Golden State Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart was given the opportunity to show what he could do as a coach because of Don Nelson being sidelined with pneumonia for the five game roadtrip.
The Warriors' opponents on the five game trip were the Oklahoma City Thunder, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and Philadelphia 76ers. All matches but one were winnable for the Warriors.
Oklahoma City was the only team on the roadtrip above .500, so it was understandable the Warriors would struggle against them.
What should have been the easiest game of the trip for the Warriors, facing the Nets who are the worst team in the NBA, was actually much harder than it should have been. In fact, during the fourth quarter it looked like the Nets may overtake the Warriors.
Luckily for the Warriors they were able to hold on for victory.
I made a prediction about how the Warriors should do on the trip after their loss to the Thunder. I figured they should win four out of the next five games, with San Antonio being the next loss.
But I was wrong! Against Chicago, the Warriors could not hit a jumper but were still able to build a lead in the second quarter. That lineup for the Warriors included the insertion of Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, and C.J. Watson into the game.
Instead of starting the same lineup that got them the lead, Smart went back to the original starting lineup he had out on the court. After which, the Warriors promptly gave back the lead.
By the time Smart made substitutions, the Warriors were trailing by nine points. Again, the lineup with Maggette, Randolph, and Watson brought the Warriors back. The game went into overtime, but the Warriors had two chances to take the lead before the end of regulation.
Both times the lack of execution was inexcusable, which I blame on Smart. On one play Monta Ellis settled for a long jumper off the dribble; the second play by Ellis again was to drive at the hoop, but he laid the ball up too short giving the Bulls one last chance.
Watson made a smart play by fouling Rose with 5.5 seconds left. Rose nearly won the game in regulation but his shot missed and that's how things went into overtime.
Smart's lack of initiative was frustrating for Warriors fans. Joakim Noah was getting far too easy of looks in the block in the fourth quarter. Smart should have brought in Chris Hunter, but instead left Noah to work on the boards and in the block.
Hunter, who has demonstrated good defensive skills in the post and an understanding of how to play the game since being added to the roster from the D-League, didn't play a single minute against Chicago or against New Jersey.
He could also have helped out rebounding for the Warriors since they were outrebounded by the Bulls 58-44. The Bulls had three players in double digits for rebounds. The Pistons, too, outrebounded the Warriors by 14, 39-25.
The other issue with Smart is the lack of playing time Randolph is getting for the Warriors. He has struggled the last two games against the Bulls and the Pistons, but he's also not being put into the game until well into the second quarter.
Smart only played Randolph 14 minutes against the Pistons and 18 against the Bulls. As mentioned, the Warriors were being outrebounded by 14 against the Bulls; Randolph currently is the Warriors leading rebounder at just about seven per game, yet can barely see time on the court with Smart acting as coach.
I also believe that Smart would be better off having Stephen Curry come off the bench for the time being. Curry has been rather careless with the ball resulting in turnovers and easy points.
C.J. Watson has been playing better basketball than Curry at this point. Watson has an idea of what he needs to do; he will drive to the hoop, dish the ball, and take the nice pullup jumper.
Right now Watson is shooting over 50 percent from the field while Curry's field goal percentage is plummeting.
If the Warriors face the 76ers and lose, it'll be pretty clear that Smart should not be hired as Nelson's replacement.