OAKLAND — OK, so undrafted rookie guard Anthony Morrow is no fluke.
Not because he followed Saturday's record-breaking 37-point performance with a game-high 25 points on Tuesday in the Warriors' 111-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. But because he is changing the way the Warriors play basketball.
Morrow was a game-changer in leading the Warriors (5-6) to their first winning streak of the season. But he also convinced his coach and his teammates that the Warriors are simply better when he is on the floor, when he is getting the ball.
"I told the squad in practice yesterday that I think this is the way that we're going to have to play to max out what we have," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "To be the best team we can be, the smaller lineup seems the way to go, and Anthony Morrow kind of made that happen. I gave him an opportunity to fit in with a small team and he made the whole thing work."
For the second game in a row, Nelson started swingman Stephen Jackson at the point, making room for Morrow in the lineup. But that also pushed swingman Corey Maggette to power forward, since Kelenna Azubuike is inked in at small forward.
That makes four guards around center Andris Biedrins. Sounds familiar, right?
After Tuesday's performance, there is little question whether Morrow needs to be on the court and involved in the offense. He wasn't as dominant as he was against the Clippers on Saturday — when he scored the most points in an NBA game by an undrafted rookie — but he certainly had an imprint on Tuesday's game. He outshined Jackson, who had 20 points (on 5-for-18 shooting), eight assists and eight rebounds. He outshined Portland All-Star guard Brandan Roy, who had 22 points and nine assists.
Even the biggest game of center Greg Oden's four-game old career — 22 points and 10 rebounds — took a back seat to Morrow.
"I just try to stay aggressive," Morrow said, "but at the same time we have guys on this team that are All-Star-caliber players, so I just try to play off of them."
Play off them? The case could even be made that Morrow didn't get the ball enough. Though 8-for-12 from the field, he was tied for the third-most shots on the team.
"He's the real deal and we haven't learned how to play with him yet," Nelson said. "We better learn, first of all, where he is and have an eye out for him. When he's open he gets the ball, and I told the team that after the game. We better know where this guy is at all times. The other thing is when he's working off screens, we better get him open because he looks like the real deal."
Oddly enough, Morrow found himself on the bench for the final seven minutes, save for a final-seconds substitution for his free throw shooting. But the Warriors still managed to pull out a victory.
Using the small lineup, they attacked the basket and got out in transition. Though the Warriors shot poorly in the fourth quarter (6-for-18, 33 percent), they made all 19 of their free throws. Jackson, fresh of signing his three-year, $28 million extension, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a timely turnaround baseline jumper with 1:31 left, putting the Warriors up 104-98.
Though Morrow was on the bench, his impact on the game was already solidified, just like his impact on this team.
Notes: Biedrins' streak of consecutive double-doubles came to an end. Rebounds were harder to come by for him while banging against twin towers Oden and Joel Pryzbilla. He was a rebound shy with 2:32 left in the game. He never got the 10th rebound, snapping his streak at 17. He was one shy of Nate Thurmond's franchise record of 18 straight set in 1972. It was the NBA's longest streak since Kevin Garnett posted 37 straight in 2006. ... Morrow became the first Warriors rookie since Marc Jackson in 2000 to score 25 or more in consecutive games. ... The Warriors made 33 of 35 from the free throw line. It was their first time all season shooting over 80 percent. ... The Warriors improved to 4-0 when they shoot 45 percent or better.
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