Is there a purer possible distillation of good vs. evil than Anthony Morrow vs. Sasha Vujacic? Anthony Morrow should not get a technical just because he realizes what a boner Sasha is. Sasha should get a technical for every breath he has the audacity to take.
Anyway, this was our best performance of the season. Bar none. Not even close.
We didn't have the Oracle faithful to buoy us; no Warrior had a career night; the whistles did not tilt hugely in our direction; we were not significantly more rested than our opponent. There was no "Bad News Bears" vibe to our early lead. We faced the world champions in their building, on a night when they were determined to wash the taste of a bad loss out of their mouths. We took them to the limit, with no asterisks.
The level of basketball we played last night is sustainable. We're not going to shoot 55% from the field every night, but if we pass that intelligently, and compete on defense and the glass as we did, we will be a real basketball team, night in and night out. The Golden State Warriors didn't look like a bad team having a good game; they just looked like a pretty good basketball team. This was the most mature and impressive performance we've given since the Baron days.
I'd predicted that this game would be more interesting on an individual level than a teamwide level. That could not have been more wrong; just about every Warrior played well, and they played so cohesively that singling anyone out seems beside the point. (Best stat of the night: seven of the nine Warriors who played recorded at least three assists.) There is only one personnel specific that I'll point to... I've beaten it into the ground already, but apparently further beatings are necessary.
In an otherwise excellent coaching performance, in which he mostly resisted the temptations of smallball, balanced minutes nicely and showed some of the contextual offensive genius that made him famous, Don Nelson gave Anthony Randolph 19 minutes and Vladimir Radmanovic 26. This is -- always and forever -- a mistake. Vlad played decently, but he is simply not a good enough player to keep Randolph on the bench. Last night's numbers provide further evidence of this: the two players shot similarly, but Randolph grabbed more rebounds, handed out more assists, had six steals and blocks to Vlad's zero, and committed fewer turnovers and fouls. We did better when Randolph was in than when Vlad was in. The gap between the two could not possibly have been clearer. And yet the vast majority of the second-half minutes at the four went to Vlad.
Anthony Randolph still makes a number of mistakes, and you can see why a coach might want to sit him for a solid veteran in critical situations. The problem is that Vladimir Radmanovic is not solid. He doesn't have the beef to defend fours well or the speed to defend threes well; he'll make the occasional clever swipe, but he's a liability on that end of the floor. On offense, he does the right things, but he does most of them poorly... a guy who knows where he's supposed to go isn't much of an asset, if he can't do anything once he gets there. He's a poor rebounder for his size. When he's not hitting threes, he hurts your chances to win, pure and simple.
Vlad is working hard, and a likeable guy; he's not an absolutely terrible player. But he is not a good player, nor even an average one. And it's not like this is a widely-kept secret, either; it's been five years since anyone saw fit to give him as much floor time as Nellie has. Vlad's last two coaches saw him as a guy who could help you space the floor for fifteen minutes a night, but who'd cost you if you relied on him for anything more than that. And while Nellie can wring value out of players that some lesser coaches couldn't, Vlad's last two coaches were Phil Jackson and Larry Brown. If they didn't see much value in him, he probably doesn't have much.
For this team to live up to the promise it's starting to show, Don Nelson will have to give up this fixation with a bad player. Last night saw Nellie's best coaching performance in a long, long time, but a great coaching performance does not mean that easily correctable errors should be ignored. Anthony Randolph needs a longer leash, and Vladimir Radmanovic needs a shorter one. This brighter future we're glimpsing will not come about if we keep making mistakes.