PreThoughtsThe season's longest homestand ends tonight with what is, on paper, the season's easiest game. We'd found these Nets a tad threatening last time around, as they'd just won two of three after dropping their first eighteen; they lost that game to us, however, and eighteen of the nineteen games since. They have the league's worst offense and the league's third-worst defense... even we outdefend them, albeit barely. They're on pace for both the worst record in league history and the worst point differential in league history. They've lost each of their last five games by at least eleven points. And if they lose to us tonight, this will be their third ten-game losing streak in 42 games. These guys just aren't having a fun year.
Tonight, we have to shelve all the woe-is-us/walking-wounded/look-at-all-these-D-Leaguers excuses. We are the happier, better, luckier team in this game, and if it's still a game by halftime, we'll have only ourselves to blame. In truth, we should probably win this one by twenty or more, as our injuries would prevent us from playing a full garbage-time lineup even if we wanted to. And while we do create dysfunction where you'd think none could exist, I'm expecting a lot of dunks and smiles tonight. The players deserve a laugher heading into the season's second half.
Since the scoreboard probably won't bear close watching tonight, let's Watch two players from each side...
Warrior To Watch: Monta Ellis. We certainly don't need a big night from him to win, but it'll be interesting to see if 1) he continues to make most of the plays, and 2) he can keep up his strong passing numbers from the last several games.
Other Warrior To Watch: In his 41 Warrior minutes thus far, Anthony Tolliver has rebounded well, defended capably and hit all four of his free throws... unfortunately, he's gone a ghastly 3 for 16 from the field, including bricks on all seven of his attempts from long distance. Tolliver is the most intriguing of our three call-ups, and if he starts hitting threes as he did in the D-League (.371 for his career there), he could clinch himself a contract from someone next year. Tonight seems as good a night as any for those shots to start falling.
Net To Watch: Brook Lopez. An amazingly polished center for a 21-year-old, but you could argue that that's, in some ways, a bad thing... like a baseball player who comes into the league already possessing good plate discipline, he doesn't project to have as much room to improve as rawer but more athletic players of the same age. He's completely healthy and already showing a number of "old player skills" (passing, good free throw shooting, foul discipline), and yet the Nets get outscored by 11.7 points per 48 minutes when he's on the floor. He's good, and they're probably right to declare him untouchable, but I'm not convinced he's going to get much better from here. I think he's hit his ceiling, and it's somewhere south of "All-Star."
Other Net To Watch: Yi Jianlian, a fellow many Dubs fans pined for in the '07 draft. Since then, Yi has played two-plus years of what one might call "incredibly shitty basketball"; over twenty of his draftmates, including both Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli, have been his superiors to date. He's having his best season, though, with one of the best net plus-minus ratings of any Net, and could still develop into an overrated-but-useful Bargnani type.
PostThoughts -- Warriors 111, Nets 79
Yikes, those Nets. One of Jim Barnett's Keys to the game was to keep New Jersey out of their comfort zone. I really don't think a 3-38 team has one of those.
It took us a little while to get into the groove, but you certainly can't say we didn't take care of business here. Good effort on the boards, good ball movement all around (except from Cartier, whose tunnel vision puts Monta's to shame), and good GOD, Stephen Curry is getting fun. Good offensive aggression, feisty D, and the best passing display he's put on since the first couple weeks of the season. I'd be hard-pressed to call this his best game, considering the level of competition, but it was certainly excellent. This was the best game of the season for Martin, Tolliver and maybe even Ronny. Biedrins excelled everywhere except the free throw line, and Maggette had his millionth straight good outing. It's a hoot to watch that dude re-learn how to pass. Plus, Brandan Wright at the announce table! It doesn't sound like we're going to see him this year, but he cheerleaded very smoothly throughout his segment, and it was fun to see that goofy bastard.
That leaves Monta, whose third-quarter exit was confusing and not a little troubling. Our star walking off the court with no real obvious ailments, Bob and Jim immediately cutting to damage-control mode... it felt like Monta was having some sort of late-developing Jeff-Kent-like tantrum that nobody wanted to acknowledge. Under the circumstances, I was almost relieved when they announced that he'd sprained his ankle. All we know right now is that X-rays are negative, but Monta won't be in Phoenix tomorrow.
Fitz was already pre-spinning excuses for that game at the end of this broadcast -- if you take a drink every he says "down to one guard" tomorrow night, you'll be shitfaced by the first mandatory. It's really not as much of an issue as the Dubs PR arms will make it out to be... Martin and Maggette can both hang just fine at the two. As long as Curry doesn't revert to his slap-happy ways, we should be fine. Monta's absence actually provides a great opportunity for the other guys to spread their wings a little -- you can't say we missed him in the second half tonight -- and as much as Nellie will detest the size of our lineups, we will probably rebound well enough to have a chance tomorrow.
Fun stuff here... the game was an obvious gimme, but we looked good taking it and had fun doing it. Thus ends Act One.