With Stephen Curry and Dirk Nowitzki not dressed, and the Grizzlies waiting on Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis, the Memphis-Oklahoma City and Dallas-Golden State games didn't reveal anything monumental, but there were still a few takeaways from the action:
Russell Westbrook likes his basketball piping hot, and that often elevates his game. But leading by 25 points in the second half, Westbrook needs to know how to calculate the cost-benefit analysis of melting down over what he termed after the game "a miscommunication." Let's say for argument's sake that Thabo Sefolosha hung Westbrook out to dry in the lane, or mistimed his cut which, as a consequence, brought a Memphis help defender to Westbrook as he tried to post up Jerryd Bayless. What possible good is derived from a tantrum? Perfectionism can be an admirable trait for a professional, but is there any part of Westbrook's game that suggests he's a perfectionist?
Big guys with skills demand attention, and in that regard Andrew Bogut is already helping the Golden State Warriors' half-court offense, even in limited minutes and even with Curry on the bench in street clothes. A small squad like the Kaman-less Mavericks needs to send help when the Warriors post up Bogut who, even as he shook off the rust, had the wherewithal and vision to either avoid the second defender by gathering quickly then getting into his move for the lefty flip shot, or kicking the ball out if the rotation left an opening on the perimeter or hitting a baseline cutter. (In the second half, when Bogut was visibly exhausted, the Dallas Mavericks opted to play him one-on-one.) Then, of course, there was the defensive end, where Bogut challenged Dallas at the rim. Second-half blocks of Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright at point-blank range were just two of several Bogut-influenced defensive possessions for the W's. On the botched Dallas possession with the game in the balance, Bogut stepped up from the back line to help on a driving O.J. Mayo, then dashed back to Wright when the ball was delivered to Marion. A second later, Marion's zippy baseline pass to Wright underneath would've produced a layup. Instead, Bogut punched the ball away and it landed in Jarrett Jack's hands going the other way. Andrew Bogut: defensive closer.
It’s almost always smart to leave a productive player on the floor with two fouls in the first quarter. And it’s equally smart if you’re the opposing team to attack that player and force him to defend. Two possessions after Klay Thompson picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter, Mayo rejected a ball screen from Elton Brand, assuring that Thompson, his defender, would stay with him as he dribbled left. Mayo went right at the body of Thompson, who was whistled for his third foul seven and a half minutes into the game. Jackson again kept Thompson on the floor with foul trouble in the third, when the second-year sharpshooter picked up foul No. 4 midway through the period. Thompson didn't foul again until the final minute of regulation.
Future Golden State opponents: When a Warrior sets a down screen for a shooter, chances are that screener is about to streak to the basket once he finishes the business of freeing up his teammate. The Warriors are moving off the ball offensively as effectively as any team in the league this side of San Antonio, and it's one of the primary reasons Thompson is finding clean looks all over the court.
With Jason Kidd, the Mavericks ran an efficient quasi-system that allowed intuitive players who had been together for a while to find shots for one another off reads. This season, the Mavs have some good quality parts, but the collection as a whole is a bit disparate. Darren Collison isn’t Kidd and you sense he could use an offense that’s a tad more organized, though down the stretch their flow produced some quality shots, several off penetration. Not every set needs to be commandeered on the sideline, but a little more structure would do this group some good -- even the vets.
The first half ended on a bizarre series. Vince Carter launched a corner jumper with about 22 seconds to go before intermission. On his landing, he appeared to slip and came up with a gimpy right ankle. With the shot clock turned off, the Mavericks reset for a final possession. Confident that Carter was essentially a nonentity nursing himself in the right corner, Harrison Barnes essentially ignored Carter, collapsing instead on Elton Brand, who’d flashed to the paint just inside the foul line. All alone in the corner, Carter made a sharp cut along the baseline to the rack, where Brand found him for a massive jam. Was it a bald-faced decoy by Carter?
Seven games of Grizzlies-Warriors would be like a prestige cable drama.
The high pick-and-roll way up top has become so prevalent that it seems odd when teams run a ball screen at the elbow, an action that was commonplace eight years ago but now almost feels exotic.
Oklahoma City will run the Westbrook-Kevin Durant pick-and-roll, but Westbrook far prefers to feed Durant an entry pass in the post, and that’s often what transpires on this call. Truthfully, it doesn't make much difference because Durant will generally succeed either which way.
Westbrook was a handful for Bayless, who competes but isn’t a gifted defender. Bayless chose to run under ball screens and Westbrook made him pay repeatedly. Bayless also cheated off Westbrook on a few occasions to put himself in position to help on Durant, but that also produced uncontested attempts for Westbrook.
Serge Ibaka runs the floor these days in transition with a finer-tuned sense of timing. He always has been quick and willing to make a rim run, but he wasn’t always mindful of that invisible yarn that existed between the ball handler at the controls of the break, and himself.