It’s amazing how winning can change perspective in a flash. The Warriors played a very good game Wednesday night against the Grizzlies and came away with their first win of the season. They did a lot of things well, but I think the most impressive thing to take away from the 115-107 win was the Warriors’ improvement on defense. I know the offense was a lot of fun to watch, but that was to expected. The Grizzlies are truly an atrocious defensive squad. We shouldn’t take anything away from Monta Ellis, Anthony Morrow, Corey Maggette and the rest of the Warriors who excelled on offense, because they played a great game. But considering the opponent, nobody should have been surprised to see the Warriors put together their most impressive offensive performance of the season.
But the defense? That’s a different story. The Grizzlies are a good offensive team. They came into this game scoring more than 107 points per game, and when looking at the size advantage they had, especially against the Warriors’ small starting lineup, this looked like it could be a track meet. But the Warriors asserted themselves, controlled the tempo of the game, and despite strong efforts from Rudy Gay and Allen Iverson, the Grizzlies were held in check after the first quarter. Yes, the Grizzlies scored 107 points, but that doesn’t really tell the story. Any time you look at stats from a Warriors game, you have to adjust them in your head because of the pace the Warriors play. Everything will be skewed a little bit towards more offense. But Wednesday, the Grizzlies never looked comfortable against the Warriors’ defense. That’s impressive, because the Warriors aren’t a good defensive team, not by any stretch of the imagination. But when they outhustle their opponent, when they gamble a little bit on defense, good things can happen and that’s what happened Wednesday. The Warriors were very aggressive, got their hands on a lot of passes and ended up forcing 18 turnovers, which they converted into 26 points.
There was a lot to like from the Warriors’ first win of the season, but for me, the improvement on defense was the most enjoyable aspect of their performance. More, please.
Here’s my look at all that was good from Wednesday’s win:
MONTA ELLIS: This was the best game I’ve ever seen Monta play. I know there have been games where he has scored more points, but this was the most complete game I’ve ever seen from Ellis. Before we get to the (insane!) stats, I have to mention the intangibles I saw in Ellis’ game Wednesday night. I was afraid that playing against O.J. Mayo, Ellis would get into a one-on-one battle and play a little out of control. But I saw exactly the opposite and that’s a testament to Ellis’ improving maturity as a basketball player. I also was impressed with Ellis’ defense against Mayo. Ellis gave up quite a bit of size (bulk) to Mayo, but more than held his own. His defense was certainly part of the reason Mayo ended up with only 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Now, Mayo’s stat line is so impressive, let’s bold it up: 24 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals. That’s an All-NBA performance, people. Ellis is now averaging 23 points, 6.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game. Impressive.
ANTHONY MORROW: The Warriors finally swung that ball around the Morrow and the Warriors’ sweet-shooting sophomore padded everybody’s assist totals. What an amazing shooting display! Morrow shot 10 for 12 from the field and made all four of his 3-pointers. But I also saw him take his man off the dribble a couple times and score at the rim. I know this is the Grizzlies, and they stink at defense, but still … nice coming out party, Anthony!
COREY MAGGETTE: I was very impressed with Maggette’s choices in the game Wednesday night. Nothing is more frustrating to me than watching Maggette, an athletic, physical specimen, camp outside and throw up jumper after jumper. Even more frustrating than that is when he keeps missing, but won’t stop shooting, as was the case in the Warriors’ first two games. On Wednesday, however, Maggette was awesome. He recognized the Grizzlies’ inability to stop penetration, and took it straight to the rim. Again and again. What was interesting was after Maggette did this, his jumper started falling. I hope Maggette takes note of this pattern and we see more aggressive drives to the basket to open up his offense the rest of the season. Maggette shot 9 for 17 from the field and scored 20 points.
STEPHEN JACKSON: Jackson played his best game this season. He hit his shots (7 for 16 FG, 2 for 4 3-pointers), scored 20 points, moved the ball well (6 assists) and most importantly, played very good defense against Zach Randolph and later, Rudy Gay. Gay torched every Warrior that tried to guard him until Jackson took his turn. I thought the Randolph-Jackson matchup could have been a problem for the Warriors, but even though Randolph played a nice game, Jackson kept him under wraps for the most part. Most impressively was that Randolph, who came into the game averaging almost 5 offensive rebounds per game, had only two against Jackson, who gives up one inch and 42 pounds to the Grizzlies’ burly power forward.
THE DEFENSE: See the commentary on the defense at the top of this article.
THE OFFENSE: A very nice performance, punctuated by these stats: 54.0 percent FG shooting, 58.3 percent 3-point shooting, 29 assists, 32 fast-break points.
Coming Later: I’ll take a look at some of the things that weren’t so great in the Warriors’ win (I figured this article should just focus on the positives, because it was a very nice win). Some of the things I’ll take a look at include Anthony Randolph, rebounding, the small starting five, Andris Biedrins and Kelenna Azubuike.