As I wrote yesterday, All-Stars are picked based on reputation, win-loss records and publicity/hype. However, if making All-Star teams was based solely on the naked eye test, Monta Ellis would have passed tonight. 36 points on 16-of-28 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and the game-winning shot with 0.6 seconds left to preserve a 110-108 win that should have been much easier for the Warriors.
It never should have gotten to the point where Monta needed to flash what may be the best crossover in the NBA right now on Brandon Rush before pulling up and drilling a 17-footer — a move and shot that reminded one of Michael Jordan’s shot over Bryon Russell, only without the push-off. Stephen Curry negated a running floater he made to take a 3-point lead with 22 seconds left when he let Darren Collison blow by him and then compounded the mistake with a reach-in foul as Collison made the layup. Less than 4 seconds after perhaps putting the game away, Curry’s defensive lapse led to a tie game.
Perhaps it was fitting during a year when Curry’s supposed dominance of this team has been pushed aside by the sheer brilliance of Ellis’ offensive game. In the end, Curry’s blunder made Monta look better than ever.
“If you are looking at the All-Star break and saying we are going to showcase the guys that are playing the best basketball at this particular time of the year, not the team right now, the team is playing okay,” said Keith Smart. “But who is playing the best basketball right now…there you are.”
It’s a valid argument. One that probably won’t be paid much attention to by the coaches in charge (and certainly not the fans, who don’t even think Ellis is a top-10 guard in the West according to the voting), but one has to wonder just how well Monta would have to play to garner consideration. 30 points per game? 30 wins at this point for the Warriors, instead of 18?
“He’s got himself playing a great rate right now and I think he’s going to keep going,” Smart said. “That’s all he can do, all we can do. Then it’s up to everyone else who makes the decision. But for right now, his game is speaking for him.”
One guy who’s game hasn’t said much of anything since coming to Golden State, Brandan Wright, gave the Warriors surprisingly solid production (6 points and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes). While Monta didn’t say much about his All-Star bid other than, “I’m going to put it in God’s hands,” he and David Lee (21 points, 9 rebounds) mentioned Wright’s contributions as key to the Warriors 9th win in 14 games.
In talking to Wright after the game (video above), his confidence almost bordered on defiance. He played aggressively tonight against a team full of past ACC All-Stars including Tyler Hansbrough and the constantly booed Mike Dunleavy, like a guy who’s ready to finally grasp his NBA opportunity, wherever that may be.
“I don’t get down on myself or anything like that, I know I can play basketball,” Wright said. “I feel like if I get to my spots, I can’t be stopped. Use my length and my quickness, and just rising above people. If I can do that, I feel like I can do anything on the court.”
Ellis can do anything he wants on the court these days, especially with the ball in his hands. From circus shots to long 3-pointers to the last shot of the game, on a Wednesday night at home against Indiana, he was an All-Star. According to David Lee, he already is.
“If he’s not an All-Star this year we might need to redo the process,” Lee said.