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Ekpe Udoh May Have Earned Starting Center Spot in Warriors’ Win over the Clippers

Game story for tomorrow

Warriors second-year big man Ekpe Udoh started at center against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. And after the way he played, many Golden State fans will be hoping it’s permanent.

With the usual starter Andris Biedrins out with flu-like symptoms, Udoh registered a career-high 17 points in a career-high tying 39 minutes as the Warriors beat the Clippers 104-97. He made on 9 of 14 shots to go with eight rebounds (including a career-high six offensive boards) and two blocks as Golden State snapped a three-game losing streak.

“He was great. Absolutely great,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “He had an opportunity tonight and truly took advantage of it. … The way he‘s played the last month or so has been great and (Monday night) was the icing on the cake.”

Unfortunately for the Warriors (12-17), Udoh left the game after he banged his left knee late and did not return. X-rays were negative. Udoh’s sprained left knee will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

But before he left, though, Udoh brought the kind of production and presence to the center position the Warriors have been craving. He outplayed Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan and helped keep All-Star Blake Griffin from dominating too much (21 points, nine rebounds).

In addition to his defense, Udoh, if only for one night, answered the Warriors’ famine for inside scoring.  Golden State actually scored more points in the paint (34-32) than the Clippers.

Throw in a game-high 32 points from guard Monta Ellis and a 24-point and 13-rebound double-double from David Lee, and the Warriors proved to be too much for the third-best team in the Western Conference.

“You have enough trouble trying to stop Monta and (Stephen) Curry,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “When you throw Udoh into it, it gets a lot tougher.”

The only question now is will this be a blip on the radar or a breakout game.

“I’ve just got to keep working,” Udoh said. “I have to take advantage of the opportunities. I will do whatever coach Jackson needs me to. I’m just trying to help this team win.”

Even with Udoh’s performance, the Warriors still found themselves in a tight game down the stretch. In what is a break from the norm, Golden State made the necessary plays down the stretch to hold off the Clippers.

With four minutes left, Udoh emerged from a crowd of Clippers with an offense rebound, dropping it in with a two hands to tie the game at 95. Moments after  Los Angeles took the lead back, Curry drove the lane and whipped a pass back out to swingman Brandon Rush, who nailed the open 3-pointer.

After Curry secured a stop with a defensive rebound, which the Warriors couldn’t do in Saturday’s loss at Memphis, Ellis put the Warriors ahead 100-97 with a driving lay-up at the 1:23 mark.

Ellis’ basket all but sealed as Golden State held the Clippers scoreless over the last 3:15. Los Angeles missed its last six shots and turned it over once.

Jackson has said he was sticking by Biedrins as his starter. But after Monday’s performance, it sound as if Jackson was laying the foundation for a change at center.

“The way he played tonight, he gives us something totally different,” Jackson said when asked if Udoh is his starter. “I will take my time and assess our basketball team and we’ll move forward. But he certainly is a guy that, when opportunity presented itself, played well enough to demand more minutes.”

Certainly, the fans are going to want Udoh in the starting lineup.

With just under a minute and a half left, after Ellis’ driving basket, the crowd at Oracle Arena was in mid-celebration. Then when it saw Udoh on the ground clutching his left knee, the noise immediately fell to a concerned hush.

Eventually, Udoh got up and walked off on his own power. And you could almost hear the sell-out crowd collectively sigh in relief. Their new choice for starting center appeared to be ok.

Marcus Thompson

  • Yoda

    Pretty good timing after Kawakami’s article of yesterday.

  • Stan

    The moral of the story is ANY center is a better center then Beidrens. Are people forgetting Kwame Brown? It’s not that Kawakami hit on anything Warrior fans didn’t already know. It’s been the Warriors who have dragged their feet with Andres the Neurotic.

  • Stan

    Andres the Neurotic Giant. (pat pen. TM)

  • gtown1_sj

    Udoh should’ve had 4 blocks. Those 2 fouls called against Blake were bad calls. At least it didn’t cost us in the end. I liked his energy and his tenacity on both sides of the court. I think he got a bit intimidated at the end, but he still hung in there. To me he has heart. Something this Warriors team sorely lacks. I don’t think Lee has the same type of heart.
    I think Udoh deserves to start and get the minutes. Biedrins is finished. His career is a backup at best. He is afraid to attack and go to the free throw line. When he is on the floor its basically 4 on 5. He’s not even a Reggie Evens who at least is productive.

  • Stan

    And MT2-feel free to use this observation: Blake Griffin and Hellboy-seperated at birth?. Pure gold.

  • commish

    You can’t be a basketball fan and Not love last night’s game. And be happy for Udoh and grateful SB had “the flu.”. Yet it is games like this that give us false hope that this flawed team is something we want to see next year as we did the year before. Not to mention we move closer to losing our first round pick, which seems inevitable. So although I applaud the team effort I hope the win doesn’t delude our perspective of what needs to happen by the Ides of March

  • Dave

    Don’t worry. Udoh is done, at least for now. Sprained knee. When Biedrins fouls out in the first quarter they won’t have a center. According to my calculations the Warriors are in the 8th spot. Is this correct? They need to get to the 7th.

  • Kenny Seagle, Emperor of the North

    19 points not 17

    ANY QUESTIONS ???????

  • Stan

    Jackson announces Beidrens is still the starter? If so,thats what fans should know as politics. MJ was hired by Lacob with a wink and a promise to turn Beidrens around. Its the hidden agenda of the season.
    And Beidrens has a way to manipulate every coach who has come to him with open arms..and they got burned.

  • Derek

    I thinks its best to start Udoh, maybe they can get him turned around. Additional minutes and a starting assignment may help transform him into a player.

    Biedrens is a lost cause.