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Soon after the Warriors loss to the Heat, contributor Michael Wallace of ESPN.com posted a relatively lengthy piece about Dorell Wright’s new beginnings with the Warriors and the remarkable growth of his game since arriving in East Oakland (but most likely residing NOT in East Oakland). For former teammate Dwyane Wade, he is not surprised at all by Wright’s versatility and his ability to hold his own against the likes of the best in the NBA in Lebron James:
Asked after the game if he expected that sort of breakout performance from Wright, Heat guard Dwyane Wade didn’t hesitate to respond.
“Yes,” said Wade, who is the godfather of Wright’s son. “That’s how it happens, man. I’m happy to see him be aggressive that way, and really be one of the leaders on that young team.”
But as much as Wright says his play was not personal, others clearly knew that it was to some extent:
Publicly, Wright played the possum act to perfection. But privately, there was another side – one that burned to put on a solid show in his first visit to Miami to play the Heat since his free agency departure.
“Everyone says it doesn’t matter,” Warriors coach Keith Smart said of Wright. “But you still want to prove to them that, ‘You let this one get away.’ I’m sure that was in his mind. It takes a couple of years to remove that from your thinking. You may say it, but in the bottom of your heart, if you had a glass body, you could still see there’s a little bit there.”
D. Wright was probably the lone bright spot of today’s game. And you can tell from Wallace’s post about Wright that it was perhaps difficult to write this ‘coming of age narrative’ when the Warriors lost the game horribly in the second half. Wallace, on two occasions, mentions Wright’s ‘first half’ dominance and that’s clearly all that it was.
But, the larger trajectory of D. Wright’s improvement this season is what’s most important. In the last 5 games, D. Wright has shot above 50% from the field, above 50% from 3-point territory, above 90% from the line (possibly since he hardly registers any free throw attempts period), and above 24 points per game. He has also averaged more than 6 rebounds a game and showed a wider range of offensive skills than being a spot-up 3-point shooter (though that is clearly what he is best at right now). With that said, D. Wright’s emergence as an offensive leader on this team will surely help a team that has struggled to find any sense of identity on both ends of the floor.
If Dwyane Wade is nicknamed "Flash" for his speed, than Lebron James should be "Superman" given how equally quick he gets from one end of the court to the other. The second half can be perfectly captured by this image: Lebron or Wade grabbing a rebound or a loose ball (most likely stripped en route to the hoop or off a deflected pass) at the Heat free throw line and then taking the ball coast-to-coast breezing past back-peddling Warriors in blue for an easy slam or two points.
The 18 fast break points by the Heat doesn’t quite explain how much the Heat aimed to push the tempo in the second half through defensive intensity. The Warriors, in desperation, ended up fouling any chance they could. The Warriors collected 31 fouls compared to the Heat’s 12.
But as expected in the second half, the Heat picked up their defensive intensity, which easily flustered the Warriors and their miraculous offensive execution in the first half. As mentioned in an earlier update, the Heat's defensive intensity of tipped passes, blocked shots, stripped balls was reason for the Warriors 12 3rd quarter points. The Warriors only made 3 of 11 three pointers in the second half and were destroyed at the free throw line. The Heat made 35 of 47 whereas the Warriors only attempted 12-16. As three point shooting can come and go depending on the kinds of looks you get — highly dependent upon defensive execution — free throws are ‘gimmes’ that quality teams the Warriors have faced have learned to capitalize on or count on as controllable factors of the game.
Had the Warriors trimmed this disparity, perhaps they might have won this game. But the Heat are loaded with super stars and the Warriors aren’t, so that is an uphill battle the Warriors are going to have to work on. I’m not suggesting the Warriors would have won had they gotten more calls. But I am suggesting that having 3 super stars on one team versus a team that no one respects in the league will sway how some calls are made by the referees.
Dorell Wright, after scoring 20 points in the first half, was slowed down by Lebron James in the third and fourth quarters, finished with 30 points. None of Wright’s points came off free throws. Monta Ellis finished with 25 points but had 5 turnovers. Stephen Curry had 15 points but also had 5 fouls, struggling to contain Dwyane Wade on the offensive end.
The "Big Three" of Miami combined for 70 points. James and Wade both had 25 points, a bulk of them coming in the second half.
True to form, the Heat thoroughly dismantled the Warriors the way I thought they would and exactly the way they did the last time they met at the Oracle. With a 16-1 run beginning at the end of the first half and extending into the third quarter, the Heat closed the twenty point gap with defensive intensity that only allowed for 12 points all quarter from the Warriors (the Heat gave up 36 points in each quarter prior).
The Heat are contesting every shot. They are contesting the perimeter and packng the paint. With David Lee getting open jams in the first half, the Heat have made it nearly impossible to get a shot off with the Warriors getting no points in the paint at all during the 3rd quarter meltdown.
