At least for one game, some people can stop wondering if the Warriors are better off without Monta Ellis in the lineup.
The Warriors played hard and showed well on the road Saturday against the Suns before ultimately coming up short in a 112-103 loss (recap, box score). It was a tough loss to watch, because the Warriors played well much of the game and had a chance to earn an impressive road win. They led most of the first half. They led by five at the break. They led by one entering the fourth quarter.
But things really fell apart in the final frame for the Warriors. The Suns amped up their defensive pressure (yes, every now and then the Suns will play a little defense), got a little help from reserve Goran Dragic, who scored 18 of his career-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, and outscored the Warriors 33-23 to win by nine.
If the Warriors had Monta Ellis in the lineup, I think he would have made a big difference. He would have put constant pressure on the Suns’ defense, which would have made things easier for some of his teammates. Without him, though, the Warriors struggled to get anything consistent on offense. Too many turnovers, too many missed 3-pointers. Too much Anthony Tolliver and Cartier Martin (no offense to the D-Leaguers; other than the fourth quarter, they played well). Too little Corey Maggette, who disappeared down the stretch. Too much Stephen Curry, and not in a good way.
I broke down the fourth quarter performance by the Warriors. Check it out:
Curry: 3 for 9, 8 points, 2 3-pointers, five points in final 20 seconds, when game was out of reach. Shot 1-for-7 from the field until he made his final two shots.
Maggette: 2 for 4, 4 points, nothing in the final seven minutes.
C.J. Watson: 2 for 3, 4 points
Tolliver: 1 for 3, 3 points
Martin: 1 for 3, 1-1 FT, 3 points
Ronny Turiaf: 1 for 2 FTs, 1 point
The biggest problem I saw in the fourth quarter was the lack of Ellis. Ellis hasn’t been great in the fourth quarter this season, but he has been getting better. And, even when he’s missing, he puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Without Ellis, Stephen Curry tried to take over and failed. He’s too young. Great player, but not ready to be a go-to player in the clutch, not yet. I was also surprised at the way Maggette disappeared late.
The Warriors needed Monta Ellis in Saturday’s game. Let’s hope he gets better soon.