Ellis continues to make point on defensive end
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt, once a questionable pairing, is working well enough for the Warriors to stick with it. Perhaps too early to say it's working, but it isn't as big a disaster as some thought initially.
The biggest reason is Ellis — his defense, not his offense.
The primary concern regarding the backcourt was its ability to defend other backcourts, and the biggest doubt was Ellis defending shooting guards — a problem for him in the past. But Ellis has fared much better this season, exceeding coach Don Nelson's expectations.
That's partly why Nelson said he's planning to stay with the small backcourt even when he goes to the big lineup — featuring Anthony Randolph at power forward and Corey Maggette at small forward — once center Andris Biedrins returns from injury.
"That's a big key as far as I'm concerned," Nelson said recently, "that Monta has not struggled guarding (shooting guards). The four players I have (in the backcourt), if I don't have to play them out of position, is pretty solid. We've just got to make our adjustments up front."
Tuesday night, Ellis matched up against Memphis guard O.J. Mayo, who had averaged 17.4 points entering the game. Mayo scored 22 points in the Grizzlies' 121-108 victory, but 14 came with Ellis out of the game or not guarding Mayo (mostly because of Ellis' foul trouble).
The most noticeable difference in Ellis' defense is effort. He still has problems against stronger players, and he coasts occasionally on that end of the court — which is perhaps understandable considering his big minutes and offensive load.
But for the most part he's willing to man-up on defense now more than ever. He's defended the likes of guards Brandon Roy of Portland, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Rodney Stuckey of Detroit and Gilbert Arenas of Washington and forward Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City.
"He's taking more of a defensive role," guard C.J. Watson said of Ellis. "He's been taking the challenge on offense, but now he's taking it on defense. He's going out there looking to shut people down."
— MARCUS THOMPSON II