Indiana Pacers @ Golden State Warriors
Monday, November 30
10:30 PM EST
It has been an interesting season so far in Golden State. To say the least.
Stephen Jackson demanded — and then received — a trade to Charlotte, which sent back defensive specialist Raja Bell and three-point specialist Vladimir Radmonovic. Upon arrival, Raja decided it was time for wrist surgery and will thus be out of the Warriors line-up for the foreseeable future. And amid all this, the team’s best player, Monta Ellis, has been reportedly butting heads with Coach Don Nelson, who has temporary given the coaching duties over to Indiana legend and G-State assistant Keith Smart while Nelson battles a bout of pneumonia that was serious enough to keep him from even traveling with the team. (Nelson is expected to return to the sidelines against Houston on Thursday, so he will likely not be coaching on Monday against Indy.)
So…Ya got all that?
Throughout all this drama, the on-court story has been the stellar play of Monta Ellis, particularly in his last four games. Monta had a fairly pedestrian 16-point game (on 7/19 shooting) when the Pacers beat the Warriors 108 – 94 three weeks ago. But don’t be fooled. Lately, the lightning-quick combo guard has been shooting a ton, scoring a ton and doing it all very efficiently.
In his past four games, Monta has amassed point totals of 34, 37, 42 and 18 — all while shooting 51.5% from the floor. He has also been active on the defensive end, averaging 3.5 steals over the last four, a total buoyed by games of 6 and 4 steals in recent wins over Portland and Dallas. And, oh yeah, expect to see a ton of this Monta guy: He has played 48 minutes, 48 minutes, 44 minutes, 40 minutes and 46 minutes in five of the past six games, with his 34-minute outing against the Lakers on Saturday night making him look lazy by comparison and likely only occurring because that game was such a blow out.
(Overall, the Warriors are only 2-4 in their last 6 games, but with those two high-quality wins over the Blazers and the Mavs and competitive outings against the Cavs, Spurs and Celtics even while the team was short-handed due to injuries/trades, the Dubs are playing well right now and certainly won’t be impressed by the Pacers personnel after facing six of the elite NBA teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back in a two-week period.)
Long-story short, Monta is currently playing better than anyone on the Pacers, and he is in the midst of what appears to be a career year (23.5 ppg, 5.5 apg and 4.5 rpg on 46.5% shooting). So, sure, the moped jokes are still funny — but the injury concerns are no longer relevant. Monta is back and he is relentless. And since, as of Saturday, Monta is third in the NBA in points in the paint, it seems unlikely that TJ Ford will be up for the challenge of keeping the blur-of-a-guard in front of him. So Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones will have to be the ones who try to keep Ellis in check while he charges to the hoop and jets down the court, fueled by his raucous home crowd. You see, Oakland loves its team and comes out to support them, victories or not; they cheer whether there is off-court Stephen Jackson drama or not.
If the Monta explosion isn’t enough to fear, the Warriors have several other perimeter threats to contend with. The combination of Anthony Morrow (who is shooting an unholy 53.5% from three) and rookie sharpshooter Stephen Curry (39% from three) give the Dubs the firepower on the wing to blow out any team in the league if the long bombs start falling early and often. The oft-maligned Corey Maggette has also been playing well all season, forgoing long-range shooting and instead focusing on getting to the rack — a facet of the offense that complements the games of Morrow and Curry rather well (not to mention Vlad-Rad, who is shooting terrible this year but still liable to hit 6 threes in any given game).
Down low, however, Golden State has little to fear. But their lack of a traditional big man will once again force Jim O’Brien to decide whether or not this is a game, both from a speed and style standpoint, that will allow Roy Hibbert to play a lot of minutes. Neither Anthony Randolph nor Chris Hunter are good match-ups for Roy. But, of course, neither of these guys will ever be mistaken for Chris Bosh (or even Andrea Bargnani) so Roy should be able to punish either of those inexperienced, inconsistent players on the other end.
Roy played 24 minutes in Indiana’s early-season win over Golden State, so we should expect something similar. If he does tally fewer than, say, 20 minutes (and it’s not due to his own foul-happy ways), then it might be time to start wondering whether or not O’Brien will ever consider his post game enough of an offensive asset to make up for his shortcomings in the quickness department. The lineups will continue to be weird until all these injuries are overcome, but this is something to watch for going forward. Will the Pacers ever say “Roy Hibbert is our center” and start putting him out there for big minutes every game? Or will they continue playing the match-up game and deferring to the will of the speedier, shorter teams of the league?
Other than that, we know that the Warriors tend to turn the ball over a lot, rarely get to the line and almost never beat you on the offensive glass. But they do shoot well — and that’s enough to win a game in this league, particularly with their personnel and particularly if crowd gets into it after some first-quarter threes. After the Toronto and Mavericks games, the Pacers should know first-hand how ugly it can get if a team starts making all their shots in the first half.
Ultimately, however, we know this will be a fast-paced game and we should expect a lot of scoring. Golden State shot poorly in the last match-up in Indy, but they generally don’t. The Pacers, on the other hand, almost always shoot poorly, but, when it comes to playing defense, the Warriors also generally don’t.
So you have to expect that even the anemic Indy offense can get some buckets. I mean, we are talking about the fastest team in the league (GSW) going up against the third-fastest team in the league (IND), so unless the FG percentages for both teams hover way down around 40%, there should be more points this time out.
But hopefully, the result will be the same: a Pacers win.
“What can I say? I get buckets.”