Thoughts on Game No. 25: Magic 109, Warriors 98
By Geoff Lepper
OAKLAND — That the Warriors were repeatedly gashed by Orlando’s pick-and-roll play in the Magic’s 109-98 victory Monday should have come as no shock. Golden State hasn’t defended the play well for most, if not all, of this season — most famously in the David Lee/Chris Duhon massacre at Madison Square Garden — and even with Dwight Howard out, Jameer Nelson was just too savvy for the Warriors to handle.
What did raise eyebrows was the way coach Don Nelson called out center Andris Biedrins for his handling of those plays.
“Screen-and-roll’s been very difficult for us,” Nelson said. “(Ronny) Turiaf handles it better than Goose and he’s just really struggled this year to keep guards in front of him, on the blitzes. They split him. We try about everything we can try to help him out. And then when they have 3-point shooters, it takes your weakside help away, so then they hurt you with the roll man, and (if) you cover that, then they have the 3-point shot open.
So, I asked, has Andris regressed this year on the screen-and-roll?
“Um, you know, I’m not sure. I think we had more veterans around him a year ago and they helped cover some of his issues,” Nelson said. “We were bigger and quicker and had more years under our belt. Now he’s more exposed. There’s other mistakes that happen and guys aren’t where they’re supposed to be and they’re not used to different coverages. So it’s harder on everybody.”
I thought therefore that I’d take a look at the Magic’s screen-roll usage and see what we could glean from that data.
Orlando used S/Rs against the Warriors’ man-to-man defense on 66 occasions, scoring a total of 50 points on 22-for-39 shooting (6-for-11 3-pointers). The rest of the time either resulted in a turnover, a loose-ball foul on the Warriors or, most likely, a pass to another player who reset the offense or worked one-on-one.
Of those 66 times, Biedrins was guarding the big man in 38 instances, typically Marcin Gortat, who was subbing for Howard. Turiaf got called upon 14 times, mostly versus Tony Battie. And Stephen Jackson pulled big duty 14 times, usually when Rashard Lewis was the screener.
Turiaf fared the best, allowing just four points in his 14 possessions (2-for-4 FG) and nabbing a steal with some quick hands. Those figures may also have something to do with Battie’s pretty severe limitations offensively, but give credit where it’s due — Turiaf kept the Magic ball-handlers from finding a third player to get involved.
Jackson didn’t do as well, allowing nine points (4-7 FG, 1-2 3FG) in 14 attacks, although he was most often facing the Magic’s top two available players in the form of Lewis and Jameer Nelson.
Biedrins, meanwhile, was the worst of the three, giving up 37 points in his 38 plays (16-28 FG, 5-9 3FG). The worst aspect, as Don Nelson pointed out, was the number of secondary looks for players not involved in the original pick-and-roll; giving up weakside help on the rolling big man opens up 3-point shooters on secondary looks, and the Magic went 5-for-8 on those type of shots (3-for-6 on treys) with Biedrins in the game.
Biedrins often left the screener open to chase the ball, but then failed to impede the ball-handler in any significant way. This puts way too much stress on a Warriors defense that is already stretched thin due to a lack of quality on-ball defenders.
And given the Warriors’ multitude of other problems, it’s too much to overcome.
** After Jackson’s 3-for-14 night, I’ll reiterate: Doing without Jackson entirely for five games is better than having him play as a shell of himself for 15, assuming it will make him healthy after the layoff. The Warriors very easily could go 1-4 or even 0-5 on this trip even with a half-strength Jackson. Why not use that time more effectively?
** On that same topic: Don Nelson dropped the ball in essentially abdicating responsibility when it comes to Jackson (“He thinks he can play on, so . . . It’s totally up to him.”). Jackson, for his part, said that he’ll play until his teammates tell him not to, but really, what guy in that locker room has the cred to pull him aside for that conversation?
I can just imagine the death stare locked onto Anthony Randolph as he tries to get through that speech. (“You’re 13-for-64 in your last five games. That’s . . . even worse than my shooting percentage.”)
There are three guys who might fit the bill, but they’re all disqualified either because they’re hurt (Monta Ellis), just arrived (Jamal Crawford) or both (Corey Maggette).
