Mark Jackson coached tonight almost as if in protest. “Why basketball Gods? Why have you forsaken me????”
Jackson wasn’t quite defiant in response to questions on why he had his team send Dwight Howard to the free throw line an NBA-record 39 times (crushing Wilt’s old mark of 34), but he was a tad defensive when asked if the strategy helped put Howard into a “rhythm” offensively.
Are you serious? I think he was in a pretty good rhythm offensively all night long. The guy missed 18 free throws. I can understand people thinking ‘Why?’ but don’t get caught up in the free throws. Think about when we didn’t foul him — dunks, hooks, at the rim — he’s a great player and a bad free throw shooter.
There was a lot to like about this game from Golden State’s standpoint. The language of losing? Probably, but Charles Jenkins and Klay Thompson combined to make 9-of-15 from the field, with Jenkins scoring 8 and Thompson matching his career high with 14 points on a night where Dorell Wright sat with a knee contusion. The rookies, besides Tyler, looked like full-fledged contributors against Orlando.
Back to Howard, who scored 45 points and grabbed 23 rebounds. Stopping him was a huge concern before the game, and things only got worse as the game progressed. Andris Biedrins fouled out in just under 21 minutes. David Lee fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Ekpe Udoh and Thompson had 5 fouls apiece. Sending him to the line so often made a 2:39 game seem like it lasted 3+ hours, but what choice did Jackson have? Double-teaming Howard wouldn’t have worked, not with the Magic making 48% of their threes. It was a desperation move, but Hack-a-Howard was probably the only thing that kept the Warriors in this game.
The bigger problem with this game was that the Warriors barely went to the line at all. 19 attempts, two fewer than the amount of foul shots Howard made. And with no real interior threat offensively, the guards are going to have to drive the lane repeatedly to get to the line — and with the Warriors’ injury problems that might not be something they’d want to risk.
After all, Monta Ellis played a fantastic offensive game and only took 4 foul shots. 30 points, 11 assists and several shots in the fourth quarter to keep the Warriors’ hopes alive. David Lee went for 26 and 12, and Nate Robinson and Brandon Rush chipped in 14 and 12 points respectively.
The Warriors’ active centers (Biedrins, Udoh and Jeremy Tyler, who played 1 minute) combined to score 3 points in 36 minutes. Biedrins made his only field goal attempt in the first quarter, and spent the rest of the game either fouling Howard, grabbing rebounds (he had eight) or working hard to keep from getting open. Seriously, Biedrins follows the guy covering him during Warriors possessions.
Then again, it’s not like Udoh (0-for-3 from the field) did anything spectacular. Or even mediocre, at least offensively.
I asked Jackson about Biedrins taking only 1 shot in over 20 minutes (a season high for him … in minutes, not shots). He hesitated for as long as I’ve ever seen Jackson hesitate before answering a question, and talked about Biedrins’ knowing what he does well. According to Jackson he’s a great defender and rebounder, but “he’s not a scorer.” That seems clear at this point in Biedrins’ career, but with so little size available on the roster and the strategy of scoring from the outside a risky one at the end of games, the Warriors are going to have to find some inside scoring somewhere.
Notes from the press box
— I wasn’t sitting in a press box actually, more like one of several press areas around the arena between the first and second levels. The guy sitting next to me (a younger guy who wasn’t working on anything besides a basket of chicken strips and fries) broke the press box rule of “no cheering” several times during the fourth quarter.
— Nothing better than a million free throws in the second half for the opposing team, especially when you’re sitting near their basket and the fans were given thundersticks at halftime.
— There’s a poster when you head into the Warriors’ locker room that shows all the different rules the NBA has for their uniforms. There are at least 30, which means the NFL must have a similar poster in their locker rooms that contains at least 100 rules.
— Nate’s a fan favorite already. He’s perfect for the Warriors, whose fans are all about having a good time regardless of the score.
— The Warriors’ locker room isn’t that different from last year, except now there are two big screen TVs (one that’s fairly huge), a couple smaller monitors that look equipped for film study, and two new white boards (there was only one last year if I remember correctly). The chairs still look the same, but what’s the point in completely overhauling a locker room when the (alleged) plan is to move to San Francisco in five years or so?
— Expect the Warriors to sign a center within the next 24 hours. Tonight’s game was almost like a cry for help (size) from Jackson.
— Warriors fans booed Howard quite a bit tonight, but it was hard not to imagine what it’d be like if the Warriors traded for the league’s best center. The fans have proven that they’re some of the best and loudest when it comes to cheering small ball, fast break threes and other run-and-gun activities. Makes one wonder if they finally had a true center, would the roof literally fly off of Oracle?
— Here’s video of Monta talking in the locker room. It’s not all that often that he speaks with the media after losses (at least that was the case last season), so maybe 30/11 made him feel a little more like chatting.