Marcus Thompson and Monte Pool Sit down with @NuggetsNews to discuss Game 2
Marcus Thompson and Monte Pool Sit down with @NuggetsNews to discuss Game 2
When Monta Ellis steps on a basketball court, you know he’s going to play to the final whistle. Whether or not he or the Warriors are playing well, he’s likely to give you his best 40 minutes. He could be struggling with a nagging injury or playing through pain, but he’s been there for his teammates and the fans every game. Multiple times this season, he’s suffered a significant injury only to come back and play well in the teams’ next game. He’s been playing through knee and ankle pain all season long and has been the very definition of a warrior:
“A person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”
There’s no doubt that some of the things he does on the basketball court are truly amazing. He has the ability to make plays that few or no others in the NBA can make. He’s exciting, and he’s been the heart and soul of this Golden State team. He’s been so good this year, that he’s actually begun to earn MVP chants from the home crowd on a nightly basis. Ellis will finish the regular season as the NBA’s leader in minutes per game, but due to his most recent injury, LaMarcus Aldridge is likely to pass him in total minutes played before the season ends.
Monta will miss the Warrior’s final two games due to a concussion suffered from a fall in the final minutes of the Sacramento game Sunday night. He was already struggling with a leg injury in that game which had limited him to a season low 26 minutes before crashing to the floor in the 4th quarter. So while we didn’t see Monta in the game at Denver, and we won’t see him in the team’s final game at home against Portland, there’s something to be said about the season he’s already had.
It’s without a doubt been the best season of his career. It’s been a year where he’s showcased an improved outside shot and smarter decision making both as a scorer and a passer. All of this is highlighted by his higher shooting percentages and assists, which are complimented by less turnovers.
Where he’s grown the most, though, is as a leader. Going into last season, he voiced displeasure with the selection of Stephen Curry in the draft, saying he didn’t think they could play together in the back court. It initially lead to tension in the locker room between the two players, which made growing as a team tough. However, the two guards started to click at the end of last season, and this past off-season, Monta invited Steph to his wedding. Since then, the two have bonded, and Monta has expressed his intention to be the leader of the Warriors leader for years to come.
He’s shown the ability to be a good leader with his toughness, his on-court presence, and much improved maturity. Of any player in the NBA, he may have made the biggest off-season changes, regardless of whether or not it shows up in his own stats.
Even with that improvement, there has been a continued criticism of his play in regards to the type and amount of shots he takes, as well as his ability to be a good defender. While there’s something that can always be improved, it seems bit much to ask one player to improve in so many ways in just one year. The two biggest issues he’s had this season are also a product of who he’s been on the court with. The Warriors are still not a very good team and have very few players with the ability to create their own shot. Their offensive game plan also isn’t quite where it needs to be for the team to be effective. The same things goes for defense, as the Warriors are still one of the worst in the league.
Without looking ahead into the future, I’m not sure how anybody could be unhappy with the way that Monta Ellis has played this season. He has been the Warriors best player, regardless of what some would try to make you believe with a few select statistics. Monta more than passes the eye test as the Warriors best player, and if you can’t argue something without stats, there really is no point. Stats will help you back up your point, but they mean nothing without actually seeing the issue on the court.
But honestly, the greatest thing about Monta isn’t the way he plays, or the way he’s grown. It’s his die hard loyalty to Golden State and us fans. He’s dedicated to leading this team to a winning record and the playoffs, and possibly beyond that. It’s that attitude that makes this my favorite Monta quote:
“I’m a Warrior. I’m going to always be a Warrior.”
It’s not the statement itself so much, as the fact that he actually has me believing he wants to stay with this team, even after seeing Baron, J-Rich, Stack Jack, Harrington, Barnes, and Pietrus all get out and do better for themselves elsewhere (Baron did better for himself off the court). He personifies what it means to be a Warrior, of both the battle-tested and Golden State variety.
