Certainly, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry had some rough nights over the first 10 games. But did he come into his own at American Airlines Center on Monday?
Coach Mark Jackson thinks so.
JACKSON: “He is our leader. But (Monday), I really believe he took it to a whole different level.”
The fact that Curry was able to carry the Warriors despite a rough shooting night was a testament to his development. In overtime, he didn’t take a 3-pointer. Instead, he used screens, ball-handling and the threat of his jumper to get into the lane. It was the most point guard-like he’s looked all season.
The question for Curry, and the Warriors, is can he play with such command on a regular basis? Can he get into the lane with the same kind of frequency? Can he outplay opposing point guards consistently (Mavericks guard Darren Collison had 7 points on 2 of 11 with 5 assists and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes) and force teams to make some adjustments?
A lot of it, as Mark Jackson admits, is going to be based on his teammates and coaches.
JACKSON: “The thing about it is teams are going to treat him like he’s that guy. Were going to have to set screens, get him open, make life easy for him. Tonight, I thought we did a great job of screening and then he did a great job of coming off aggressive, whether it was to score or to make plays. He ran this team down the stretch the way that I envision him running.
Despite Curry’s clutchness, it was the Warriors’ defense and rebounding that won the game. Golden State dominated the boards 62-43. Despite having problems containing O.J. Mayo, the Warriors came up with numerous critical stops. Dallas had just 7 offensive rebounds.
The Warriors held them to 43 percent shooting and 26 points in the paint. That was vital considering they shot 40.7 percent and turned it over 21 times.
CURRY: “It was a team effort on the road tonight. We got stops and played aggressive on both ends of the floor. … We were able to make plays when they counted and that obviously gave us the win tonight.”
More on Monday’s victory …
MVP: Stephen Curry
DAHNTAY JONES: “He was very aggressive in the fourth quarter. He just kept getting into the paint and making plays and he can score and create shots for others. He really did a good job of keeping the team together in overtime.”
Over the last 13 minutes of the game, Curry totaled 20 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and three turnovers. Most important, he was in command on the court. He made plays, a variety of plays, to lead the team to victory.
KLAY THOMPSON: “He was unbelievable. Just fantastic. Face of the franchise.”
MDP: Klay Thompson
That’s four straight. He was 2 of 14 shooting, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. And his wayward shot clearly effected the rest of his game.
To his credit, Thompson was aggressive early, trying to get inside of settling for jumpers. His shot still wasn’t falling. Eventually, he began settling for 3-pointers.
He had a chance to make it all go away at the end of regulation. The Warriors had the ball with the game tied at 90 and 36.1 seconds remaining. Harrison Barnes missed his runner in the lane, but he got his own rebound with 20.8 seconds left. He dished it out to Thompson, who was all alone on the left wing.
Thompson, having a rough shooting night, had three options: 1. hold the ball for the last possession, ensuring the Warriors either win or go to overtime; 2. Drive in, get closer for a better look and bring in play the chance to get fouled; or 3. Shoot it.
Thompson shot it. And he missed it. Dallas got the rebound and called timeout with 15.8 seconds left.
“I don’t regret taking it,” Thompson said.
Fortunately for Klay, the Mavericks failed to convert the game-winning shot.
On top of his rough shooting, he had four turnovers and had a rough time against O.J. Mayo, who scored 18 of his 27 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
KEY MOMENT I: Having built a lead as large as 10 in the first half, the Warriors had to know Dallas would make a run. And the Mavericks eventually re-took the lead. A three-point play inside by Chris Kaman put Dallas up 61-59 with 4:00 minutes left in the third. The Mavericks had all the momentum.
But on the ensuing offensive possession by the Warriors, Biedrins corralled an offensive rebound, and that led to a 3-pointer by Thompson — his only of the night — to reclaim the lead. After forcing Mavericks guard Darren Collison into a missed jumper, Draymond Green drilled a 22-footer to put the Warriors up by three. It was clear from that point that it would be a dog fight, and Golden State was game.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “I pretty much have a 10 pound ankle with the brace and the tape, so it helped. It was something you just had to play through.” — Curry said on tweaking his right ankle in the fourth quarter.
COACH’S CORNER: It was one of Jackson’s best games as a head coach. He made some critical decisions down the stretch to aid the Warriors to victory. But before we get into those, Jackson made one glaring questionable decision.
Why was Klay in the game when it was clear he couldn’t make a shot and he couldn’t guard O.J. Mayo? Can Jack only play point guard?
