» Blog Archive » Game 12, The Wrapup (Warriors 108, Trail Blazers 94): Monta Ellis brings the noise on D
  • Nov

    By Geoff Lepper

    I have to admit, I didn’t think much of all the praise being lavished upon the Warriors in the wake of their two “close” defeats in Cleveland and Boston earlier this week. I thought the only things missing from all the happy chatter were some freshly-sectioned oranges and homemade Rice Krispie treats, because it all had that air of youth-soccerdom: Good job, way to go, you tried hard and that’s what matters.

    Never mind that both LeBron James and Paul Pierce had those games in hand the whole time — that after they’d messed around for the first 30 minutes of action, each was able to impose his will on the game: You get an A-plus for effort and a gold star!

    There are, however, no disclaimers to put on the Warriors’ 108-94 win over Portland on Friday. This was a solid victory against a more talented team, a triumph of the new-look Warriors and their brand of ball movement.

    (It will also, unfortunately, help solidify the reign of smallball, in much the same manner of Golden State’s win over Portland in Game 11 last season, which sent the Warriors down that same rabbit hole.)

    The headliner was Monta Ellis, who played 48 minutes and starred in all facets of the game, but most especially on defense. To me, this was the best D he’s played since his rookie season, when D was the only thing that would get him on the floor. He moved his feet and constantly beat Brandon Roy to spots on the floor when the Portland star faced him up. He did not get bowled over when Roy went to the post-ups. He was able to use his quickness to reach around and strip Roy. He leapt all over the passing lanes.

    It was that last feature that led to the game’s signature moment: Down eight but still very much in the game early in the fourth quarter, Andre Miller posted up Anthony Morrow on the left block. After Morrow did a good job not going for any of Miller’s spins or up-fakes, Miller tried to dump the ball out to Roy.

    Ellis intervened and was just able to corral the ball along the sideline. He turned and looped an outlet to Stephen Curry, who spun around near midcourt to catch the ball, then bounced it ahead in the same motion to an unguarded Vladimir Radmanovic for the dunk [4, 8:43].

    A few minutes later, Ellis would cap a 7-0 run with five points of his own, and it was all over.

    In the locker room, Ellis claimed (in glorious third-person) that “I hear people saying that Monta can’t play defense, this and that, but if you look at it, if you just go back and look at all the tapes, Monta really don’t get burned like that, like people think he do.”

    He still needs to show some continuity of defensive effort, needs to string two, three or four of those games together, but I’ll give him credit for backing up his assertion that he’s the only remaining Warrior who plays defense.

    After the game, Don Nelson trotted out his old self-deprecating chestnut about how, “They had so many mismatches, they really didn’t know which one to go to.” But it actually was worse than that for the Trail Blazers. Posting up Roy against Ellis — although it looked great on paper — turned out to be a pure a sucker bet. Here’s how Roy got his 17 points:

    ** He lost Ellis on a screen and popped out for an 18’ J [1, 10:15].

    ** He got matched up on Curry, backed him down in the right block and spun baseline for an 8’ one-hander [1, 9:52].

    ** He ducked behind a Greg Oden screen, separated from Ellis and knocked down the open 22-footer [1, 7:33].

    ** He got fouled 18 feet from the basket by Ellis, who was trying to deny the entry pass, and made both free throws [1, 3:14].

    ** He used a nice crossover-dribble-and-step-back move to create some space and hit from 12’ [1, 1:11].

    ** He floated to the L corner for an open 3 when Ellis let himself get sucked into the lane in response to a baseline drive by Steve Blake from the opposite wing [3, 6:03].

    ** He was fouled by Corey Maggette after curling around a L elbow pick from LaMarcus Aldridge to shed Ellis, and hit both FTs [3, 1:20].

    ** He got an open tip-in when Ellis stood and watched an errant drive by Jerryd Bayless instead of boxing out Roy [4, 4:30].

    To reiterate: The only two points that Roy got on post-ups came when he had Curry on a switch. Otherwise, the Trail Blazers got next to nothing out of that set. Just stagnant one-on-one play from a guy trying time and again to beat his man.

    Hey Brandon, have you met Stephen Jackson?

    Lost in all the accolades for Ellis’ defense was his work distributing the ball. In the post-Jackson era, Ellis is averaging 6.7 assists per game, against 2.3 turnovers, for an A/T ratio of 2.86. In the previous nine games, those numbers were 5.1, 3.1 and 1.64.

    Where he previously would pass on the drive only as a bail-out move upon finding too many defenders in his path, Ellis is now driving with the express intent of drawing an extra defender and then finding him with the assist. He’s making over-the-head kick-outs to the 3-point line and acrobatic interior passes for layups and dunks.

    And then, when the Warriors needed a closer, Ellis dominated the ball and scored 11 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter.

    The Warriors envisioned Monta Ellis taking over for Baron Davis when Davis opted out in 2008. Last night was the first time we saw Ellis have a Davis-like night at both ends of the floor.

    Other random thoughts from a night at Oracle:

    ** Have the Trail Blazers surpassed the Mavericks as the best matchup in the league for the Warriors to play? For my money, yes.