Eastern Conference playoff seeds are now locked in, and first round match-ups are decided. Some teams have begun to rest their players for the post-season, and there isn’t much left to play for. What will be interesting is whether or not certain teams look to continue their current hot stretch of play entering the playoffs. Tonight, the Knicks and the Bulls face off in what might be the best game of the day, but could also turn out to be a boring affair in which the benches see most of the action. The Bulls can still tie or pass the Spurs for the NBA’s best record. Here are the circumstances in which they would win home court advantage throughout the playoffs:
-Bulls win both games, Spurs lose both games (by overall record)
-Bulls win both games, Spurs lose to Lakers (by tie-breaker against playoff teams in their conference)
-Bulls beat Knicks, Spurs lose both games (by tie-breaker against playoff teams in their conference)
So they still have something to play for, even if continuing their post All-Star break isn’t a factor. The Knicks are also one of the hottest teams in the NBA and a playing at home against the Eastern Conference’s best team. Their fans are going to want a win, and I think it would be good for the Knicks to add a win against the Bulls to their streak going into the playoffs, especially if the Bulls are playing for home-court in the Finals. An 9 game winning stretch capped off by possible wins against Chicago and Boston (even if the Celtics do rest their starters) would mean a lot for New York’s confidence.
The same goes out west. The Spurs may care very little about home-court in the Finals against Chicago (San Antonio would still have it against any other team). They might rest their starters, who have all faced some sort of injury down the stretch of this season. Not every team in the West is locked in, and who rests their starters could play a big role in who finishes where. The Lakers would regain the West’s 2nd seed with a win against the Spurs. By Wednesday, the Mavericks could be playing a Hornets team already locked into the 8th seed and nothing left to play for. Playing against a team without all of their starters would be a big advantage for teams still looking to clinch a seed.
Scores from yesterday:
Orlando 95, Philadelphia 85 – The 76ers loss locks them into the 7th seed in the East.
Charlotte 105, New Jersey 103 – Meaningless, even in terms of lottery chances.
Miami 98, Atlanta 90 – Heat clinches East’s 2nd seed as Hawks rest starters in second half.
Washington 95, Boston 94 (OT) – Celtics concede 2nd seed to Miami as they rest 4 starters.
Cleveland 110, Detroit 101 – Cavaliers again move out of the NBA’s basement.
Utah 90, New Orleans 78 – Hornets now a half-game back of Memphis for 7th in the West and do not own the tie-breaker.
Milwaukee 93, Toronto 86 – Bucks have won 3 of 4 since being eliminated from playoff contention.
Dallas 98, Houston 91 (OT) – Mavericks now a half-game up on the Lakers for West’s 2nd seed.
Phoenix 135, Minnesota 127 (OT) – Timberwolves loss makes them NBA’s worst team.
Oklahoma City 120, Sacramento 112 – Thunder still in reach of the West’s 2nd and 3rd seed.
Scores from Sunday:
Chicago 102, Orlando 99 - Magic put up fight without Howard, but Bulls keep pace with Spurs for NBA’s top record.
Miami 100, Boston 77 – Heat pass Celtics for East’s 2nd seed.
Detroit 112, Charlotte 101
Toronto 99, New Jersey 92
Memphis 111, New Orleans 89 – Memphis earns tie-breaker with Hornets.
New York 110, Indiana 109 – Knicks win their 7th straight.
Dallas 115, Phoenix 90 – Mavericks blow out Suns to tie Lakers for 2nd in the West. Also remain a game ahead of Thunder.
Sacramento 104, Golden State 103 – Kings win possible final match-up between Northern California rivals.
Oklahoma City 120, L.A. Lakers 106 – Lakers stumble to their 5th straight loss and Thunder close to within a game of the defending champs.
Tuesday’s Game of the Night:
Chicago @ New York – It’ll be interesting to see if the Knicks can keep their winning streak alive against the East’s top team. The Bulls are likely to continue their pursuit of the NBA’s top record, as they’re only a game back of San Antonio, who play back to back road games against the Lakers and Suns.
The 16 playoff teams have been decided. Now it’s just a matter of seeds and playoff match-ups. With no team having more than 3 games left to play, the playoffs are just around the corner. There are some tight races to see who faces who down the line in the playoffs, but no team that doesn’t currently have home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs can earn it from this point on. The 4th seed in both conference are up 11 combined games over the 5th seed. That’s a big gap.
So the question becomes, how important is home court advantage to the teams who can still move up or down a seed. The first seed in each conference is already decided, but there is no guarantee that either of those teams makes the conference final, so home court advantage could still mean something to the highest remaining seed. However, only a few teams seemed determined to ensure they have more home games in the playoffs.