Thompson did play good defense on the final possession, beating Mayo to the free throw line area and forcing him to pass (which led to Marion’s airball).
Another critical decision Jackson made was playing Festus Ezeli in overtime. After sitting him all but 1:12 of the fourth quarter, Jackson abandoned one of his favorites, Carl Landry, in favor of Ezeli’s defensive presence. Ezeli not only got a dunk, but he was a presence late in the game. He didn’t get a rebound or a block, but Dallas knew he was there.
There were a couple of times late where Mark Jackson made a good play call, though I think neither resulted in a basket. With just over a minute left in regulation, when it was clear Curry had it going, Jackson yelled something at Curry then pointed to Harrison Barnes. The Warriors ended up ditching the pick-and-roll for a second posting up Barnes.
Why was that smart? Dallas was preparing for Curry to shoot. They brought in swingman Dahntay Jones — a strong, lengthy 6-6 athlete who is in the league because of his ability to defend — to guard Curry, who had his way against Mavs point guard Darren Collison. In the past,Jackson would still run his play even if he lost the advantage. He ran isos for Klay on Tony Allen and stayed with a small lineup against big front lines like Oklahoma City, times when it is clear the defense has the advantage. But Monday, he didn’t make Curry climb uphill, instead went to another advantage. It happened again in the final seconds, leading to Barnes missing a runner.
Sometimes, you’ve got to adjust to the adjustment. Jackson did that Monday.
And lastly, Green played nearly 26 minutes. He had 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and an assist. Green’s presence on the floor sends a message that he is serious about defending, rebounding and playing smart. Green brings the intangibles that winning teams need. The decision was fairly easy forJackson, with Jefferson out and Dallas playing a stretch PF in Troy Murphy a lot. But it’s one that has to be made. Expect to see Green’s minutes steadily increase. I could easily see him becoming the regular back-up SF
KEY MOMENT II: With 8:07 left in the fourth quarter, and Golden State down 78-73, Curry drove to the basket and drew a foul. But he landed on the foot of Mavericks big man Bernard James.
Curry stayed down for a minute, sporting a please-not-now look on his face. When he got up, he limped noticeably. He made the two free throws then came up with a steal and a fast-break layup, cutting Dallas’ lead to 78-77 and forcing a timeout. As he walked to the huddle, he was still limping and grimacing.
But out of the timeout, he seemed to be fine.
JACKSON: “Our guys told me that when he went down hard, he tweaked his ankle a little bit. … I didn’t see it, but I think that something on the inside told him he had to muster it.”
It was after the tweak Curry really took over the game. He scored 14 of the Warriors’ next 18 points. He scored or assisted on five baskets down the stretch that either tied the game or put Golden State ahead.
TELLING STAT: The Warriors grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, which led to 19 second-chance points. Festus Ezeli had 7 offensive rebounds in just over 21 minutes. Coming off the loss to the Thunder, where they had just 8, the Warriors took advantage of the Mavericks’ patchwork frontcourt. With no Dirk Nowitzki, with Marion still not his usual self, Rick Carlisle played Troy Murphy and Bernard James a lot. (Interestingly, Brandon Wright got just four minutes. He seems like the type, long and athletic, who could hurt the Warriors).
SERIOUSLY?!: Carl Landry had just 7 points on 3 of 8 shooting in just over 15 minutes. Shocking he played just 15 minutes in a 53-minute game. More shocking, he couldn’t work his magic against the Mavericks frontline. Usually, Landry can get to the line more than he did (1 of 2) Monday. But his inability to get the calls seem to effect him, which makes sense considering it’s a big part of his game. Perhaps he would’ve gotten a rhythm had he played more. But it was just odd to see him look so ineffective after the start he’s had.
KEY MOMENT III: With the game tied at 99 with 41.2 seconds left, the Warriors had the ball and needed a score. Jones came back in just to defend Curry. He got past him with a screen and got into the lane, drew the defense and dumped it off to David Lee for the layup with 32.7 seconds left.
Yes, David Lee, who was 7 for 17 shooting and had 5 shots blocked (putting him to 27 on the season).
BEFORE YOU GO: Get a load of The Black Falcon. It kind of got lost in the Curry show, but Harrison Barnes was just shy of outstanding. For stretches, he looked like the best player on the court. He finished with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting with 12 rebounds. He was a team-best plus-8 and seems to be the only guy who consistently goes to the basket with some power and aggression. His last four games, he’s averaged 17.5 points and and 8.8 rebounds.