In the end, minutes took toll on Baron

Success at the highest levels of the NBA begins with a team’s best player being able to impose his will upon games. Score the key baskets. In the biggest games. At crunch time.

And when that time came for the Warriors on Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets, Baron Davis wasn’t able to do that like he has at other times this season.

Regardless of the reason — and what Thursday night’s stat sheet said — Davis looked to me to be on the outside of this game looking in. Almost like a spectator. Sure, there were some key plays, but Baron was not dictating things to the Nuggets.

It may have been the way the game set up. It may have been because of all those minutes he’s played this season; Davis playing 36 minutes a game instead of 46 minutes may resolve the entire issue.

Unfortunately, for me, the same problem arose for Davis om Sunday in the fourth quarter against Memphis. And this time, Davis was far less of a force than Monta Ellis.

And that to me is what I’ll take out of the Warriors’ disappointment. That, looking ahead, Ellis had better be a much bigger factor in the Warriors’ plans than Davis.

Over the last few months, Ellis has blossomed beyond the NBA’s Most Improved Player into a consistent threat. On Thursday night, the baby-faced assassin looked like the Warriors’ No. 1 option.

Sure, he was a bit out of control. He may not have been the most patient player on the floor. And it was against a Nuggets team that approaches defense like they have to be reminded that it’s part of the game.

But watching Ellis felt like there was so much potential for growth.

Random thoughts:

» Carmelo Anthony makes hitting a jump shot in traffic with the clock running down look easier than anybody else in the NBA.

» For all the mileage on his body, the bumps and bruises he takes night in and night out, Allen Iverson has lost none of his warrior approach to NBA basketball.

» I understand the reasoning behind it, but why does the biggest game of the Warriors’ season have to start at 5 o’clock? So TNT can show the game to fans in New York and Philadelphia, who really don’t care who earns the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs? Warrior fans deserve better.

» The way CBS is pushing it, you’d think Tiger Woods has won every Masters ever played. The picture that’s stuck with me this week covered last year’s victory ceremony. That was Phil Mickelson, the winner two years ago, sliding a green jacket onto the shoulders of Zach Johnson, last year’s winner. There may be a little more intrigue to this weekend at Augusta than Jim Nance may lead us to believe.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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