How important is it really? Since 2000, teams with home court advantage have won more than 3 out of 4 playoff series. But is that a product of that team playing more home games or just being better? Here’s the round by round break down of series records for teams with home court:
1st Round – 1 v 8: 21-1 , 2 v 7: 21-1 , 3 v 6: 17-5 , 4 v 5: 12-10, Overall: 71-17 (.807)
Conf. Semis – 1 v 4: 10-2, 2 v 3: 9-6, 1 v 5: 9-0, 2 v 6: 6-0, 3 v 7: 1-0, 4 v 8: 1-0, Overall: 36-8 (.818)
Conf. Finals – 1 v 2: 3-7, 1 v 3: 6-3, 2 v 4: 1-1, 3 v 4: 1-0, Overall: 11-11 (.500)
In seed differential:
+/- 1: 25-23 (.521)
+/- 2: 7-4 (.636)
+/- 3: 27-7 (.794)
+/- 4: 17-0 (1.000)
+/- 5: 21-1 (.955)
+/- 6: No series
+/- 7: 21-1 (.955)
So as you can see, the bigger the difference in the teams seeding, the easier it is to win. However, when the seeds are very close (a difference of 1), home court advantage doesn’t seem to matter much at all. Teams with the home court advantage (meaning better regular season record, regardless of seed) in those match-ups have won just twice more in 48 tries, going 25-23. Seeing as just 2 series in this year playoffs (say if Atlanta beat Orlando and Denver beat Oklahoma City) would even it up, that’s not a very big amount at all. So in terms of 1 spot in the playoffs, it seems pretty safe to say that home-court isn’t the biggest deciding factor.
Even more surprising is how it doesn’t seem to matter at all in the Conference Finals. In the 10 times that the two highest seeds have met since 2000, the team with home-court advantage has gone 3-7. A winning percentage of under .500 is shocking, but it also means that should San Antonio or Chicago make their respective Conference Finals, they’re home court advantage isn’t as much help as they might think it is. Even when taking into account all conference championship series the last 11 years, the overall record for home court teams is just 11-11. So once the season comes down to the best 2 teams in a conference, the team with the better regular season record doesn’t have an advantage at all.
However, in the Finals, it’s a bit different. Teams like the Lakers, Heat, and Celtics may want to worry about their position in comparison to Western Conference teams they meet in the Finals. The home court teams have won 8 of the last 11 NBA Championships. It’s a little harder to compare seeds because of the separate conference, but home-court is decided by best overall record anyway. Here’s the Finals breakdown.
Finals – 1 v 1: 2-0, 1 v 2: 2-0, 1 v 3: 2-0, 2 v 2: 0-1, 1 v 4: 1-0, 2 v 3: 1-1, 2 v 4: 0-1 Overall: 8-3 (.727)
So for teams truly worried about home court advantage, it’s possible they should relax a little. In the playoffs, it seems, the better prepared team usually wins, rather than the one who desperately fought for and achieved home-court advantage. The 5th seeds to present a much bigger challenge than the 6th, so winning the 3rd spot instead of the 4th would be a good idea, but that really has nothing to do with home-court, but with playing a tougher team.
Basically, the ability of home-court advantage to propel a team to a series win seems a bit of a myth. It may be true for a team here or there under the right circumstances, but overall it’s not usually going to get you much more than anything. Seeding seems to only matter because of the quality of opponents. Top seeds are far more likely to beat a 4 or 5 than a 2nd seed it to beat a 3, even if they both have home court. So to all the fans worrying about their teams battling for 1 extra home game out of fear of losing a series to a team down the line, just take a chill pill. It’s not as big a deal as you might think.
Scores from yesterday:
Washington 115, Atlanta 83
San Antonio 111, Utah 102
Milwaukee 108, Cleveland 101
Houston 99, Los Angeles Clippers 78
Denver 130, Minnesota 106
Scores from Friday:
Indiana 114, Atlanta 102 – This game didn’t matter for either team. The Hawks have the East’s 5th seed locked up and the Pacers can’t move out of the 8th seed.
Philadelphia 98, Toronto 93 – The Sixers keep pace with New York and stay alive for East’s 6th seed. The Raptors lose their 3rd straight.
New York 116, New Jersey 93 – The Knicks have now won 6 in a row. They still hold the 6th seed in the East.