James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Dwyane Wade have been incredibly active, poking the ball out on almost every possession or pressuring the interior into more stripped balls or blocks. James has 16 points on 10 assists.
Dorell Wright still leads all scorers with 25 points.
The Warriors are lighting up the Heat the way I imagine the Heat would be lighting up the Warriors. Oddly, the Warriors showed disciplined defense and plenty of hustle for rebounds and rotations, which we normally don’t expect or see from them. But for two quarters and two quarters only, the Warriors looked like a playoff team.
Normally, I would be ecstatic that the Warriors are this far ahead. But there’s some reason for pause. The Warriors are living at the 3-point line making 10-16. Dorell Wright leads all Warriors with 4 3-pointers and leads all Warriors in scoring with 20 points… AT THE HALF! What I find so problematic about the way the Warriors are winning, at least offensively, is that their too reliant on being “hot” from the perimeter. Granted, the ball rotation has been impressive and the Warriors have actually gotten a ton of open looks. There’s little one-on-one Monta Ellis circus shots.
But the disparity in points could soon vanish as easily as it was built up if the Warriors go cold. The Heat are playing some of the worst defense imaginable (but witnessable at Warrior games on a regular basis), but the way that Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are coasting makes me think that come the second half, they will soon take over. They did it last time both teams met at the Oracle. You can bet Wade and Lebron will do it again.
Problematic stats #2: Warriors have 11 personal fouls and the Heat only 3. The free throw disparity is small, but the Heat have attempted twice as many free throws already. With the ability to Wade, Chris Bosh, to draw fouls (otherwise known as the ‘superstar calls’), there’s no reason why the Heat can’t climb back into this 14 point deficit within minutes.
The Warriors have played an incredibly efficient first half and the two turnovers has a lot to do with it. I expect the Heat to turn up the defensive intensity in the second half and I suspect that Lebron will make it his personal mission to stop Dorell Wright from scoring again this game. Dwyane Wade will shut down Monta Ellis, no doubt. Ellis may have 16 points already, but the Heat are just too disciplined, smart and prideful to let the Warriors “stars” tear through them with such ease.
Monta Ellis clearly has a flair for the dramatic. Besides jaw dropping spin moves in traffic that the closest thing to it in real life would be car chase scenes in movies where people are switching four lanes with little to no crashing. The Miami Heat’s James Jones nailed a three-pointer with 7 seconds left in the first and Monta Ellis returned the favor later with a half court shot that sent both teams to the benches with the Warriors up 8.
I wouldn’t read too much into the Warriors lead as the last time the teams met, Lebron James spent the first half passively learning the Warriors strengths and weaknesses. In the second half, the Lebron seemed to enforce his dominance and the Warriors respected the King’s wishes immediately.
Dorell Wright led the Warriors with 14 points on 6-7 shooting to open the first. Wright nailed several three point shots. Wright isn’t necessarily showing much different offense but he hasn’t taken any bad shots, which is a plus.
Another problematic stat to pay attention to? The Warriors did not attempt any free throws in the first quarter. The Heat made 5-5. The Warriors will need to get to the line and get some of these Heat in foul trouble if they wish to stay in this.
The Warriors may have ended 2010 with all smiles (I'm sure devouring pulled pork and popping champagne over at Stephen Curry's house after last night's win) but may be entering 2011 with sad emoticons on their Twitter feeds. Curry may have been ‘at-home' in Charlotte, but the road has hardly been a safe place for the Warriors, who tonight face the Miami Heat, winners of 16 of their last 17.
One of those wins being a 106-84 demolition of the Warriors at the Oracle.
This time the Warriors take on Lebron James and the rest of the ‘big three' in Miami. If the Warriors don't get the win, I'm sure they will have a good time out on the town led by former resident of South Beach, Dorell Wright. I hear jai alai is a wonderful game down in those parts!
I'm sure you sports fans already know how awesome the Heat have been. But if you've don't have cable television or a high-speed internet connection or lack a smart phone with internet capabilities, then here is a brief run down of how dominant the Heat have been and how terrifying this might be for our Warriors:
Dwyane Wade, in the last two games, has averaged 42.5 points and 13 trips to the line. Not a good sign for our foul-hungry Warriors. In the month of December alone, Wade has averaged 28 points on 55% shooting.
Lebron James has looked similarly amazing. Not quite the Magic Johnson everyone expected him to be running with Wade and Chris Bosh, but still an efficient 25 points on 7 assists and nearly 8 rebounds for the month of December.
Chris Bosh has looked about as great as Mychal Thompson was for the early 80s Los Angeles Lakers teams. Bosh has been averaging nearly 20-10 since December.
So what might be the keys to tonight's game? Hustle. Hustle as hard as you can. Try to rebound as much as possible? Try to lose by less than 20?