** There may be more passing in the Warriors’ new offensive focus, but it often seems like passing for passing’s sake, the NBA equivalent of moving deck chairs on the Titanic. The extra ball movement needs to lead to players being put in a position to score more easily, or else they might as well go back to isolation & stagnation as a game plan.
** Who would’ve thought that the play of Gortat (10 points, eight rebounds at intermission) would make folks pine for a halftime recovery by Howard?
** Jameer Nelson obviously had his way with the Warriors defense, but in a sad state of affairs, Magic rookie Courtney Lee (6-8 FG, 2-2 3FG, 2 S, 2 A, 0 TO) also easily outclassed every member of the Warriors’ backcourt. Lee’s night was summed up by a sequence late in the third quarter when he first raced across the court on a rotation to keep Turiaf from getting a clean look at a jumper from the left elbow. Then he spun on a dime and got back to his own cover, Kelenna Azubuike, in time to snatch up Marco Belinelli’s pass and draw a clear-path foul.
** The Warriors have until Thursday morning to either make an unbalanced trade or cut loose a player to make room for Monta Ellis coming off of the suspended list. A team source said the organization will be choosing from three possible plans of action, and confirmed the obvious: Cutting loose third-year guard Marcus Williams — who likely will cost the Warriors a first-round pick in a future draft — is one of the three options.
The Lineup Project
I’ll just let Don Nelson state his case:
“Well, it was a small man’s game tonight, the way we figured it. And our small team had to really play well. And their small team outplayed us, that’s all. . . . That’s been my problem, when we go small, the other team’s small team is often better. Makes it kind of a difficult time. But I think it was a match-up that we had to do. We had to go small. I don’t think any of our bigs could’ve guarded their front line-up.”
They couldn’t have been any worse than what you had, Don.
Lineup GS OPP Time
Large 0 0 0:00
Turiaf-Biedrins 0 0 0:00
Medium 31 32 12:00
Small 67 77 36:00
Without Monta. . .
The Warriors are 7-18 with one game to go before Ellis is off suspension. I think somewhere around Jan. 15 is the most realistic return date. Whenever Ellis does come back, it seems clear it will be to a team that is significantly below .500.
17 Responses to “Thoughts on Game No. 25: Magic 109, Warriors 98”
But Nelson’s idiotic rotations have simply killed this team. The young guys — AR, in particular — have hust tuned him out since he’s such a scourge on them. The sheer stupidity of playing ever smaller, slower, stupider ball — game after game — has resulted in a dead season even tho we’re barely a quarter of the way into it.
Whether it’s injury or not — he wasn’t shooting well BEFORE he got hurt — tho he’s obviously the worst shooter in the league now, he sghouldn’t be playing 25 minutes let alone 40. Nelson’s turned a good workmanlike sixth man into a steaming pile of horse manure (sort of like he did with Al). And if your old and slow, you can do no wrong in Nellie’s book.
Looks like Nellie’s just diggin in, and waiting until his buddy, the Doofus Rowell, gives him his pink slip — and two extra years’ pay — and flies on back to Maui. Maybe we should start a collection for this Neanderthal, cuz this team’s once again verging on the unweatchable, and is losing now in the first half. Ugggh!
Biedrins’ deficiency in defending the pick and roll is very surprising given that his biggest advantage over other bigs is mobility. I cannot disagree, however, that he is not defending well - he needs to get out further and faster on the small, forcing that player to take an extremely wide loop around him, stop, or change direction (all of which buy time for the defending guard to recover).
I wonder if Biedrins is simply tired or if the guards aren’t helping out enough or what, but that needs to change.
By t he same token, I saw Harrington (who should be even faster) also fail to bust his ass on the pick and roll to cut off the guard.
Maybe we’re just cursed.
One problem I have with your analysis, Geoff, is that Biedrins will typically be facing the opposing team’s best unit, whereas Turiaf will come in when against the 2nd unit. Also, I think Biedrins’ defense would look miraculously better if any of our guards were competent defenders. Yes, no doubt Andris needs to do a better job, but the guy is caught on an island constantly having to react to our smalls’ mistakes. That’s got to be both physically and mentally draining.
David E December 16th, 2008 at 9:39 pm
Man, you just can’t lay off the cheap lines.
The Lineup Project
I’ll just let Don Nelson state his case:
And then there is this one:
They couldn’t have been any worse than what you had, Don.