Detroit 110, Milwaukee 100 – Both teams are playing for the lottery.
Miami 112, Charlotte 103 – Heat keep pace with Boston for East’s 2nd seed. Bobcats lose their 5th in a row.
Boston 104, Washington 88 – Boston still in 2nd in the East.
Chicago 93, Cleveland 82 – The Bulls clinch home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs
New Orleans 103, Phoenix 92 – Hornets remain 7th in West.
Oklahoma City 104, Denver 89 – Thunder punish their punish the possible 1st-round playoff match-up and division rival Nuggets.
Memphis 101, Sacramento 96 – The Grizzlies clinch the West’s final playoff spot.
Dallas 107, Los Angeles Clippers 96 – Dallas stays ahead of Oklahoma City for the West’s 3rd spot. They end a 4 game losing streak.
Portland 93 Los Angeles Lakers 86 – The Lakers lose their 4th straight. Blazers stay locked in on the West’s 6th seed.
Games of the Day:
Boston @ Miami – Battle for the Easts’ second seed. I just showed that home-court may not matter, but this is still a very big game. The Heat have yet to beat the Celtics, and a 4th straight win for Boston could hurt Miami’s confidence going into a potential playoff match-up. A win would show that they CAN (maybe not will) beat Boston in the East’s semi-finals. Prediction: Miami by 11.
Oklahoma City @ Los Angeles Lakers – Another big game out West that could cause movement in the West standings. The Thunder are hot and the Lakers could use a win after losing 4 straight. Dallas is just a game back of Los Angeles and a game up on Oklahoma City. Prediction: Lakers by 8.
Are late season struggles indicative of what we can expect from teams in the post-season? If we’re to look to last season for evidence, the answer would be a resounding no. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics both stumbled into the playoffs, going 4-6 and 3-7 respectively in their final 10 games. Both proceeded to dominate their way into the Finals for a 7-game classic.
This season both the Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs seem to be struggling as the regular-seasons’ final game closes in. In their last 10 games, Boston has gone 5-5 and the Spurs have gone 4-6. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10, but have also lost their last 3 games. Even the Dallas Mavericks are struggling. The two elite teams that aren’t struggling are Miami and Chicago. The Bulls have won 6 straight and 9 of their last 10, while the Heat have gone 8-2.
So does this mean anything for either teams’ playoff hopes? Last year two teams finished the season stronger than their elite counterparts. The Orlando Magic won 9 of their final 10, and the Dallas Mavericks won 8. However, The Mavericks were eliminated in the 1st round by San Antonio, and the Magic were knocked out in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Celtics.
So while it’s never a good thing to see teams struggle, don’t take end-of-season losses to seriously. Once the playoffs start, the game will change completely. We saw it last year, as the Lakers and Celtics turned on their championship-worthy ability seemingly with a push of a button.
Scores from yesterday:
Chicago 97, Boston 81 – The Bulls blew out the Celtics to take full control of the East. Their magic number to earn the conference’s top spot is now just 1. Celtics are now tied with Miami for 2nd, but hold the tie-breaker.
Portland 98, Utah 87 – The Blazers once again move past New Orleans in the West standings. The Jazz have now lost 9 of their last 10.
Game of the Night:
Los Angeles Lakers @ Portland – Big game for both teams. Trailblazers are hoping to stay in the 7th seed, and Lakers are trying to end a 3-game losing streak and stay ahead of Dallas in the West as well as Miami and Boston in the East. Prediction: Lakers by 7.
Recently, there’s been a lot criticism of the 6th man of the year award over Lamar Odom’s consideration for the award. The Los Angeles Lakers’ forward has started 34 games this season, more than any other high profile candidate for the award. The other top candidates, Jason Terry, Glen Davis, and Thaddeus Young, have started just 10, 11, and 1 games respectively. Jamal Crawford and Marcin Gortat have also started 10 games or less.
The question is, does this make Odom any less of a sixth man than these players? He doesn’t really play a great number more minutes than his 6th man competitors. In fact, of the top 4, only Young plays 3 or more minutes less than Odom per game. Starting a significant number of games hasn’t stopped other players from winning the award. As recently as Manu Ginobili in 2007-2008, a winner had started at least 20 games in a season. There was a lot of talk of how he was good enough to start for San Antonio (and he was), just as there’s been with Odom this season.
