Andris Biedrins played his best game of the season Monday night in an impressive win against the surging Chicago Bulls (they had won three in a row and six of nine). Here are the reasons I was excited by his outstanding performance, in order of importance.
1. He played 39 minutes: You know what this means? Biedrins is healthy again. He trusts his body out there on the court, he’s getting past the mind games that accompany a return from injury and Don Nelson trusts him to be out there for such extended minutes. This was a season-high in minutes for Biedrins and the most since his return. He has been gradually building up his minutes each game, and in the past three contests, he has played 33, 34 and 39 minutes. It’s no surprise that in those three games, he has averaged 8.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.7 blocks. More minutes is good for Biedrins and it’s good for the Warriors.
2. He grabbed 19 rebounds: One of the Warriors’ biggest weakness (and there are many) this season has been rebounding. The Warriors are a horrible, horrible rebounding team. The bad news is they haven’t really improved since Biedrins returned 10 games ago. In those 10 games, the Warriors have averaged 39.9 rebounds and their opponents have averaged 46.4, a difference of 6.5 rebounds each game. For the season, the Warriors average 37.8 versus 46.4 for opponents, a difference of 8.6. That’s not a good stat. Teams that rebound like that lose a lot, as the Warriors have proven. Biedrins’ supreme effort on the boards Tuesday helped the Warriors outrebound the Bulls 57-53, the first time the Warriors have outrebounded their opponent in 10 games. Not surprisingly, the Warriors won, and they won impressively, leading throughout the majority of the game and holding the opponent under 100 points. The Warriors don’t do that very often, even when they win. In fact, it was only the fourth game this season the Warriors have held an opponent under 100 points (three of those games were wins). It should also be noted that Biedrins wasn’t the only player efforting on the boards. Stephen Curry (10 rebounds) and the two D-League hopefuls (17 combined rebounds off the bench) chipped in.
3. He blocked eight shots: When healthy and at his best, Biedrins can be a game changer on defense. That doesn’t mean that his presence makes the Warriors a good defensive team. In order to be a good team on defense, you need more than one good defender. Right now, I wouldn’t put any other player on the Warriors roster in the category of “good defender.” But, when Biedrins is patrolling the paint like he did Tuesday, it makes the Warriors a good defensive team. Primarily because of Biedrins’ effort, the Bulls shot 36.5 percent from the field. Considering the Warriors usually allow their opponents to shoot a high percentage (almost 49 percent), the difference was noticeable. You can’t expect performances like this on a regular basis from Biedrins (in his best season for blocked shots, 2006-07, he averaged 1.7 and has averaged 1.3 for his career), so don’t expect the Warriors to suddenly figure things out on defense. A lot of other things will have to change in order for that to happen (new coach, new power forward, maybe a new guard rotation), but a healthy and active Biedrins, even when he’s not blocking eight shots, will certainly help.
This performance was certainly an anomaly for Biedrins this season, but not necessarily for his career. When Biedrins has been healthy, he has been one of the NBA’s better centers. He is a fierce rebounder (just last season, he averaged 11.2 rebounds per game) and has always been an active defender, though he’s better at help defense than in one-on-one situations. A healthy Biedrins makes the Warriors a better team.