Tuesday , Nov , 27 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Tats off to the Golden State Warriors

I thought I’d let everyone who hates the Suns have a sounding board after tonight’s 129-114 loss to the Warriors. If you missed this game, you missed a great first half of basketball. The second half slowed down, mainly because sprinting for 24 minutes is hard enough. “Slowing down” is a relative term, though. From some of the complaints I saw on the ’net, this was apparently not the game to try to listen to on the radio. Those radio guys probably earned their money tonight. Can you imagine trying to call a tennis match on the radio?

They started off fast, but trailed off as the game wore on. The Warriors, however, punched it up at just the right time. At the half, the Suns were shooting 53% and the Warriors were shooting 54%. With 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, GS was shooting 57%. But the final shooting was at 49% for Phoenix and 52% for Golden State. The two teams combined for 43 assists by half-time (23 for GS and 20 for PHX), but each team finished with only 31 assists. The difference was that every time Phoenix seemed to make a stop and/or grind out a half-court score, Monta Ellis slapped them down. He had 15 straight at one point in the fourth quarter, squelching any Suns’ run.

The difference throughout the game, though, was Stephen Jackson.

Is Stephen Jackson the heart and soul of the Warriors? Soul? Well, maybe, now that he is a walking prayer. The Warriors come into the Suns game 4-1 with Stephen Jackson back on the squad, after serving his 7-game suspension and turning over a new tattoo. The Warriors are now 5-1 with him back from suspension.

Can it be that he’s the key to their team? He created mismatch problems all night and had a line of 30 and 6, with an assist and a steal.

Other than now realizing that Jackson’s permanent prayer for peace is providing perfection on the parquet, what else can we learn from this shoot-out?

A slimmed-down Davis has made him the player he’s supposed to be. He’s faster and smoother and injury-free (well, he should have longer stretches of health now that he’s knees don’t have to support the weight of all those Krispy Kremes). 

When Shawn Marion was not being forced to switch and defend all five of the Warriors, he was able to focus his defensive efforts on Baron Davis. When he was able to do that, Davis was less effective in creating his own shot and less effective at delivering the ball to his teammates. So, when playing a team that switches on defense and that has a good defender keyed in on Davis, it would appear that the Warriors are best served by starting their half-court with the ball in the hands of someone besides Davis.

No Warrior could stop Amaré Stoudemire (once again, he stopped himself by playing lazy defense and, as a result, making dumb fouls). He was making easy shots from the post, knocking down his mid-range jumper and getting to the line. “Getting to the line” was the key part of that statement. If Dirk had been assertive going to the rim during the playoffs last year, things would’ve been very different. Alas, his minutes remain limited because of his defensive woes. Part of it is that he is still not in game shape which leads to his tiredness and laziness, but that excuse will not fly much longer.

Posting Nash is a good idea – especially if it’s a guard that is good at passing. The Suns doubled every time it went low and left just enough perimeter players open to hit a three or drive the lane. Kelenna Azubuike did a great job of waiting until the double-team was just close enough. He did a great job of passing, if not shooting.  I wonder if the Suns shouldn’t let inferior posting guards (i.e., not Baron Davis) go without a double-team

I suppose the problem for the Warriors could be that if you’ve got all these offensive perimeter players on the court, are you giving up too much on the defensive end? Not, I suppose, when you are shooting over 50% from the field and you get 20 turnovers.

The Warriors played defense with greater intensity than they played offense, if that is possible. They may not have great individual defenders, but, assuming they can keep playing like that without suffering from multiple cardiac arrests, they are going to wear out teams that do not meet their “irresistible force” with some of their own “immovable object.”

Aggressiveness on defense is the key to making plays and avoiding fouls. The Warriors were aggressive all the time. They made plays and the refs let them play, giving the benefit of the doubt on close calls, which is the way it should be. The Suns were occasionally aggressive, and the refs occasionally let them play. This simply goes to show that the refs are human and will reward hard work.

Boris Diaw is getting his form back. He was close to a triple-double with a line of 8 points, 8 boards and 7 assists. These were similar stats to Matt Barnes, who had 8 points, 7 boards and 7 assists. Of course, Barnes is more consistent and plays with more heart. Maybe he’s trying to turn his $3 million-a-year contract into Diaw’s $9 million-a-year contract and then get fat and lazy..

Grant Hill is a great pick-up for the Suns, but, despite his protestations to the contrary, he’s not the player he used to be.

The Suns’ Achilles’ Heel is their defensive glass. More than just the number, they gave them up at the worst possible times. They won’t get through the playoffs giving up offensive boards. The Suns are now amongst the league leaders in steals and blocks and they are somewhere in the middle of the pack in opponents’ shooting percentage. But they are sorely lacking in the key category of defensive rebounding. Cleaning this up should be their priority.

As for the Warriors, they do seem to be two different teams pre- and post-suspension. Most criticism will be the same as the Suns have received; that is, they cannot go deep in the playoffs with this style of play.   They are reminiscent of the 2004-2005 Suns with the speed at which they play and the relatively thin bench. Golden State fans need to buckle up and enjoy the rollercoaster.