First, I’d like to thank the Golden State Warriors for not making my post from earlier today (“10 reasons not to freak out about the Warriors’ loss to the Clippers”) look stupid.
In fact, the Warriors did a lot more than that, defeating the Chicago Bulls 99-91 in a game that not many expected the Warriors to win. The Warriors did what they couldn’t last night against the Clippers, namely make more than 40% of their shots and win the turnover battle.
Stats are subject to change from game to game, but there’s a general feeling surrounding the Warriors that’s different two games into Mark Jackson’s tenure. Part of that has to do with the fact that they at least look interested in playing defense. Another part is how much more at ease Jackson is with the media compared to their previous coach, who was a nice enough guy but spit out his answers so quickly that it almost appeared that he was nervous. Jackson projects an air of confidence and clarity of thought that Smart didn’t seem to provide, at least to an outside observer.
Then there’s also the makeup of this team’s roster, which is clearly deeper than last year’s.
Smart’s Warriors threw great outlet passes and didn’t do much else, with a bench including guys like Reggie Williams (the only guy worth keeping), Vladimir Radmanovic, Al Thornton, Dan Gadzuric, Jeremy Lin, Charlie Bell and, of course, Acie Law.
Against the Bulls, the only remaining reserve from last year was Ekpe Udoh, and along with Kwame Brown and Brandon “young Devean George” Rush (and to a lesser extent, Klay Thompson, Dominic McGuire and Ish Smith), they made the non-Monta/Steph/Lee Warriors look more like an NBA team on Monday night than they did at any point last year.
The Warriors always had NBA scorers, especially ones who could knock down some threes if they happened to be in the midst of a hot streak. Their defense in recent years has consisted of standing with their knees straight, occasionally jumping into supposed passing lanes in hopes of steals leading to easy buckets. Forcing turnovers is great, but it’s better to do so in the fashion the Warriors coaxed 20 against the Bulls: aggressive one-on-one defense with the occasional trap thrown in. Come to think of it, the Warriors haven’t been this active defensively since…
It also helped that Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Dorell Wright went 23-for-39 on Monday after going 9-for-37 the night before, but even bigger might’ve been the Warriors’ ability to hold down Derrick Rose (4-for-17, 1-for-8 from 3-pt range) for the second consecutive year at Oracle Arena. The improved shooting by the Warriors’ perimeter starters, along with David Lee scoring over 20 points for the second consecutive night, made up for the loss of Andris Biedrins (not literally, but he might as well have been inactive against Chicago after a surprisingly energetic and effective game against Los Angeles).
Speaking of players who might soon be inactive, Curry tweaked his ankle again on a transition drive where he attempted to go 1-on-2 with dreadful results. Stay tuned for a post later this morning about that little conundrum.