You know, my friend, they certainly could have and have been doing so. Good writers write lines like that and then think twice. Shouldn’t you have somewhere on your web site your qualifications to make these observations. Did you play basketball at any level? If you didn’t, who taught you about the game? Why should what you say matter at atll? I know you covered the team. That’s not really enough to count. I figure if you had any qualifications they would be on your web site. If you don’t, why don’t you just post to Golden State of Mind? I am going to quit abusing. I will have a stroke if I keep reading this shit.
Geoff, Do not let comments like those from the small minded, David E., bother you. Yes, your comments about Don that David objected to were a bit casual, but this is a blog, not a serious analytical book. The data that you provide in postings like this one are not available else where. I hope that you are able to continue your fine work. Thank you.
You could go even further though. Rather than statements like: “. . . usually when Rashard Lewis was the screener,” you could give us a table with all of the results including who was guarding whom, and shooting percentages, degree of shot contention, etc.
David E, where is your certification to criticize online blogs? Don’t have one? Then no one cares what you have to say, since you have no qualifications.
Good job Geoff… what do you suppose the other 2 options are? Cutting Hendrix/Morrow/Kurz right now probably isn’t one… so the likely cut is Marcus. But who else could go? Trade? Kapono/Humphries/2009 1st for Maggette works… but he’s not healthy. Or is he?
Friggin Warriors and Nellie… you can’t tell whats a smokescreen anymore. Nellie’s been doing it so long, its nearly impossible to tell a bluff from a real hand…
Cut MWill? You know many teams are crossing their fingers right now hoping we cut him? Toronto, NY, Orlando, Phoenix just off the top of my head. It would be stupid to cut him. The Cut should be DeMarcus, right after the Indy game. Lets be real, nobody is gonna go rush to pick him up. We can have him go back to Bakersfield, and give him a call when a roster spot frees up down the line.
Why would the Warriors trade for Williams & not use him, especially at the risk of losing a 1st round draft pick? He was getting lots of time behind Jason Kidd & Devin Harris in NJ, so he can’t be all that bad… The guy can really pass the ball with ease. His defense could improve, just like the entire Warriors team, but he knows how to run an offense or is that not needed in a “rush the ball up the court & take a crazy shot” offense like in Oakland?? Williams just knows how to get people an easy shot… We need that!
Excellent work Geoff. Don’t worry about the “I played AAU, so I know the game” crowd. Just keep doing what you do.
David E: Huh?
Trade Crowford or Maggette. I say trade Crowford and Marcus no pick to Toronto for Joey Anothny Parker Kapono expisring contracts potential and a shooter
trade crowfor azibuke or cj along wid marcus wid a need for no pic to raptors
Geoff Lepper December 17th, 2008 at 4:18 pm
Jeremy: You’re definitely right about Turiaf facing the backups, but I was only looking at numbers from that Orlando game, when the Magic started Marcin Gortat. So I don’t think that can be the only answer.
Ron: Honestly, I thought people would be a little bored by that. Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send you the full data.
FMQ: I think cutting DeMarcus Nelson is the most viable choice, although if he plays 20 minutes tonight and Marcus Williams remains chained to the bench, I’ll have to revise that opinion.
Bob: See above.
JWS: Nelson took a dislike to his game almost immediately, and that’s a hard thing to overcome with him. And I think Marcus has reached the point where he’s just tired of the situation.
Son of Ahmed December 17th, 2008 at 9:00 pm
Don Nelson is fouling things up. Guys like Marco, Wright, Randolph and Williams should be getting consistent minutes. They are the future of the team. I don’t know if Williams is going to be any good, but I don’t believe he’s getting a fair shake. JWS makes a good point.
These young guys are not being treated like valued members of the team; they’re being spat upon. If Nelson is tanking–and its not a stretch to believe that he is–he should at least have the good sense to bring along the young core and not insult them through the media as he so often does.
And Geoff, you gave the perfect response to David E.
M.Squared December 18th, 2008 at 12:12 am
David E. -
For someone who disagrees so much- why continue to read?
Break it down for us if you have something better.
I enjoyed reading » Blog Archive » Thoughts on Game No. 25: Magic 109, Warriors 98, the subject was very interesting and your writing style is enthralling and interesting. I have signed up to your rss so that I can catch future posts on this and other issues.
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