NBC Sports

Kerr utilizes 'Nellie Ball' in Warriors' rout of Mavericks

NBC Sports
Warriors' Steph Curry and Don Nelson

Steve Kerr was proud of himself Thursday night, not simply because the Warriors won or because he made any notably brilliant tactical coaching decision.

Rather, he took particular joy in his ode to franchise history.

Specifically, “Nellie Ball,” authored by Don Nelson during two stints coaching the Warriors on his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

In a 147-116 thrashing of the Mavericks at American Airlines Center in Dallas, the 2020-21 Warriors under Kerr looked a lot like the 1990-91 Warriors under Nelson.

“I think I only called plays in timeouts,” Kerr said in a postgame video conference. “During the pace of the game, we were just going. I felt like Nellie. It was like the Run TMC days all over again. I just needed my fish tie.”

Ah, yes. The fabled trio Run TMC, featuring Tim “T” Hardaway, Mitch “M” Richmond and Chris “C” Mullin. That was 30 years ago, and it was the most entertaining Warriors basketball of Nelson’s first term as coach. It was high-speed hoops, with Nelson utilizing forwards to run the offense, guards to rebound and centers to occasionally launch from deep when not planting their big bodies on the bench to watch the show.

Realizing his best players -- by far -- stood between 6-feet (Hardaway) and 6-foot-6 (Mullin), Nelson urged the Warriors to gang rebound and maintain a blistering pace, using speed to beat size at every opportunity.

 

Out of necessity, Kerr and the Warriors stole that page from the franchise book on Thursday, with 7-foot-1 center James Wiseman, out with a sprained wrist, watching from the bench as his relatively miniature teammates scorched the Mavericks.

Draymond Green, at 6-foot-6, started at center and recorded 15 assists in 29 minutes. Juan Toscano-Anderson, also 6-foot-6, started at power forward and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Kelly Oubre Jr., at 6-foot-7, started at shooting guard and rang up a career-high 40 points.

“One of Nellie’s qualities was just his genius at understanding that when you throw a completely different look at a team, it's hard to guard,” Kerr said. “In the NBA, most teams play the same way. We all copy each other, and we run stuff that other teams are running and vice versa. You sort of get used to guarding certain actions.

“When you get a game like tonight where everything is jumbled, and nobody has a position, and the [big] men are handling the ball all the time, it creates a lot of confusion.”

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The Mavericks, with a 7-foot-3 center and no starter under 6-foot-5, kept up in the first half, taking a 76-74 lead into intermission, but lumbered about in the second half and were outscored 73-40.

The Warriors in that second half shot 71.1 percent from the field, including 61.1 percent from deep. They won the rebounding battle 26-17 and outscored the Mavericks 13-0 in fast-break points. Golden State piled up 20 assists, with “big men” Green and Toscano-Anderson combining for 20.

That’s how the rout was won.

It’s also where Kerr, who played against the Run-TMC squad, was struck by the similarity with the Warriors of 30 years ago and a coach who thought outside the box.

“He would have been proud of this game,” Kerr said.

No doubt. Nelson might even kick back on his expansive Maui property, light up a joint and watch it just to reminisce.

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