Monta's back, and thank heavens... in lamenting the inefficiencies of his Superman routine, it's easy to forget how badly the Warriors need him to compete. For while Stephen Curry tried gamely to keep things going, in Monta's absence, the team was clearly a weapon short (well, at least one). And tonight, for the first time since the latest Denver heartbreaker,they're facing a team that's playing well. Since getting CP3 back from injury in early December, the Hornets have gone 17-9. And while they recently dumped both Devin and Bobby Brown to get under the cap, the increased playing time that opens up for Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton may actually make them a better team... it'll certainly make them a more exciting one. It's not a bad time to be a sports fan in the Big Easy.
The action's back in Oracle, where the Dubs continue to play credibly -- despite an 9-11 record there, they've outscored visitors by 1.2 points a game -- and the Hornets are only 8-16 on the road. No reason not to expect a competitive one tonight. The Hornets play slowly, take care of the basketball better than any team except the Hawks, and neither draw nor commit many fouls, so it's one of the bigger style clashes on the schedule. The team that determines the pace of the game is likely to come out on top.
One final word of warning: for the first time in two weeks, Don Nelson has all three of his guards available. The floor time for the suicidal three-guard lineup had already diminished before CJ went down, so maybe the big man has found religion on this. But last night showed he hasn't gotten smallball out of his system, so beware the Curry/Monta/CJ three-headed mini-monster.
Warrior To Watch: Monta Ellis. The Dubs have been helpless in the halfcourt without him, and the Hornets' transition D is stingier than that of most teams. He'll need to get back to creating shots in a hurry here.
Hornet To Watch: Chris Paul, one of those players who makes the game's beauty self-explanatory.
Smallball, you useless bastard.
Just a lame Warriors performance all around. Nellie actually inserted the aforementioned guard Hydra into the starting lineup, and while CJ played well enough to make him look smart for awhile, the Hornets slowly figured out how to work past smallball and beat the crap out of the Warriors, as dozens of teams have in the past two seasons. This might not happen if the Warriors had a good point guard to maximize the value of the extra shooter, but right now -- I can not be clearer about this -- they don't have a good point guard. I'm not sure they even have a point guard. This game further convinced me that Monta's a better choice for the job than Curry -- at least he can make something happen in the halfcourt -- but neither guy is a good choice for the job. This is, officially, a problem.
That we lost to one of the three best players in the world is no real excuse... you shouldn't go down that quietly in your own building. Poorly coached, poorly played, depressing as all get out. This team needs a coach and a point guard.