But this season, the criticism of the SMOTY (Sixth Man of the Year) has become even louder. With Odom starting 34 games games in place of the Lakers injured center Andrew Bynum, there’s been some debate on how many starts is too many. Currently the requirements for 6th man candidates is starting no more than half of the games you play in. With just 4 games left, and having played in a total of 78 already, Odom will meet that requirement. But that hasn’t stopped some writers from suggesting he doesn’t deserve their vote. They simply say he’s “too good,” or has started too many games for them to justify voting for him.
Looking at just this season, Terry began the season as Dallas’ starting shooting guard, but was quickly replaced by DeShawn Stevenson, who had been healthy in the first 5 games in which Terry started. So Terry wasn’t necessarily starting out of necessity due to injury like Odom, but because Rick Carlisle was testing out a new strategy.
What those people are ignoring is that Odom started just 7 games where Bynum was available this season, and those came as Bynum was easing his way back in after returning from off-season knee surgery. He was also returned to the starting lineup on two different occasions. Once alongside Stevenson after both Dirk Nowtizki and Caron Butler were out with injuries. He started 4 straight games, but curiously, he was removed from the lineup before either returned. More of Carlisle tinkering with his rotations. Instead the head coach decided to start Alexis Ajinca (now with Toronto) for the remaing two games that Nowtizki was out. But once again, soon after Nowtizki returned, Terry was reinserted at shooting guard while Stevenson was still healthy. This time it was Tyson Chandler who was missing, but Haywood took his spot in the lineup. Chandler had also not been healthy the previous game.
The point is, Terry is every bit as good or better than who the Mavericks have started at shooting guard this season. His starts, while not as many as Odom’s, still show that he’s used in a way other than a 6th man when the coach feels it is necessary. I do find it odd that he got inserted and removed from the lineup those two times when the main injuries weren’t to players at his position. It’s also very odd that he didn’t start over Stevenson when Rodrique Beaubois does. It’s obviously not something that has to with size. Terry and Beaubois are the same height and his younger counterpart weighs just 2 pounds more.
What’s key here is the Mavericks utilize Terry in very different way than Lamar Odom. When injuries hit (and they did because Beaubois missed the whole 1st half of the season), he isn’t necessarily going to be in the starting lineup. However, if one of the Lakers big men go down, there isn’t anyone else but Odom to fill the void, and he is forced to start. Like many 6th men in the league, his role on the team also calls for him to start in case of long-term injuries. It doesn’t make him any less of a 6th man. It just means Terry doesn’t have that role.
So, even if you think Odom’s stats are inflated for a 6th man because he has more starts, his numbers only as a sub are still far and away better than forward counterparts Davis and Young. And Terry plays just 25 seconds less per game. There is no reason that Odom should be punished for filling his 6th man role so well that he looked good as a starter. The fact is, the best 6th men in the league should be starting quality players. Terry is one of those guys. Manu was one of those guys when he came off the bench. Is it fair to punish Odom because his teammate got injured? No. He was still just filling his role as a 6th man.
Since that’s out of the way now, Lamar Odom is hands down the best 6th man in the NBA this year. If you want to make an argument against that, make sure it’s that one of the guys I mentioned is actually better, and not that Odom is “too goo” or started too many games to be the 6th man. Because a vote against him for that reason would be robbing the most deserving player blind.
Scores from last night:
Orlando 111, Charlotte 102 (OT) – The Magic are now locked into the East’s 4th seed, with no room for movement upward or downward in the standings.
Indiana 136, Washington 112 – The Pacers now clinched a playoff birth for the first time since 2006.
New York 97, Philadelphia 92 – The Knicks pass the Sixers by a half game in the standings with their 5th straight win. Philadelphia has now lost 3 in a row.
Cleveland 104, Toronto 96 – With their 17th win of the season, the Cavaliers have now moved out of the NBA’s basement. Minnesota now owns the league’s worst record.
Detroit 116, Ne Jersey 109 – Nothing to see here.
Phoenix 108, Minnesota 98 – The Timberwolves now own the worst record in the NBA.
New Orleans 101, Houston 93 – The Hornets clinch a playoff spot. The Rockets now need to win their remaining games and have Houston lose all of theirs to make the playoffs.
