Now what does Phil Jackson have to say about the Golden State Warriors?
Without naming names, the Knicks’ president basically trashed the Warriors and his buddy Steve Kerr on Twitter the other day when Kerr’s team was facing an uphill battle against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Let's remember that Jackson's first choice to coach the Knicks was Kerr. So when he brought up the old saw that jump-shooting teams like the Warriors don’t win titles, it sure sounded as if Jackson hadn't gotten over the snub. After the Warriors lost Game 3 to trail 2-1 in their conference semifinals against the Griz, the Zen Master sent out the following Tweet:
“NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs...seriously, how's it goin(g)?’’
Well, it’s going a lot better for the Warriors in light of their Game 4 victory in Memphis last night that probably saved their season.
Yes, the league MVP Stephen Curry resurfaced after disappearing in the Warriors’ two losses in Game 2 and 3 when he came up with two clunkers. But in Game 4 he scored a series-high 33 points after going for 23 in the first half and the Warriors enjoyed a wire-to-wire 101-84 blowout win.
But as much as everyone pointed to the fact that the leader of the “Splash Brothers’’ was back in MVP form, it was what the Warriors did at the other end against Memphis’ “Smash Brothers’’ combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph that got the Warriors back into a tie and restored the homecourt edge to Golden State.
The Warriors had one of the top defenses in the NBA this season as they won a league-high 67 games and never had a losing streak longer than two games. But that was often overshadowed by the shooting of Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson and their overall offensive prowess.
So that’s where Jackson decided to chime in, with Curry missing 17 of his 21 three-point attempts when the Warriors fell behind in the series, 2-1.
“Seriously, bball, it's about penetration,’’ Jackson said in a follow-up Tweet. “The Heat/Spurs got it…Heat via (screen and roll), the Spurs all ways.’’
Well, it’s about defense, too, as Jackson knows from his days winning 11 titles in Chicago and with the Lakers.
Should Jackson choose to send out any more Tweets, he needs to commend Kerr and his top defensive aide, Ron Adams, for drawing up some new strategy that caught the Grizzlies completely off guard.
They changed up their coverages, deciding to put Harrison Barnes on Randolph and assigning Draymond Green the job of guarding Gasol. The move allowed them to put their rim protector, Andrew Bogut, to provide a last line of defense.
In the end, the Gasol-Randolph connection went for only 31 points, their low for the series.
“All night Bogut was playing behind me and one was playing in front me," Randolph told the media afterward. "We have to make everybody try and play five-on-five. We have to make some adjustments."
They failed in Game 4. With Bogut sitting back, that gave plenty of room to Memphis’ small forward, Tony Allen. But while he’s an ace defender, Allen is a suspect perimeter shooter. He failed to take advantage of the fact that he was left open, missing seven of nine shots, all three of his three’s, and scoring only four points in 15 minutes of action.
Overall, the Grizzlies made only 37.5% on their shots and only 22% of their three’s, while being held to their low point total for the series.
“You’re desperate when you’re down 2-1 on the road, so there was a sense of urgency to compete on every possession,” Kerr said in his press session afterward. “I thought the first couple of games, our defense was decent, but not playoff level, not championship level. The competitive nature of these guys shined.”
If you’ll notice, Kerr didn’t pat himself on the back for the brilliant strategical change. That’s not his style. In case you’re wondering why he didn’t take a shot at his old friend, Phil Jackson, that’s also not his style.
It’s the playoffs and Steve Kerr doesn’t have time for Jackson’s nonsense, or anyone else’s.
Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 22 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.