    I asked LaMarcus Aldridge before the game about his head-to-head battle with Corey Maggette — remembering how Maggette had hounded Aldridge off the floor in the Warriors’ 111-106 win on Nov. 18, drawing three offensive fouls and just basically driving him batty — and Aldridge tried to sell the “I don’t take it personal, it’s not a battle between him and me” routine.

    He couldn’t be more wrong. Aldridge-vs.-Maggette sums up exactly why the Warriors are now 7-3 against Portland during Nelson’s return: The Blazers, outside of Greg Oden, don’t seem to know how to take advantage of their size differential.

    And when Oden picked up two fouls in the first 24 seconds of the second quarter, he was done for the half. This is Nate McMillan’s SOP for any player with two first-half fouls, and I see why it drives Blazer fans batty; by the time Oden returned, the Warriors had adjusted (Chris Hunter, come on down!) and Oden was never the same factor as he was during an 11-point first quarter.

    ** The last time the Trail Blazers won in Oakland? Nov. 3, 2004: The NBA coaching debut of Mike Montgomery.

    ** Nelson went over the moon with his praise for Hunter, but is there really going to be that much time for him when Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins are healthy? Hunter seems especially to overlap with Turiaf’s skillset (provide some beef and bang defensively, hit the 15-foot J when called upon at the other end), which makes it unlikely, IMHO.

    Another strike against Hunter: To get him on board, the Warriors would either have to make an unbalanced trade or put together a buyout package for one of their injured expiring contract-holders, such as Speedy Claxton ($5.21M) or Devean George ($1.60M). That, however, would decrease the Warriors’ flexibility when it comes to making more trades during the season. So if Golden State is really serious about looking to deal Ellis, it would behoove them to keep both of those guys.

12 Responses to “Game 12, The Wrapup (Warriors 108, Trail Blazers 94): Monta Ellis brings the noise on D”

  1. Based on what we’ve seen the past year or so, having both Biedrins and Turiaf healthy for an extended period of time doesn’t seem like a wise thing to bank on.

    Devean George and Mikki Moore make about the same amount of money, if you need that slot to make a trade. I don’t see too much downside in waiving either one for Hunter, if Nellie thinks Hunter is a more useful player.

  2. Excellent recap… certainly a heartening performance all around.

    Only one quibble: I wish analysts wouldn’t fuel the fiction that Devean George’s contract will be of use in a big trade. Expirings that small almost never come into play in big trades, and in the unlikely event that one is needed for a package deal, Mikki’s will serve just as well three weeks from now.

    The Warriors have two ~$5M expirings and a wealth of young players of various types, sizes and prices. If they’re looking to make a big trade, Devean George’s expiring contract is not one of their ten most attractive chips. They should’ve turned his roster spot into a big man a good while ago, and folks like you should be calling them on it, not blithely overrating the value of a small expiring deal as they do.

  3. Many interesting things in this game, and points you make. I don’t think this game supports small ball at all, though. The Warriors got killed by the Oden, Aldridge front line in Q1 (mostly Oden), with just Moore and Maggette trying to guard the paint. We came alive when Randolph and VladRad came in, defended and rebounded against Priz and Howard, and we started running. Hopefully, Nellie will realize it was staying with Randolph, who rebounds and runs the floor, in Q2 that helped secure this win. I don’t consider playing Randolph and Rad together “Small Ball”. That’s when we went on the 17-4 run that got us back in the game.

    We are a much quicker team than Portland, which actually gives us the mismatches over Portland as long as Nellie plays the right bigs. If we can defend Roy adequately like Ellis did last night, and rebound, we can run on them all day.

  4. Can’t Wright or Azabuike be put on some sort of injury list that opens up a roster spot? Didn’t that happen last year to get Kurz?

  5. Nellie’s going to keep Hunter for sure, after last night. Who knows when Turiaf’s knee will be healthy, or whether it will stay healthy? George (probably) or Speedy will be waived.

  6. Small note on Claxton:

    Isn’t his contract 80% insured? So if we cut him outright, we’d only be paying the pro-rated part of what, $1M-$2M? Now, with this management, that still might be too much . . .

    Going conservative on Turiaf and Biedrins is the sound move. I would certainly like to see more of Hunter to see what we have.

    Marc Jackson x2?

    Can you have too many big men?

  7. If someone picks up Claxton and he plays, then the Warriors may be on the hook for his full salary.

    The same scenario happened before–I am going to say last year–with Darius Miles and the Blazers. He was cut by the Blazers; Memphis picked him up during the season, played him for 10+ games and the Blazers were on the hook for his contract.

  8. I believe the W’s have to pay Claxton regardless — or at the least, he stays on their cap regardless.

    I’m not sure if this applies to the insurance provisions in terms of actually paying him, but the cap rule about a injury-forced retirement can only be invoked by the team he played for at the time of the injury (i.e., Atlanta).

    Either way, the most important loss would be the $5M expiring contract, which could provide cap relief to another team in a blockbuster deal.

  9. Kenny Seagle, Emperor of the North

    2 consider where hunter might get minutes

    do not forget he wuzza 4 in college mostly

    see how he work along side andris 4 say 10-12 mins @ 1st


    ANY QUESTIONS ???????

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