Tuesday , Dec , 04 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

The Golden State Warriors Were Too Nice

Before the tip-off at the Magic-Warriors game on December 3, 2007, the Warriors played a video tribute to back-up center Adonal Foyle. Who does that? I originally thought it was part of the psyche-out. You know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Or, maybe they were trying to change their image. Who knows?

After running Yao out of the gym, I wanted to see how Howard could hold up against the Warriors. After all, he had a pretty good game (albeit in defeat) against the pretty good Phoenix Suns (hey, I’m just trying to make my quota so that HoopsVibe can stay afloat with funding from my fines). [For those of you who haven’t heard, we’re fining Jason every time he mentions the Suns.  Right now, he owes us. – CYE] I don’t think Orlando’s new “big man” coach, Patrick Ewing, can add much advice in regard to the pace of this game. The night before, the Magic refused to roll over to the Lakers.

Golden State did its best to make Howard irrelevant as they had done to Yao, but the rest of the Magic would have none of that. Jameer Nelson was two boards away from a triple-double and Keith Bogans scored 22, shooting 9 of 12. Then, in overtime, Howard’s physicality just plain wore down the under-sized and leader-less Warriors (Baron Davis fouled out at the end of regulation).
For some reason, most of the games I’ve watched this season (with the most notable exclusions being games with Chicago or New York) have had a pretty good energy and a pretty good intensity. I know the Golden State fans are a “special” bunch (I didn’t realize the Raiders’ Nation made road trips), but the crowd started chanting “defense” on the Magic’s first possession and, shortly thereafter, Howard was called for a 3-second violation.

My man-crush on Howard is growing. Although, I feel a little guilty because tonight my son bought his first basketball shoes earlier in the night and chose the sleek, black-and-gold “Shaq” shoes. So, I’m not going to jump on the cheesy-pun bandwagon and say something about the best center in Florida. Howard doesn’t have blazing speed, but he doesn’t drag his rear like Shaq or Yao. And, man alive, can he fill the lane on a break. He quietly rebounded and scored his way to a line of 18 and 23, and he simply pushed the Warriors out of the way in overtime (he “pushed,” but he didn’t exactly “roll”).

Orlando has the size to play as huge as they want. If they could get Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu to play just a little defense or try to rebound every once in a while … who knows? Howard’s plain enormous and those other two are 6’10”. Although, Lewis seemed to hit some clutch shots and ended up with 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

The Warriors played with the same self-destruction and volatility that makes their tightrope walk impossible not to watch. You will either watch with excitement or watch the train wreck. But, you’ll keep watching and may even get a lot of both in a single game.

With 7:05 left in the first, the Magic led 18 to 9 with Jameer Nelson pushing the ball and driving his team faster than the Warriors. After the first period, Orlando led 30 to 21, with Golden State shooting only 21% for the quarter. By halftime, Orlando led by only 9 (57 to 48), while out-shooting the Warriors 52% to 35%. The Warriors started the second half with every Warriors fan thinking, “Well, if our shots start falling, we’ll be in good shape.”

The train wreck turned into a basketball extravaganza. Jackson finally hits a shot about half-way through the 3rd period, “capping” an 8-0 run. After hitting a 3 with about 3:30 to go in the 3rd, Jackson implored the crowd to come to its feet and cheer for the D, with the result being an errant Magic pass. He has no conscience; he had zero points in the first half and ended the game with 25 points.

Andris Biedrins, with his stereotypical former Soviet Republic spiky-headed-sorta-flattop thing, played well in front of his folks and girlfriend, grabbing 15 boards and hitting the shots he’s supposed to hit. He could probably use a little more meat on his bones, but he’s got the height going for him, allowing him to start the year averaging a double-double for the first in his career. 

In the 4th, Monta Ellis had two offensive boards on the same possession, setting up one of Jackson’s three-point daggers, then, on the next defensive possession stripped Howard and dished to Baron Davis on the break. In OT, he even stole one from the shortest 6’10” guy in the NBA, Hedo Turkoglu. 

The refs almost gave the game to the Warriors in regulation when they teed-up Howard for starting to slap, but then slowing down and brushing, the padded standard. I think I’ve written before how much I enjoy the local feeds on NBA League Pass. The Warriors broadcasters complained that while they understood the rationale of the call (not attacking the backboard stanchions), they wished the NBA could follow more of the “spirit of the law” than the “letter of the law.” 

Rather than just recite, let’s look at some of the things to take from this game:

  1. Howard is athletic enough and fast enough to stay relevant in a fast-paced game. This, coupled with his post game, are going to make him tough to defend. A mid-range jumper and a free throw percentage somewhere above his abominable 60% will round out his offensive game. His help defense makes it tough to drive on the Magic, but, as I’ve been watching him over the past few games, I’m not extremely impressed with his man-to-man defense.
  1. Orlando has some guys who can hit threes (Turkoglu and Lewis) and some who can hit their open threes (Bogans). Along with Howard’s post presence and Nelson’s driving, they have the offensive tools to unseat the pre-ordained Eastern Conference champion Celtics.
  1. While Jackson may be the heart of the Warriors, Davis is the brain. Without him in overtime, they were lost.
  1. Of the players in the West from the former Soviet states, I’m going to say Biedrins is giving his team the bigger bang for the buck.