Ratto: Kobe is Kobe, but who are the Warriors?

January 13, 2011, 7:21 am
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The Warriors established their place in the NBA firmament Wednesday night, for all the good that did them.They are 48 points better than Cleveland, and in optimal conditions,when the other team has played the night before and needs a full halfto get started, they are within five points of the Lakers. For those ofyou scoring at home, thats 115-110.
RELATED: Lakers surge back in fourth to drop Warriors
Now make of that what you will.The Warriors are a strange team but not nearly as weird as they were ayear ago when they were known for two things their conscience-lessshooters and uninvolved defenders. They were, in short, hard on the eyeand hard on the psyche again.They are not dramatically better now than they were a year ago, atleast not in relation to the teams around them in the WesternConferences Desolation Row. They come closer to resembling a normalNBA team, and they have a full-on go-to player in Monta Ellis, whosegame and fame have broadened in tandem.RELATED: NBA Standings
Thus, they can rise on occasion, as they did for a half and changeWednesday night. Before a sellout crowd that was evenly split betweenWarrior fans and Kobe Bryant fans, Golden State gave what passes forits A-game for 30 minutes or so. They led by as much as 14, and theygave indications that they could take advantage of a Laker team thatwas shagged out from holding Cleveland to 57 points the night before.
REWIND: Lakers 112, Cavaliers 57
Then came the whoosh of Bryant, airborne and with full wingspan andplumage. Having taken the first half easy (nine points, five turnoversin 17 minutes) and looking for his teammates to an almost annoyingdegree, he roused himself for a performance so Kobe-istic that bothfactions in the crowd could only suck wind in admiration as he removedthe game from Ellis hands and made his own.He made nine of his last 11 shots; he hit all of his free throws. Hescored 30 points in his final 14 minutes of play (he sat out the firstsix minutes of the fourth quarter). He faced up to Ellis as he has somany times before and reminded the Warrior that the pecking orderremains unchanged after all these years. What Bryant wants, when Bryantwants it, Bryant gets.It was, in short, one more example of why the Lakers are the Lakers, and the Warriors are, well, not.But it didnt do so much to explain who and what the Warriors are. Thedifferences between these two teams are indelible, and the Lakershavent been a reasonable measuring stick for the Warriors in nearlytwo decades.The only thing the Warriors proved tonight is that Ellis is gettingcloser to that elite group of off-guards. They still have the otherquirks that prevent them from being a .500 team, and while Wednesdaywas fun, Friday against the Clippers will be a truer test of where theyactually sit.We need to make the most of this stretch of home games, Ellis said afterward. This is our chance to make a move.
VIDEO: Monta Ellis postgame
But the Warriors dont make moves at the Lakers expense. The Lakersare second; the Warriors 12th, and only a game and a half better thanthe other L.A.s. What Ellis provided tonight was entertainment; what hemust provide Friday is leadership in a winnable game against acontemporary for no better reason that they dont really want theeighth-place Portlands to run away from them.Oh yes, watching Ellis and Bryant duel in the evening light before asellout crowd was all the fun you could have imagined it to be. Itrevealed little of lasting substance, though. In fact, it wasnt evenall that much of a duel Ellis owned the first 30 minutes when Bryantwas largely inert, Bryant the last eight minutes of the third and lastsix minutes of the fourth when Ellis was on his heels.And it was another loss, and the Warriors are now 15-23 not even goodenough to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was definitely ahoot, and watching Bryant and Ellis made it all the better. As anindicator of where the Warriors actually are, though, it wasinconclusive.But it sure beat being Cleveland Tuesday night. LeBron James didntTweet a single word. Of such small victories are big victoriesoccasionally made.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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