Oklahoma City 102, Los Angeles Clippers 98 – Thunder avenge last week’s loss and clinch at least the 4th seed and Northwest Division.
Milwaukee 90, Miami 85 – The Heat drop behind the Celtics in the East once again. With Indiana’s win, the Bucks were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
San Antonio 124, Sacramento 92 – Spurs have now locked up the West’s top seed.
Denver 104, Dallas 96 – The Nuggets’ win keeps them solidly in 5th in the West. Mavericks fall to just 1 game ahead of Oklahoma City in 3rd.
Golden State 95, Los Angeles Lakers 87 – The Warriors win their 3rd straight against Western conference playoff teams. The Lakers lose their 3rd straight but remain 2nd in the West.
Game of the Night:
Boston @ Chicago – This is the 4th meeting between the teams this season, and each game has been won by the home team. If Chicago wins, they would go up 4 games over Miami and Boston with just 4 to play, eliminating the Heat from the top seed race. The Celtics however, holds the tie breaker over the Bulls regardless of if they win this game. Both teams really want this game, and it should be tight and hard fought throughout. Plus, it’s on national TV (TNT). Make sure you watch this one. It could be an incredible playoff preview. Don’t miss it. Prediction: Boston by 3. Noah is back but still not likely 100%. That will be the difference in this one, where the Celtics hold the advantage inside.
Well, the Warriors went into Portland last night and demolished the Trailblazers with a 21-point win. By all accounts, it was one of the Warriors most impressive wins of the season. Golden State has now beaten back-to-back playoff bound Western Conference opponents (having beaten Dallas 99-92 on Saturday), only the second time that’s happened all season long. The Warriors now have an opportunity for a first tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have only recorded a 3-game win streak three times in the last two seasons, but the last time the Warriors won 3 straight games against playoff bound opponents was the 2007-2008 season, when they defeated Washington, Philadelphia, and Phoenix in that order. Remember, they won 48 games that season, missing the playoffs by just 2 games. A win tonight would definitely provide some hope for the future for this team, who have struggled to maintain consistency on the basketball court.
The Warrior faithful in Oracle Arena tonight should have a good chance to see a win. Golden State has won back to back games in impressive fashion while the Lakers have lost two close games due to some inexplicable turnovers and lazy play. Most Warrior fans will remember how well the team played at home against the Los Angeles in January. Should they be able to put forth an effort like that one or similar to their previous two games, a win could be possible. The Lakers tend to play poorly in stretches as evidenced by their 3 separate 3-game losing streaks this season.
But one of the biggest things that needs to change in order for the Warriors to come away with the win is the play of David Lee. The 3 times the Warriors have faced the Lakers this season, Lee has been bullied by the Lakers big front line, averaging just 7 points and 5 rebounds per game. The scoring average is his lowest against any team this season (the only team he doesn’t average double digits against), and his rebounding has only been worse against the Chicago Bulls (who he played just 1 game against). These averages are in direct contrast to how he played the NBA Champions last season, when he averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds against them in 2 games.
A deeper look, however, shows an even more drastic change. As someone who’s made his way around NBA blogs and forums and spoken to a number of different of different fans, I’ve gained somewhat of a knowledge on how Knicks fans viewed David Lee the past two seasons in New York. One fan, in particular stick out to me because of how great he thought David really was. He was always talking about him, and though I never took him too serious, there was one thing I always found interesting.
This fan always told me of the instances where Lee outperformed some of the best players at his position. An example I remember better than others are is a game against the Spurs where he finished the game 11-13 for 28 points and 10 rebounds. His opposition, Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair, finished a respective 6-11 and 4-11 for a combined 21 points. The Knicks did still lose that game. He also had some very good games against Boston, who may have had the best defensive front court in the NBA last year. He also had a 31 and 17 game against the Lakers, in which he outperformed Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum by a considerable amount.
So basically this fan was suggesting that he plays best against great competition. He even went as far as too suggest his defense was much better in these types of games. However, this year its been hard to pinpoint instances of Lee taking it to some of the best players at his position. Last night was one of those instances. He out-played Aldridge, putting up his first 20 rebound game all season to go along with his 29 points.
His ineptitude against the Lakers this season has definitely made me reconsider whether or not he actually is a big-game player. But not fully reject it. When David Lee is on the court, he’s a fiery player. He argues with the referees, he talks trash, and he’ll stick up for himself and his teammates. He’s obviously a very emotional player that can have a fire lit under him. When I take that into account, I find it entirely possible that he was a very good big-game player up until the season. Not having watched him a lot as a Knick, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure.
