Game 1, The Wrapup: This is why Stephen Curry can’t start, or why Anthony Morrow must start with him
By Geoff Lepper
After Wednesday’s 108-107 season-opening loss to Houston, Warriors Don Nelson called out the non-passers on his team — i.e., everybody except Stephen Curry and (when the spirit moves him) Stephen Jackson — for not keeping Anthony Morrow high enough in their thoughts.
Morrow, the NBA’s best 3-point shooter last season, uncorked only seven shots in 22 1/2 minutes on the floor, an attempt rate that ranked seventh out of the nine players Nelson used, behind Curry, Jackson, Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, Kelenna Azubuike and Anthony Randolph. Only Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins managed to keep themselves from outgunning Morrow.
“If you don’t get him the ball when he’s open, it doesn’t do much good to have him in the game,” Nelson said. “We have to do a better job of understanding he’s our best shooter, and you’ve got to know where he is at all times.
But the rest of the players on this roster are who they are — and they will resolutely remain so if there are never any consequences for them to face.
To wit: If you’re going to let Maggette, who went 3-for-14 in a little less than 25 minutes, jack up a steady stream of no-hope 19-foot clanks without recriminations, why on Earth should he even give a fleeting, momentary thought to passing off to Morrow?
(Maggette was so wretched offensively that someone was moved enough to compile his greatest “hits” before the evening was out. See below.)
Nelson, however, just shrugged off Maggette’s inaccuracies, and in fact defended the idea that 20-footers from a guy who has 15-foot range is a quality idea.
“Well, I’d like him to drive every time, but you can’t ask a guy not to take advantage of the way his defense is playing,” Nelson said. “I thought (Maggette took) too many occasionally, and they were too early in the clock, but he’s my veteran player. I’m going to pretty well let him have his head. He’s got to figure out how to play the best for him and we have to adjust around him. . . .
“He’ll take that shot when he’s open, and I’m not going to take that away from him.”
Not to go all self-referential here, but quoting my own Tweet: “Can I put it any more plainly? Corey Maggette launching 20-footers is losing basketball.”
Given that the rest of the team is flat-out incapable of feeding Morrow, it falls to Nelson to make sure that the majority of Morrow’s minutes come when Curry is also in action. This is, as we’ve said before, the major problem with starting Curry alongside Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. Neither of those guys can be benched in favor of Morrow — not without some injury or suspension, not while both remain healthy.
Of his 22:28 on the floor, Morrow spent less than half of that time — 9:52 — teamed with Curry. After first checking into the game, Morrow didn’t take a shot for 3 1/2 minutes — until Curry, freshly inserted back into the game, collected the back tap from a jump ball and fired a crisp chest pass to the right wing, where Morrow had drifted out to the 3-point arc. Last season’s NBA 3-point percentage leader knocked down the wide-open look.
Just before the half, Curry again found Morrow, who had ditched Trevor Ariza on a quick inbounds play and stood open in the left corner for a 19-footer.
Those were Morrow’s only two made jump shots of the game. (His third bucket was a tip-in.)
What was that you were saying about defense?
Nelson noted in the post-game press conference that the Rockets’ 46.5 shooting percentage was actually not too bad. The problem was that Houston shot almost as well — 46.2 percent — on 3-pointers, hitting 12 of 26 shots.
The Warriors permitted those numbers without getting the benefit of doubling down on Luis Scola, who tore the Warriors up for 15 points in the third quarter alone. If you’re giving up 3s because you’re busy throwing multiple defenders at the opponent’s top post player, that’s one thing. To hand them over while your top interior defenders are getting repeatedly worked over is another.
Of the 12 Houston treys, some lacked an individual to blame: Scola nailed a desperation trey at the shot-clock buzzer, Chase Budinger drained one after Golden State’s defense got scrambled in transition, Shane Battier hit over the Warriors’ zone, and Aaron Brooks’ three were all from so far out that they still qualify as the kind of shots you want Houston to take.
Of the remaining six:
** Trevor Ariza hit a couple over Ellis, lulling him into a false sense of security and then, when Ellis put his weight on his heels and began to drift back toward the basket, pop quickly out to the arc for the open looks.
** Ariza was gifted another one when Azubuike allowed himself to sucked into no-man’s land on the pass into the post. He didn’t double hard, but he did take three or four steps away from Ariza, which was more than enough room to get off the 3.
