Is it time to break out the “We Believe” T-shirts again?
Holy cow. What a great game. If you’re a Warriors fan, you better hope you have that game on your DVR, because you won’t want to delete it. You never want to overstate one win, but this could be a turning point for this Warriors squad.
Now that the Stephen Jackson cloud has finally lifted, we can see the true form of this Warriors roster. Taking lessons from this game (and the three preceding it), we now know the following:
Monta Ellis is a legitimate, impossible-to-defend star. He was breaking down the Mavericks’ zone defense off the dribble and getting all the way to the basket repeatedly. He had 11 turnovers, but never backed down. He made a mistake, picked himself up, and went at the Mavericks again. There was not a player on the Mavericks roster who had a chance at stopping Ellis in this game. And don’t look now, but his defense is getting better. Monta’s line: 37 points, 15-29 field goals, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 11 turnovers.
Stephen Curry is a resilient, heady, tough-as-nails rookie. Curry was not good in the first half, but interim coach Keith Smart stuck with him, and the rookie point guard had a spectacular second half, in particular the fourth quarter. He had nine fourth-quarter points, including five points late when the result of the game was up for grabs. His 3-pointer and ridiculous tear-shot runner were incredible feats for a rookie. Curry’s line: 18 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals.
Vladimir Radmanovich is, believe it or not, the steal of the Jackson trade. I had my doubts about Radmanovich, but he showed me in this game that in this system, he can really make a difference. It’s not like Radmanovich isn’t a player, he’s had some nice runs with other teams for stretches of his career. But he is such a good shooter, which spreads the defense, allowing easier penetration by the Warriors guards. If he can keep rebounding like he did against the Mavericks, that’s just gravy. Radmanovich’s line: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 3-pointers.
Anthony Morrow is a cold-blooded long-distance assassin. It has been amazing to watch the confidence of this player since Jackson left. He was hesitant and quiet, played with his head down when Jackson was here. Since the trade, he’s been fearless, and not just on 3-pointers. He’s shooting those with no hesitation (and making them), but he’s also mixing it up with some nice drives to the basket, especially in transition. Plus, he’s rebounding and playing some defense, too. Morrow’s line: 27 points, 6 3-pointers, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals.
Anthony Randolph is a blur of energy and athleticism. He’s still a little skittish out there, and we can’t forget that he’s 20 years old. But he can be such a presence on defense when he’s focused in, altering and blocking shots, and grabbing a lot of rebounds. I still think he can start, but I’ll settle for 25-30 minutes of quality playing time each game. Randolph’s line: 9 points, 6 rebounds, block, steal.
Mikki Moore is a veteran presence, providing stability, experience, and against the Mavericks, rebounding. Moore’s line: 6 points, 11 rebounds, block.
Since Stephen Jackson was traded, we’ve seen a renewal of this team, a refreshing of the young talent that had so many Warriors fans excited coming into the season. We’ve seen a team that short-handed and overmatched, has given Cleveland, Boston, Portland and Dallas fits. Those four teams are some of the very best in the NBA, and the Warriors more than proved that they belong on the same court.
Just wait until Biedrins gets back. Moore is nice, but Biedrins is a legitimate post presence on defense, a shot-blocker and alterer who will give a major boost to this already-improving defense.
One final thought: I’m not calling for Don Nelson to leave the team permanently because he’s a legendary coach and he deserves more respect than that. But tonight was certainly a strong indicator that once Nelson does leave, and Keith Smart replaces him, the Warriors will be in very good hands. He really looked like he could coach (this is just my opinion, but I think it was Smart’s halftime work with Curry that turned the rookie guard’s game around) and his interview with the media after the game was honest, insightful and refreshing.
Quick turnaround with another road game against the Spurs on Wednesday. If the Warriors win again, this team might be much more than we thought they were.