But if this Warriors team is going to be successful, that’s the David Lee we’re going to need to see a lot more often. He’s had his good games this season, but often times, especially against the Lakers, he’s disappeared when he’s needed most. The Warriors haven’t had another guy to go and consistently grab rebounds this season. We also haven’t had very good post-scorers or defenders. Our guys have counted on David to be that guy, and a lot of times, he isn’t able to live up to the billing, whether it’s because he’s not that player or is just underachieving.
This being his last chance to put up a good game against the Lakers in 2010-11, I’m hoping to see a strong effort from him, even with how he played last night. Because, even if this isn’t an important game for the Lakers (it never really has been), it’s been important to our players and our fans for a while. The Lakers are a team Warrior fans despise for a variety of reasons, but also seem to be the team that consistently dominates us year-in and year-out. So, as Warrior games go, this is a big game. Just like last night’s match-up against a top NBA big man was a big game for Lee.
Hopefully we see some more production from him tonight, especially with Gasol and Bynum a bit banged up with injuries. We have upcoming games against Portland (Aldridge), Denver (Nene), and possibly our last game ever against our Northern California rival Sacramento Kings. All of those games could be considered big games considering Portland and Denver’s standing as playoff teams. What I see from him in these last 4 games is going to directly influence what I expect from him next season. I want to know who the real David Lee is.
With the San Antonio Spurs winning and the Los Angeles Lakers losing yesterday, the race for the West’s best record is pretty much done. San Antonio now owns a 3.5 game lead with 4 games left to play. But the race for the best record in the NBA isn’t yet over. The Chicago Bulls are currently just 1.5 back, while being only 1 back in the loss column. While the Bulls are no lock to make the Finals this season, as they’re best players are still too young to be considered veterans and no one on this team has won a playoff series as a Bull besides Luol Deng. In addition, none of their players has ever been to a Finals, and coach Tom Thibodeau was only an assistant for the Celtics when they won the NBA Championship in 2008.
But having a guaranteed home court advantage going into the playoffs is always something to care about, especially for two teams that have been so much better at home than on the road. The Bulls and Spurs rank as each conference’s best team, but that isn’t reflected in their road records, where they each rank 3rd. So having home court against the other top team would be a a big help should Chicago and San Antonio meet in the Finals.
Another standings race to pay attention to is where the Lakers, Celtics, and Miami Heat finish. As of right now, both Boston and Miami are tied at 54-23, while the Lakers are 1 game better at 55-22. While the Heat and Celtics are fighting for home court advantage in the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, they, along with the Lakers are also competing for home court advantage in the Finals should any combination of these teams meet in the Finals. Before the season started, these 3 teams were the top choices of NBA general managers to win the Championship.
Scores from yesterday:
Cleveland 99, Charlotte 89
Washington 107, Detroit 105
New Jersey 107, Minnesota 105
San Antonio 97, Atlanta 90
Orlando 78, Milwaukee 72
Boston 99, Philadelphia 82
New York 131, Toronto 118
Los Angeles Clippers 82, Memphis 81
Oklahoma City 101, Denver 94
Golden State 108, Portland 87
Utah 86, Los Angeles Lakers 85
Game of the Night:
New York @ Philadelphia – A game that could decide the East’s 6th seed. The Knicks are a half-game back of the 76ers with 5 games to play. Philadelphia holds the advantage in this game because it’s at home, but don’t count out the Knicks. They’ve now won 4 in a row and seem to be playing a lot better. Prediction: New York by 5.
With the 2011 Hall of Fame class becoming official, a lot of fans have reason to be excited. But I find myself, even as Warrior fan, just disappointed. Chris Mullin was a very good player in his time, and a great scorer for Golden State for a number of years, but I think everyone knows his numbers are a bit inflated due to the run-n-gun system he played in for most of his career.
Now, I don’t mean to diminish the accomplishments of this class. I’m a huge fan of Rodman and I’m of the opinion that Artis Gilmore may be one of the more underrated players the NBA (or the ABA) as ever seen. But someone needs to explain to me how it is that Reggie Miller did not make the Hall of Fame, but Chris Mullin did. Let’s break down the argument against him:
-He never won a championship. Well, neither did Chris Mullin. Neither has Karl Malone, John Stockton, or a number of other HOFers.
