Although Golden State coach Mark Jackson believes his team will win with defense, Monta Ellis’ offensive production likely will also play a big role in the Warriors’ success.
Jackson will need someone else to step up on the offensive end in Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers if Ellis does not return in time from attending to a family matter.
Ellis was excused from Golden State’s practice on Friday to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Mississippi and it’s uncertain when he’ll return. Jackson said he told Ellis to take all the time he needs before returning.
Ellis’ grandmother, Mary Cole, died on Christmas morning at age 89. Despite the sad news, Ellis still played in the Warriors’ opener later that night and their next two games. He finished with 15 points on 6 of 19 shooting in the Christmas loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, but has fared much better in the last two - both wins.
That has usually been the case, as Ellis goes, so goes Golden State (2-1). Since the start of last season, the Warriors are 32-16 when Ellis reaches the 22-point mark, but 4-29 when he doesn’t. He had 22 points in a 110-95 home win over the 76ers last December and scored 27 in an overtime loss in Philadelphia on March 6.
Ellis, who is averaging a team-high 21.0 points and has led Golden State in scoring each of the last two seasons, had 26 points in a win over Chicago on Monday and scored 22 in Wednesday’s 92-78 victory over New York. He had 12 of his points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors outscored the Knicks 28-14.
While Ellis’ late-scoring surge helped Golden State prevail, Jackson credits his team’s defense for the win. The Warriors held New York to 26.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter (5 of 19) and 19.0 percent shooting from 3-point range (4 of 21) in the game.
“This is going to be strange to hear: We’re a defensive team,” Jackson said. “It’s a shocker. Great players are going to come in and have great nights, but our job is make it tough. The defense gave us a chance to win a ballgame.”
If Ellis doesn’t play on New Year’s Eve, Jackson is expected to give Ish Smith a second straight start.
Against the Knicks, Smith had 11 points, four assists and six rebounds while starting in place of Stephen Curry, who sat out after injuring his surgically repaired right ankle against Chicago.
Curry, who had 21 points and 10 assists against the Bulls, participated in noncontact drills during Friday’s practice and is expected to play Saturday in the finale of a season-opening four-game homestand.
Philadelphia (1-2), in the midst of a season-opening five-game road trip, arrives in the Bay Area following Friday’s 102-99 loss to Utah. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points and reserve Lou Williams added 20 but missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Spencer Hawes also missed a tip shot from two feet out off Williams’ missed layup with five seconds remaining and the Sixers down by two.
“I didn’t get the bounce, Spencer didn’t get the tip,” Williams said. “It happens.”
Williams is averaging a team-best 19.3 points for Philadelphia, which has lost eight of its last 10 games at Golden State.