Game story for tomorrow’s paper
ATLANTA– Warriors forward David Lee converted the game-winning basket in the Warriors’ 85-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Guard Monta Ellis had the standout numbers, as his 24 points and eight assists were both game-highs.
But the star of Golden State’s bounce-back win was forward Dominic McGuire. Starting in place of injured point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right foot), McGuire made a definitive impact on the game.
And he didn’t score a point.
His 15 rebounds, his season-high, helped Golden State win the battle of the boards (53-50). His defense helped hold Joe Johnson to 18 points on 17 shots with three turnovers. His willingness to roll up his sleeves and mix it up helped play with a gritty, urgent swagger they needed after getting embarrassed at Indiana on Tuesday.
“Dominic McGuire embodies everything we’ve preached about from Day 1,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “I thought it was important to make a statement and start the guy who has done everything we’ve asked him to do. I knew exactly what I was going to get from him. Great defense, going after every rebound, and chasing down all the loose balls.”
The Warriors, who have won two of their last three road games, have snatched the back the positive vibes they squandered in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the host Pacers. And they did it with defense, contrary to their usual style.
Golden State held the Hawks to 33.7 percent shooting. That was not only the lowest opponent’s field goal percentage of the season, but the lowest since November 2006, when the Warriors held Utah to 32.5 percent.
Atlanta missed 21 of 28 field goals in the fourth quarter. It was a stark contrast to the field day the Pacers had the night before.
“That was great – especially after the debacle (Tuesday) night,” said Warriors forward Ekpe Udoh, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. “We have to play like that if we want to be successful. We can’t take minutes and plays and games off if we’re going to get where we’re trying to go.”
Of course, the Warriors had to do it on that end because the offense wasn’t clicking. With Curry on the bench watching, held out with his sore right foot, the Warriors again struggled to get a rhythm offensively. Golden State shot 41 percent, missed 11 of 12 from 3-point range. Ellis and Lee took 48 of the Warriors’ 83 attempts. They missed 29.
But Lee made the biggest basket when Golden State needed it most. It was Warriors ball with the scored tied at 78 and just over a half a minute left. Everyone in Philips Arena expected Ellis to take the shot, but the play went to Lee. He drove down the right side of the paint and banked it in from close range over Hawks’ forward Josh Smith, putting the Warriors ahead 80-78 with 30.1 seconds left.
On the ensuing defensive possession, Atlanta guard Jeff Teague missed a runner and reserve forward Brandon Rush skied for the rebound, completing the timely defensive stop. Ellis and guard Nate Robinson combined to knock down five of six free throws to keep the Hawks at bay.
“We closed out and won when the game was there for the taking down the stretch,” Jackson said. “I was extremely proud of the way we bounced back tonight.”
* Multiple team sources said Golden State is not interested in trading Ellis to Orlando unless the trade would involve center Dwight Howard.
ESPN reported Wednesday that Orlando was interested in acquiring Ellis from the Warriors to to pair with Howard. Ellis has been mentioned by Howard as someone he would like to play alongside. But the Warriors’ sources said the team isn’t interested in any other players the Magic has to offer, especially not in exchange for Ellis.
Orlando could get a third team involved. But as one source said, “we’re not trading Monta unless we get something really good in return. It would probably have to be an All-Star or that caliber of a player.” The chances of Orlando finding a player from another team good enough for the Warriors to ship Ellis is extremely slim.
One of the sources said the teams are in on-going discussions and will likely be until the March 15 trade deadline. Golden State is trying to “stay in the game” in the Howard sweepstakes. But the Warriors’ interest is purely to acquire Howard, the sources said, and the feasibility of an Ellis trade to Orlando is remote at best without Howard involved.
* The play on which Lee made the game-winning shot might’ve looked familiar. It was the same play they tried to run at Memphis on Feb. 18.
Needing a basket, and with the Grizzlies overplaying Ellis, Jackson used Ellis as a decoy and went to Lee. But on his drive to the basket, Lee committed an offensive foul. Warriors lost.
So consider Wednesday a make-up.
“This time I pulled up short and shot a floater,” Lee said. “We talk about losing some games down the stretch and learning from it. And I learned from it. We ran the same play tonight and I was able to complete it.”
* McGuire is the only the second Warrior to grab 15 rebounds and go scoreless in the same game. He’s the first to do it in 38 years.
The other Warrior? Clyde Lee. He had 0 points and 20 rebounds on March 2, 1974.He also had 0 points and 16 rebounds on Dec. 26, 1972.
“If I’m out there long enough, I’m going to get rebounds,” McGuire said. “That’s guaranteed.”
The first 10 games Curry missed, Jackson started rookie guard Charles Jenkins at point. But Wednesday, he said he went with McGuire as a reward, moving Ellis to starting point guard.
“I thought it was important to make a statement and start the guy who has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Jackson said. “I knew exactly what I was going to get from him. Great defense, going after every rebound, and chasing down all the loose balls.”
* Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, still hobbled by the sprained deltoid ligament in his right foot, sat out his second consecutive game. Most of it. During the timeout before Lee’s game-winning basket, Jackson called on Curry (who for the second consecutive game was in uniform though he was ruled out). Jackson wanted Curry to come in for McGuire and stand in the corner, using Curry’s shooting as a threat to keep the defense honest.
Curry snatched off his warm-ups and checked right in. He played 3.2 seconds.Jacksonloved the sacrifice.
“For him to throw all of his numbers and stats out the window,”Jackson said, “and say, ‘Coach, if you need me I can go’ – to come in to just stand in the corner – that was amazing. I’ve played with a lot of star players in my 17 years, and I know a lot of guys who would have said, ‘Don’t put me in and mess up my numbers.’ That’s what we’re trying to build here.”