** Budinger got rolling when he hit an easy corner ball, left wide open by some absurdly lazy D from Maggette.
** Budinger capped off his night from deep by busting one in the face of Morrow, who was a step too slow in closing out.
** Perhaps most amusingly — given that he complained postgame about not getting a chance to guard Ariza — Jackson allowed Ariza to swish another triple when he just simply couldn’t be bothered to chase him around a pair of baseline screens.
About that last play…
Needing a 3-pointer to tie with 6.6 seconds left, the Warriors had a strange lineup on the floor for their final play. Nelson brought a cold Morrow in off the bench, but pulled Azubuike (44.8 percent last season on 3s) to make room. That left Morrow on the floor with Jackson as the only other legitimate 3-point threat alongside Biedrins, Ellis and Curry. Not surprisingly, when Morrow tried to come off a Biedrins screen at the top of the key, both
Nelson said that since Houston had a foul to give before giving up free throws to Golden State, the expectation was that the Rockets would hack whoever caught the ball, and Morrow was given instructions to make sure he got a shot away from distance to try to earn three free throws and a chance to tie the game, rather than taking a loose-ball foul which would have given the Warriors even less time to use.
But that still doesn’t explain why Azubuike couldn’t have stayed on the floor in place of Curry or Ellis. Even if the play was designed so that Morrow, Biedrins and Jackson were the only moving parts, wouldn’t it have been better to have one more safety value available? Both Curry and Ellis curled off the stack to start the inbounds play, then fed into the corner to wait and see what would happen with Morrow. So when Ariza and Chuck Hayes tossed Biedrins aside and created a thicket of arms at the 3-point line, Morrow had no other choice but to throw up an off-kilter trey that missed badly.
Would things have been different if Azubuike had replaced Curry and had continued his run on the play, winding up on the right wing with time to accept a pass? Who knows. But it couldn’t have finished any worse, right?
8 Responses to “Game 1, The Wrapup: This is why Stephen Curry can’t start, or why Anthony Morrow must start with him”
J Canseco October 29th, 2009 at 4:52 pm
Real nice analysis, Geoff. You should cover a real NBA team some day.
Yes, really nice analysis. One problem:who would you start if not Curry? Azabuike maybe? And I can’t see Morrow starting, unless Jackson starts as PF or is traded.
All the alternatives are unappetizing. This team needs passing so much that Curry is needed 48 minutes a game.
We have to remember that this is only one game. I get the feeling that Nelson chose playing time based on pre-season performance; Maggette did pretty well pre-season. It sucks that it didn’t carry over.
high dribble dribble October 30th, 2009 at 7:01 am
agree completely that morrow needs to play with curry but still not sure you and many others are saying the Ws had only two 3-pt shooters on the floor at the end — curry is the guy who makes long money shots — that’s his MO from college and i would be surprised if we don’t see him to that with the Ws if given the chance — just look at how clutch he got in the 4th Q
Basically, Kelenna should have been in for Monta. But no coach in his right mind is taking Monta out in that situation - it’s one game and you already have Jackson demanding out.
I thought having Goose instead of Turiaf (a wider player) set the screen was a mistake, but maybe in their evaluations, Goose has shown himself to set the best screens of the two.
Geoff Lepper October 30th, 2009 at 9:22 am
HDD: I hear what you’re saying, but Curry was 6-30 on 3FGAs in exhibition games and missed his only one of this game, the pullup 3 on the W’s second possession, after he stripped the ball from Ariza. I don’t think Nelson has confidence in him to take that shot. Not yet, at least.
way to go Geoff, keep up the good work.
Ho hum. They’d better be different tonight.
Oh yeah, about that Warriors captaincy…
valuable title, clearly.
I still haven’t been able to “let go” after Maggette’s performance against Houston. Nelson says “He’s my veteran…” So, isn’t a veteran supposed to show more intelligence than the young guys? Somebody on another blog pointed out that Maggette was a +5 for the night. I can only assume that “+5″ refers to his IQ. Not only were all those shots from behind or near the arc a nightmare, but what about that moment where he brings the ball up over the center line (under no pressure), turns and throws a pass to Monta- in the BACKCOURT. Monta somehow leaped forward and avoided a turnover, but I don’t know how. That kind of thing (like Randolph’s unbelievably stupid telegraphed cross-court pass) drives me insane.
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