-He only averaged 18.2 points per game for his career. Well, Mullin also averaged 18.2 without taking into account the pace at which his Warriors played.
-He wasn’t good enough on defense. Well, I remember that even Mullins’ best Warriors team was in the bottom 10 in the league on defense. Mullin was just as much a part of that as the next guy.
-He didn’t get enough rebounds. He’s a shooting guard. Big deal.
-He didn’t get enough assists. Again, he’s a shooting guard. Most shooting guards don’t average a lot of assists. Ray Allen averages just 0.5 more for his career. Over the past 3 seasons (an indication of what he’ll do in his remaining seasons), he’s averaged below 3 a game. And he’s a sure-fire first ballot HOF according to most.
Now here’s the argument for Reggie:
-He’s arguably the greatest clutch shooter in the history of the game.
-His playoff scoring averages are better than his regular season averages.
-He is an extremely well known ambassador to the game. He was one of the most liked/disliked players of all time.
-He is second on the all-time 3-point shot list, having just recently been passed by Ray Allen.
-Reggie has scored the most playoff points of any player not in the HOF.
-He was the best player on 5 Pacers teams that made deep playoff runs, including the Pacers team that made the Finals in 1999-200.
-Even if you like advanced stats, Reggie holds up extremely well. He has a career and playoff true shooting percentage of over .600
-Maybe the most convincing argument of all: He ranks up there with Kobe, Jordan, and Bird as one of the best players to trust with the last shot of the game. That’s one of the main things a player needs to have to be considered great. To be able to be counted on when it matters most.
So can you tell me why Reggie didn’t make it to the HOF this year? Because I still don’t know.
Scores from yesterday:
Game of the Night:
Oklahoma City @ Denver – A match-up that features the Wests’ 4 and 5 seeds, as well as two of the hotter, younger teams in the NBA. With a win tonight, the Thunder can go up 4 games with 5 to play on the Nuggets and all but clinch home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Denver is coming off a big win in Los Angeles against the Lakers, but the Thunder have lost their last 2 after winning 14 of their last 16. Expect an up-and down game with the winner being decided late in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Thunder by 4.
The Warriors are coming off one of their better wins of the season as they go in to Portland tonight. The 99-92 win over Dallas on Saturday was one of the Warriors better defensive showings, even if it seems that Dallas missed every open shot they had in the second half. What was impressive in that game, even as the Warriors let Dallas shoot from 3-point range, was how well they prevented the Mavericks from getting easy points inside. Not only was Dallas forced to miss a lot of contested shots at the rim, but they also struggled to get to the free-throw line. It’s not often that the Warriors out-shoot their opponent from the charity stripe, as they are both worst in the league in free throws attempted and in free throw differential (only the Jazz allow more free throws).
So that the Warriors played good interior defense and didn’t foul a lot is unusual, but definitely something to strive for. So, even if we fans shouldn’t expect a win, I think we can at least hope that our guys are trying to repeat the type of defense they played against the Mavericks. Especially considering Portland isn’t a good 3-point shooting team, it would make sense to try to force them into jumpers rather than relinquishing the paint. It’s without question that defending the rim is the first step towards becoming a better defensive team. The Warriors have long been the type of defensive team that relied on disruption on the perimeter, forcing turnovers and steals because our interior and penetration defense were sub-par. But with Udoh now starting every game, and with the way that Thornton and Amundson played defense of the bench last game, I don’t think it’s out of the question that our post defense should see a serious improvement.
So the goal for this game is to prevent easy points inside and to keep Portland off the free-throw line. Portland is good at neither, so it’s a relatively possible task to complete. Considering our offense is pretty much hit-or-miss, especially on the road (Monta, I’m looking at you), so I’m not really sure what we can expect from them. The best way to ensure a shot at winning is to maintain the type of defense we showed we’re capable of on Saturday night. Even if we allow some long open jumpers, it’s much better for us if we prevent scoring in the paint.
Prediction: Blazers win by 3. They’re the better team and our offense struggles for most of the game as Portland dictates the game with their slow pace. Our defense performs fine, but Warriors shoot too many difficult jumpers.