Golden State fans who didn’t see yesterday’s game against the Mavericks really missed a good show. Monta Ellis put up 32 points, including an amazing 18-point 3rd quarter in which he outscored Dallas’ entire team. Dirk Nowitzki shot a dismal 1-9 in the second half, and the Warrior faithful witnessed the team’s first win over the Mavs this season. But none of that was really the highlight of the game. Somehow the Warriors were able to hold off the Mavericks in the 4th quarter despite the fact that Monta Ellis didn’t score in the games’ final period. Instead, a different player stepped up his game, and his name wasn’t Stephen Curry, David Lee, or Dorell Wright.
It was Al Thornton. He took advantage of playing the entire 4th quarter by scoring 12 points, pulling down 5 boards, recording 2 huge blocks, and just wreaking general havoc all over the Mavericks. In addition to his 2 rejections, he pestered Dirk Nowitzki into some poor shots and turnovers, as well as changed a number of other shots on the defensive end of the court. He even made a soaring play coming across the court to block a Jason Terry layup, but it was negated because it hit the backboard before he got to it.
Basically, he lived up to the nickname some Warrior fans have given him. He was TCG. He was Tough Crazy Guy. In those final 12 minutes, Thornton brought to the Warriors something that they’d lacked for most of the season before his arrival. He played tough, physical basketball on both ends of the floor. He fought his way inside for an offensive rebound and a put-back dunk. He posted up to get his own shot in the paint. His physical toughness down the stretch is the biggest reason for the Warriors coming away with the win last night.
In a year where Golden State fans have been critical of front office decisions, Thornton has shown why his signing shouldn’t be one of them. Since joining the Warriors on March 4th, he’s averaged 6.8 points and 3 rebounds per game while playing 15 minutes off the bench. He’s played well in all of his extended opportunities, and he averages 10.1 points and 4.7 rebounds when he plays at least his average of 15 minutes. According to the his and the teams’ +/- numbers so far, the team has been better when he’s on the court than when he’s off. What can’t actually be quantified, and is possibly most important of all, is what his physical toughness is doing for this team.
You could Warriors’ mentality change in the 4th quarter once he got going. It certainly wasn’t a typical Golden State finish. For most of the season, the Warriors have been a team of runs, usually gaining and blowing leads in quick fashion. However, after taking a 5 point lead into the 4th quarter, they lead never dropped below 3 and wavered between 7 and 9 for most of the quarter. Instead of surprising the Mavericks with a quick streak of points, the Thornton helped the team continually push Dallas back every time they made a push to reclaim the lead. He consistently made important plays at both ends of the court, steadying the Warriors to one of their best wins of the season. I for one hope to see more of him off the bench in the final 6 games. He definitely brings a lot of good things to this team.