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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Run, Don't Walk: Jazz Push the Pace, Beat Warriors in Overtime Thriller

While many "experts" say that the way to beat the Golden State Warriors is to slow the game down, the Utah Jazz have taken a 2-0 lead in their best of seven series by following the prescription that I offered to the Dallas Mavericks during the first round: "Play loose, play hard, rebound and run, run, run." Utah beat Golden State 127-117 in overtime on Wednesday night, outscoring the Warriors 58-36 in the paint and outrebounding them 60-32. Utah shot .529 from the field compared to .422 for Golden State, although the Warriors did shoot an excellent 15-40 (.375) from three point range.

Carlos Boozer had 30 points and 13 rebounds, while Mehmet Okur also contributed a double double (23 points, 18 rebounds). Andrei Kirilenko had a vintage AK-47 line: 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six blocked shots, one steal. Deron Williams was saddled with two fouls in the first minute of the game but still finished with 17 points and 14 assists. Utah's point guard situation was in flux throughout the game because of Williams' foul trouble, a neck injury suffered by Dee Brown in the second quarter that sent him to the hospital and the absence for most of the contest of Derek Fisher, who missed the start of the game to be with his daughter, who underwent successful surgery for a rare and serious form of eye cancer (preliminary reports are that both Brown and Fisher's daughter are doing well). Utah Coach Jerry Sloan left Fisher on the active list and Fisher caught a flight from New York and arrived in Salt Lake City in time to play 10 minutes; he had five points and three assists and his defense forced a crucial Baron Davis turnover when the Warriors were up 112-109 with just 27 seconds left in regulation. Despite the late miscue, Davis had a monster game: 36 points on 13-22 shooting, seven assists and four steals. Jason Richardson added 27 points, shooting 5-10 from three point range.

Although the official statistics say that Utah outscored Golden State just 13-12 in fastbreak points that is still a revealing number because coming into the series most people would have expected Golden State to dominate this category. Also, the final score shows that Utah did not simply walk the ball up the court and try to slowly pound Golden State into submission (prior to the extra session, the score was 113-113); that approach actually plays right into Golden State's hands and is perhaps the key mistake that Dallas made. Golden State is going to run all game long regardless of what the other team does but if the opponent slows the game down then the Warriors can set up all the funky zones and traps that Coach Don Nelson has devised. The Warriors are active and aggressive on defense when they get a chance to set up and when they force missed shots or turnovers then they are off to the races--but if you push the ball at them and try to score before they can organize their defense then you can score a lot of easy baskets and also set up good offensive rebounding opportunities if the initial shot is missed.

Bill Russell is doing a playoff blog for NBA.com and if you have not checked it out then you are missing something that is really special. One of his comments applies directly to the much discussed Golden State-Dallas matchup: "What I try to do sometimes when I watch the game is see what kind of adjustments the losing team has to make. But like I told one of the coaches this year about adjustments, you have to make adjustments that your team can make. You can’t just say, well we have to do a better job on the boards or we have to do a better job passing the ball. That is null and void unless your team can do those things. When you make adjustments, you have to make adjustments that your team can do." In other words, Charles Barkley and other commentators are missing the point when they keep insisting that Dirk Nowitzki should have posted up against the smaller Golden State defenders. Nowitzki is not a great postup player; however, he is a great faceup shooter and he is also above average at driving to the hoop. The Warriors took away his driving lanes by putting a quicker defender on him and immediately sending a second defender at him when he put the ball on the floor. What the Mavericks should have done is push the ball at every opportunity, which would have given Nowitzki the chance to shoot faceup jump shots in transition and/or drive to the hoop in an open court situation without having smaller defenders slapping at the ball from all angles. Nowitzki scored the big basket in last year's game seven against the Spurs by driving to the hoop. He has won many playoff games by nailing faceup jumper after faceup jumper. To simply say that he "chokes" or cannot perform well in big games is to ignore a large segment of his postseason career. Nowitzki was not placed in a proper position to do what he does best. Perhaps he bears some responsibility for that but the coaching staff and his teammates also let him down in that regard.

Utah has beaten Golden State twice because the Jazz are not afraid to attack in the open court. Coach Sloan has publicly stated that he is leaving it up to his point guard, Deron Williams, to decide what pace the team should play at. Williams is pushing the ball up the court, which is providing open shots for everybody else. Even Boozer's postups have been more effective in a semi-transition game than in situations when Utah slowed the ball down and tried to be methodical. Anyone who watched Game Two carefully must realize that Utah's main problem was turnovers and that many of those turnovers came at times when they slowed down, which allowed Golden State to get into their zone defense and get deflections and strips.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:50 AM


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At Thursday, May 10, 2007 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love reading this blog, great analysis.
Thanks for the link to Bill Russells blog, he has such a fantastic straight forward way of looking at the game. As a long time Laker fan i can remember him telling the announcing team that the Lakers were going to take that game 6 in 1980. He kept repeating that "Philly had not played THIS Laker team before" and not one of them would believe him until it was obvious that the Lakers speed was too much.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 1:19:00 AM, Blogger marcel said...

warriors should of won last night game utah is fortunate to be up 2 -0 it's going back 2 to 2 i think they can win 5 or 7 on the road just like utah did last series gs in 7 like utah vs houston

At Friday, May 11, 2007 1:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

G.S. may very well win one or two at home but overall the Warriors are in trouble; there is not a lot that they can do about Boozer inside, Utah's rebounding advantage and the fact that Utah is able and willing to run with them. The Jazz lost Williams to foul trouble for key stretches, lost Brown to injury and literally got Fisher right off of a plane and still won. That was a "golden" opportunity (pardon the pun) for the Warriors and I don't think that they will win four of five from Utah.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 3:43:00 AM, Blogger marcel said...

the warriors got to win 3and 4 and 6 if it get there then worry about 5 and 7 in utah but i belive they can still get 4 out of five from utah utah is going to tire trying to run up and down for 7 games with gs and by game 7 if it get there i belive the warrirs will have more in the tank

At Friday, May 11, 2007 6:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Obviously, the Warriors need to win games three and four at home to have any chance but I think that Utah will get one of the games in California.

If anyone is going to get tired it will be the Warriors. They are playing a shorter rotation and Baron Davis, who has always been injury prone, has a bad hamstring.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 12:41:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

i live in sac im from oakland though so the warriors is huge new there they got a good team for the first time in a while thats why some of they fans like my dad are depressed they aint gonna win this series im just saying handle your buisness at home and then worry about everything else


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