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News » Monta Ellis is key to Golden State Warriors' defensive improvement

Monta Ellis is key to Golden State Warriors' defensive improvement

Monta Ellis is key to Golden State Warriors' defensive improvement If numbers indeed don't lie, then it's hard to say the Warriors have gotten better on defense. Entering Sunday, they were giving up a league-most 113.7 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting (28th out of 30 teams).

Yet, the Warriors are staking claim to defensive improvement despite a rash of injuries.

Where is the improvement?

In effort. In activity. In understanding.

"We're trying to focus on the concepts," assistant coach Keith Smart said after running Sunday's practice for ill head coach Don Nelson. "I just look at are the guys picking up the concepts of where they're supposed to be in a particular coverage.

"Now, granted, when we get our team together, we can finally see what we can become. But we've shown in portions of a game with limited numbers that we can play defense at a high level when everyone's engaged. ... Concept wise, we're moving in the right direction."

No player embodies the Warriors' improvement like guard Monta Ellis, who has taken his defensive game to another level. All season, Ellis' effort on that end of the court has improved noticeably, punctuated by Friday's performance against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Ellis led the way to holding Portland's All-Star Brandon Roy a 6-foot-6, 211-pound big guard who's a career 46 percent shooter to 20 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Despite giving up 3 inches and 30 pounds, Ellis told the coaches he didn't want help defending Roy and proceeded to use his quickness and instinct to harass Portland's leading scorer.

"He's giving a greater effort," said Smart, who is in charge of the defense. "He's taking it personal. When he makes a mistake, he acknowledges that it was his fault. He's not blaming or pointing fingers.

"And he's gotten a little stronger plus, the biggest part of it, he's gotten a little older in the NBA. He's starting to figure things out in the NBA. ... We do strength and weakness of each player when we're going to play a game. He's paying attention to that now. So he's growing as a pro. He's not only watching himself on tape or when he's watching a game on TV, he's paying attention to what that player does and what his strengths and weaknesses are."

The Warriors are missing their leading rebounder in center Andris Biedrins and their best shot-blocker in center Ronny Turiaf. But Smart said the Warriors are much better at defending the pick-and-roll from the wing. And they've improved at stopping dribble penetration.

A big reason is Ellis is starting to take on the challenge of guarding his man straight up, which gives the team one less player to help on. With Ellis setting the tone, the Warriors have accomplished a few defensive goals understanding the concepts of team defense and being disruptive for opposing offenses (getting deflections, bumping cutters, closing out on shooters).

Through Saturday, the Warriors led the league in steals per game (9.77) and forced turnovers per game (19).

Guard C.J. Watson, recovering from swine flu, has not rejoined the team and is not expected to make the trip to Texas for games against Dallas on Tuesday and San Antonio on Wednesday. ... Biedrins, suffering from injuries to his back and groin, is not expected to make the trip, either. A Warriors spokesman said the team expects to have an update on his status today.

The Warriors announced its Buy Two Get One Tree special. Fans who buy two or more lower level tickets to either the Nov. 30 game against Indiana or the Dec. 3 game against Houston will get a voucher for a Christmas tree. For more information, go to .

Play Basketball Hot Streak and win prizes!

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 23, 2009


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