CLEVELAND — He scored a game-high 29 points. He put up 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot clock-beating, nail-in-the-coffin 18-footer with 44.8 seconds left.
But the scoring star of the Warriors’ 105-95 victory here Tuesday night wasn’t who you might expect.
“It wasn’t my night,” guard Monta Ellis said. “It was David Lee’s.”
Ellis had one of his worst offensive performances of the season. He made just 2 of 12 from the field and finished with 10 points.
He left the game with 35.2 seconds left after taking an elbow to the nose from Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. With the game was already decided, Ellis didn’t return. X-rays were negative as he suffered just a cut.
With Ellis having an off night, and point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) in street clothes for the seventh consecutive game, the Warriors (5-8) still managed enough offense to outscore the Cavaliers.
You can thank Lee, who also had nine rebounds as Golden State won back-to-back games road games for the first time since November 2010.
Tuesday night continued a torrid stretch for Lee. Over his last five games, Lee is averaging 24.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting. He’s also averaging 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry will not play Tuesday night against Cleveland as his sprained right ankle has not recovered well enough. It will be Curry’s seventh straight game missed.
Since Saturday is the earliest possible day for the Warriors’ next practice, where Curry can test out his ankle again in a full-contact setting, he may not return until Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies. If that is the case, he will have missed nine games and gotten 18 days of rest.
No doubt he’s frustrated, but Curry’s showing some serious maturity by patiently waiting for the right time to return. And coach Mark Jackson is refusing to put any pressure on Curry to get back in the lineup. Gotta commend their big-picture approach. Come March, especially if Curry is playing well, no one will remember these games he’s missing (if they are the last games he’ll miss).
MARK JACKSON: “Still getting closer and closer. Just trying to make the best decision and not rush it, which is important. We want him for the long haul.”
NBA General Managers deemed the Warriors’ Mike Malone as the best assistant coach in the NBA. He got 29.2 percent of the votes, ahead of Indiana’s Brian Shaw (20.8%).
Warriors guard Monta Ellis gets honorable mention for the fastest player in the NBA with the ball, behind Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook. And Warriors forward David Lee is listed as one of the game’s five best offensive rebounders.
UPDATE: Anthony Parker is out and Boobie Gibson is starting at shooting guard. That makes scoring easier for Monta Ellis.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry did not participate in shootaround. I suspect that makes him officially out for tonight’s game in Cleveland. Judging by the response from readers/Twitter followers, that’s a good thing. Curry needs the rest. But that could work to the Warriors advantage in this game.
No Curry means Charles Jenkins will likely start on Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving. I gotta believe if it were Curry starting, Monta Ellis would start on Kyrie, allowing Curry to ease into action by defending Anthony Parker, who is mostly a spot up shooter. But Mark Jackson can afford to devote Charles Jenkins to the task of sticking with Irving. That saves Ellis, who will be matched up against Parker.
Ellis will need his energy offensively. Not just because the Warriors need him to be on his game against a pretty good Cavs team. But also because Ellis will likely be defended by Parker, who is bigger and longer – a combination that usually gives Ellis some difficulty. After Jenkins, Nate Robinson can chase Kyrie around. And if he dogs the Warriors’ too much, maybe Ellis slides over. But the benefit of Jenkins is that he plays limited minutes and he is not a key cog on offense. He can focus on making it difficult for Kyrie.
The 20 players selected for the 2012 USA men’s basketball team were revealed today, as named by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. Stephen Curry was not on the list.
CURRY: “My schedule from June to August cleared up.”
While Curry was smiling after practice at the Cleveland Clinic (the Cavalier’s practice facility), it was very clear he was not happy about not being selected for Team USA. He joined Danny Granger as the only two players from the 12-man roster at the 2010 World Championships not on the roster for 2012.
Even with his ankle issues, being left off did not sit well with Curry.
Greg Monroe’s production this season really has Warriors fans smarting over the general manager Larry Riley passing him up in the 2010 draft. Golden State instead selected Ekpe Udoh. So far, Monroe has clearly been the most productive of the two.
After a better-than-solid rookie year, Monroe has been deemed the center of the future in Detroit. So far, from a distance, he seems to be living up to the anointing. He came into Sunday’s game against the Warriors averaging 16.6 points on 57.6 percent shooting with 9.2 rebounds – all team highs. And he’s doing it with such consistency, it’s harder to write it off as good numbers on a bad team.
Meanwhile, Udoh struggles on offense, leaves a lot to be desired with his rebounding, and is lacking consistency. He’s a role player who sometimes doesn’t get much run, averaging 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.5 minutes.
GM LARRY RILEY: “What he has to do is get a little bit better as far as his rebound game is concerned, and get a little more offensive confidence. He defends. We know will defend and block shots. We need to see a little more growth out of him. It’s coming, but its coming slowly. He’s a guy who can show the ability to make a few jump shots in practice and he’s gotten to where it looks like he’s comfortable with some low-post moves. But we need his game to grow. There is no doubt about it.”
So, on paper, it’s looking glaringly obvious the Warriors made the wrong choice. But as Sunday’s game proved, it’s not that cut and dry.