Tonight’s game in Utah is the first in a series of games in which the Warriors will face teams that play inside out. The Jazz, Timberwolves, Blazers and Rockets – the Warriors’ next five opponents – all have solid-to-really good big men who anchor their offense. (I might be reaching a bit by including LaMarcus Aldridge in the bunch, but he’s certainly capable.)
The Warriors of old would have tried to run these teams out of the gym. But Keith Smart’s Warriors are looking to take a different approach. Forward David Lee said, starting tonight vs. Utah, the Warriors were going to go inside more.
LEE: “You’re going to start seeing more of that. We worked on it (a lot) in practice.”
The Warriors definitely went inside against the Jazz. They dumped the ball down to Lee and Biedrins consistently (Lee more). It didn’t produce much by way of points – Golden State was 13-for-39 in the paint – but it did force the Jazz to defend inside. Utah even brought help to Lee. With a minute left in the half, though Lee was 2-for-8 from the field, the Jazz had center Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on him. That led to Lee finding Biedrins cutting to the basket for a dunk, putting the Warriors up 44-43.
It might be a hard pill to swallow for Warriors fans, who want to see some uptempo action. (Personally, I think they’re best chance of winning is to push the tempo). But it was actually effective and arguably the correct move considering the Warriors’ lack firepower with Stephen Curry on the bench in a blazer.
Oddly enough, they were killed on points in the paint (50-26). They didn’t shoot a good percentage (39.5%) and did not get the Jazz bigs in foul trouble. Well, what did it do? Limited possessions. Kept the big men involved, which helped in rebounding (they outboarded the Jazz 46-40). Fostered ball movement.
SMART: “In this building here, you have to make the defense come and collapse a little bit. You can’t settle too much for playing outside, jump shots and pick-and-rolls, because that will feed their break. I thought that’s why we were in the game for three quarters. We were right there in the game because we played that style, trying to put it inside.”
If only those two big men had made a few more of those baskets.
SMART: “The game is different, probably on our side, if we can get a few more. Even drives to the basket, we missed a few lay-ups down there, too. We’ve got to finish the plays in the paint. When you get a chance, you’ve got to come up with either a bucket or the free throw.”
Lee was 3-for-15, though he got himself to the free throw line 14 times, making 12. Biedrins was 4-for-10. Both of them, when they had one-on-one coverage, got good looks at the rim, especially Lee. They just missed. When the double-team came, Biedrins looked a bit rattled and rush. Lee can pass out of double-teams, but he didn’t look like he could beat the double-team himself.
The point is, the Warriors dumped the ball down and they got good looks.
BIEDRINS: “I’m just not happy we didn’t finish them. We just have to finish on those shots. We missed so many open lay-ups. We have to (make them), otherwise they won’t come to us anymore. We can’t let them down. We have to make sure they know if the ball comes inside, we will gets something good out of it.”
Keith Smart is in a tough spot with Reggie Williams. With Curry out, for what is looking like an extended period of time (he said he is hoping Dec. 18), should he start Williams or keep him in his role as a reserve. There is no easy answer. It seems to make sense to start him. He’s the next best player on the team. He is the next player most able to replace what they lose with Curry out. It makes sense. But there are disadvantages to starting him even though Curry is out.
Now, if you ask me, I would go route Sloan did with C.J. Miles. With Raja Bell out of the lineup, Jerry Sloan started rookie Gordon Hayward at shooting guard. He played all of 10 minutes, 52 seconds, scoring one point, turning the ball over twice and committing four fouls.
You might be wondering why C.J. Miles didn’t start. I didn’t get a chance to ask Sloan, but I am assuming because he wanted Miles to stay in his comfort zone as a reserve. Plus, as a key weapon off the bench, putting him in the starting lineup would leave the bench without much punch. Miles scored 20 points in 28 minutes. He is on pace for a career-high in scoring despite having yet to start.
Reggie Williams had 30 off the bench against San Antonio. It seemed as if he was just getting in his groove. But Curry got hurt and since then Williams has started. If he continues starting, when Curry comes back, you run the risk of Reggie having to adjust again back to life as a reserve. Plus, starting puts Williams into a different mode (as the fourth or fifth option). It also robs the Warriors of bench scoring. Monday, Golden State’s bench was outscored 36-14.
Of course, Smart doesn’t have the weapons Sloan has. While the Jazz lost a defensive weapon in Bell, the Warriors lost a top scorer in Curry. If Reggie Williams stays coming off the bench, the Warriors would have to start Charlie Bell or Acie Law next to Monta – or move Dorell Wright to SG and start Vlad at SF. Either way, the starting lineup would be replacing a 20-point threat with a guy the defense wouldn’t t have to worry much about. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Warriors’ desperate need to get out to a lead.
So what should Smart do? Keep Reggie coming off the bench, getting him comfortable in his role as a sixth-man type and saving some offense for the reserve unit? Or does he keep his starting unit as strong as possible until Curry gets back in, preventing teams (as best he can) from loading up on Monta?
Don’t be surprised if he tries it the other route and bring Williams off the bench vs. Minny. He would have to start Vlad or Acie Law. I lean towards Law because starting Vlad would require more lineup shuffling.
After getting called for an offensive foul, and having attempted only two free throws all night, Ellis was visibly frustrated. He was about to slam the ball, but he caught himself and held on to it. And kept holding on to it as he walked down court. Eventually, he rolled it behind him without looking toward the ref, who hit Ellis with a tech.
It was clear the — obvious, alleged, perceived, imagined … pick one — lack of calls Ellis gets is getting to him. He is usually composed on the court. But he’s becoming more vocal and more openly frustrated with the refs. It seems to be getting to him. And I was sure of it at the 3:29 mark of the fourth quarter.
Ellis got an outlet pass on the break and Deron Williams laid a hard foul on him. Ellis got up, walked slowly towards Williams and spewed some words his way. In seconds, it became a jarring match and the two had to be separated.
When’s the last time you saw that from Ellis?