guys just look at the bottom of the sheet and I’ll move on from there.”
It’s not quite at the bottom of the sheet, but what he was referring to was the free throws. Houston finished 39 of 51 from the line. The Warriors finished 12 of 18.
Now, the Warriors did keep fouling to extend the game, so the Rockets wound up shooting eight free throws in the final 35.6 seconds. The Warriors got four free throws in the same times span, much to the chagrin of Houston coach Rick Adelman, who had to be wondering why in the world his players kept fouling. But if you take away those, the final tally is 43 free throw attempts for the Rockets, and 14 for the Warriors.
Certainly, some in the locker room believed the Warriors didn’t get as many foul calls as they deserved. Particularly guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. They took 11 free throws combined, which was just three fewer than Houston center Chuck Hayes, whose season-high for free throw attempts was six.
Curry and Ellis combined for 30 shots, but only seven were three pointers, as they repeatedly drove to the basket. One one drive to the basket, with the Warriors down 11 inside of three minutes, Curry manuevered through traffic, contorted around defenders and had his layup blocked by Shane Battier. It looked to be lots of contact on the play — though most of it might’ve come after the shot, as Battier landed on Curry — at least Curry and Smart thought so based on their gestures to the refs as an official timeout ensued.
While they feel like they deserved more free throws, the Warriors offered less of an argument for Houston’s 51 free throws.
CURRY: “I thought we were pretty aggressive. They just must’ve played a lot smarter defense than we did, playing physical without fouling. I would have to look at film to see exacly how they approached that aspect of the game because we were attacking the basket the whole game and really trying to force the issue and trying to seek contact and get to the line, because we knew that would get us back in the game. But we just couldn’t figure out how to do it. And then we did give them a lot of easy touches in the paint and then had to collapse, and then a lot of slapping going on. So we’ve got to change that.”
General manager Larry Riley said it was a product of the small lineup, which Riley said Smart was “almost forced into” using. Riley said he doesn’t mind the small-ball in spurts and he thinks Dorell Wright can succeed there in certain situations. But he said it underscores the Warriors’ dire need to get their bigs back in the lineup. Golden State is missing starting power forward David Lee, his two back-ups in Lou Amundson and Brandan Wright, and rookie big man Ekpe Udoh who has yet to play.
Riley said the lack of size was the reason Houston got so many free throws.
RILEY: “The other thing about size around the basket is it helps you in regards to not having to foul so much and march those guys to the free throw line. If you look at the game tonight, they shot 51 free throws and we didn’t get to 20 (free throws) I don’t think. And people tend to look at the statistics and say, ‘Well that means the referee is cheating. Well, no. We know that tonight it was our defense. Part of that was us being small and part of that is the Kevin Martin factor. He’s just going to get to the line. He gets to the line against everybody in the league. But you shouldn’t put Luis Scola and Hayes on the line that much.”
The Warriors have now committed 370 fouls, an average of 24.7 fouls per game. Warriors opponents have now been whistled for 279 personal fouls, an average of 18.6 fouls per game. So that means the Warriors commit 6.1 fouls more than their opponent per game, which is a league high.
So, who is the Warriors’ biggest hack?
Well, Stephen Curry averages a team-high 3.85 fouls per game. Center Andris Biedrins is right behind him at 3.73 per game.
But, to me, the best barometer for biggest hack is fouls per minute. Curry averages a personal foul every 8.86 minutes. That’s not the worst. Biedrins averages a foul every 7.36 minutes of action. That’s not the worst. Before he went down, Brandan Wright was averaging a foul every 7.14 minutes.
The biggest hack title goes to … drum roll …Vladimir Radmanovic, who averages a personal foul every 5.55 minutes on the court.
OK, technically, Dan Gadzuric has the worst foul-per-minute ratio at 5.25. But that doesn’t seem fair since he plays spot minutes and he’s usually trying to protect the basket.
Chuck Hayes does it to Warriors again. Entering Wednesday’s game, Hayes’ career averages 3.7 points were 3.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 18.5 minutes. Check out his lines against the Warriors this year.
Oct. 28 (OAK): 16 points, 8-12 FGs, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 39 minutes
Nov. 24 (HOU): 16 points, 4-5 FGs, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 29 minutes
In both cases, the 16 points tied a career-high. Wednesday, he set career highs in FTM (8) and FTA (8). Crazy part is, Adelman sat Hayes out the final 14:47 of the game. With the Warriors going small, Adelman used just one big man, and it was all Scola down the stretch. (Scola finished with 24 and 12).
HAYES: “They left me open. I had to be aggressive whenever I got the ball and I tried to finish as best as I can and if not then get to the line and try to knock it down.”
It went under the radar. Dorell Wright finished with a team-high 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting, including 1-for-3 from 3-point range. He also had eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, a block and two turnovers. But the point is, he made some shots at a nice percentage. Finally.
His last five games, Wright was 21 of 67 from the field (31.3 percent). Despite a low percentage, he had been able to put points on the board, scoring 16 straight games. But in Monday’s loss to Denver, scoring just two points on 1-for-6 shooting. So you have to imagine that, even though the Warriors lost, he had to feel encouraged.
DORELL: “Everything is in my head. It definitely felt good to make a few shots and be comfortable and I think I’m getting my confidence back. I know everything is going to come back once I get my legs. I’m playing heavy minutes. But it’s not a problem because I’m in great shape, so I’ve just got to find away.”
What helped was Dorell got on the board by getting to the free throw line. The rule is when you are struggling with your shot, the cure is layups or free throws. So even though he split the pair, it helpe. Moments later, at the 9:27 mark, he dropped in a pull-up 17-footer. He was feeling good, so good that even though he missed his next two shots — a pull-up from 20 feet that he rebounded himself but missed the ensuing runner — he had already built some confidence.
So, later in the quarter, when Monta found him alone for a 3-pointer, Wright knocked down the open 3-pointer with ease. That snapped a streak of seven straight misses from behind the arc. Wright, who was 2 for his last 18 from 3-point range, needs to knock down the 3-pointer for the Warriors’ offense to flourish and to open up the rest of his game. It especially helps his head fakes. When he hits shots early, it becomes more effective and he can use it to get closer. He’s a much more effective scorer that way. He has to knock down his open threes though.
DORELL: “It helps a lot because during that three or four game stretch where I was shooting bad, no one was going for my head fake. Once I get a few easy baskets, now I’ve got guys flying. I think the main thing I need to do is just stay aggressive and get in the paint. I think I can get in the paint whenever I want to. I’ve just got to go in there and finish strong, and that’s going to open up my game by getting to the free throw line. Getting those easy baskets and getting to the free throw line is going to open up my shot outside.”
Monta is having his team over for Thanksgiving dinner. They’ll be in Memphis, which is Monta’s second home. It’s where his wife is from and only about a three-hour drive from his hometown of Jackson, Miss.
But if you think that’s a nice gesture and a sign of the Warriors chemistry, check out what David Lee did:
SMART: “We can’t wait to get him back because he just brings so much positivity to our team. I’ve been around our team for a long time and the NBA. The guy was not going on a road trip, but he brought two cakes for the team to (take) on the road. He lives in San Francisco. We flew out of Oakland. So he drove over to the airport to wish us well. That’s a true teammate that our guys have in David Lee.”