Game 2 Preview: Blazers vs. Warriors

A look at Golden State

The centerpieces of Golden State's offensive attack are guards Baron Davis and Jason Richardson, both household names.  To put this in perspective, we love our starting guards because they are big and skilled and can fill up a stat chart.  Golden State's starting guards are big, skilled, hyper-athletic, very experienced, and are perfectly capable of dropping 20, 5, and 5 on you without trying.  Their Achilles Heel is defense, as neither one of them focuses on that aspect of the game.  They also have an Achilles Toe of being occasionally wild and undisciplined, which is less of a problem with Nellie at the helm.  Nelson's small ball approach has opened new life to forwards Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy.  Murphy, now playing mostly center, can hit from range and is a strong rebounder.  Dunleavy, now a power forward, stretches the floor even more but lacks anything resembling rebounding ability.  Neither is better than an average defender.  Utility player Mickael Pietrus mans the small forward slot and makes up for the shortcomings of the rest of the starters by doing all the dirty work.  (He snagged 9 boards in his first game this year.)

Golden State's bench is a hodgepodge.  It's led by speedy guard Monta Ellis, whose scoring is benefiting greatly so far from Nellie-ball.  Nobody gets a break when the starting guards go out.  Andris Biedrins adds a smooth, European 7-footer feel, which also fits well with the new system.  The other big guys, Adonal Foyle and Ike Diogu, are old-school archetypes who blossom given the right circumstances.  Diogu is skilled and nimble enough to play for Nelson and he brings legitimate bulk and toughness too.  It's tough to see where Foyle fits in.

The Warriors will want to run and jump the Blazers into oblivion.  They'll be putting on the NBA equivalent of a constant blitz.  Our young starting guards will more than have their hands full with players that trump them at nearly every turn.  I don't even want to think about what our bench guards could suffer.  Ime Udoka may be called upon to provide some serious defensive support yet again.  Small forward should be interesting.  This would appear to be more Outlaw's type of game than Webster's.  We also have the capability of putting Zach at center to match up with Murphy and running a small forward at the 4.  Matching up on the boards could be an issue if that happens.  Przybilla should be agile enough to keep up but he'll need to stay out of foul trouble.  Magloire could get toasted in this game if it becomes a track meet.  Whoever plays at the 4 and 5 will have to go out on the floor to cover their Warrior counterparts.  They also will have to punish the Warriors inside on the other end.  

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  As with Seattle, we see a clash of styles here.  The Warriors will want to go fast, the Blazers a little more deliberately.  Each team will need to match up with the other.  Basically whoever cries "Uncle" first will have the upper hand.  Though we're fully capable of playing with three guards, Travis at power forward, and Zach in the middle, having to go long minutes with that lineup means we're stuck in their kind of game.  It'll also tire our players out.  On the other hand if our big guys can hold their own on defense, grab some boards, and make them pay in the post, then Nellie has to consider playing their legitimate bigs a lot more, which cramps their style.  In short, make them match up with us instead of us having to match up with them.  My guess is that consistent Foyle sightings mean we're doing something right.
  2.  Though both Seattle and Golden State are running teams, this is really a different kind of game than Wednesday night.  You wanted Seattle's players to take the ball one-on-one off the dribble rather than pass smoothly for the open, stand-still shot.  You want the Warriors doing exactly the opposite.  You want to get these high-octane athletes passing and passing up shots, not going off the dribble.  You also want the Warriors going late in the shot clock.  Not only will that put pressure on them and inhibit the moves they can make, it also means you stymied them for 20 seconds or so and are slowing down the game.
  3.  You must keep their guards out of the paint at all costs.  Most of that is individual responsibility but if and when help defense is required it has to come quickly, decisively, and before they're on the move.  If our guys get stuck going soft on the double team the Warriors are going to split the defense, pass to an open cutter, or just get the hoop and a foul.  I think the help will have to come mostly from the wings too because our big guys can't get there in time and won't want to draw tons of fouls by going against their small players.  That means picking our poison we'll have to live with some open jumpers by Dunleavy or Pietrus.  That's OK because the stars make all the difference here.  If our guards can hold Davis, Richardson, and probably Ellis to 18 or less we've got a chance.  If they're over that we're going to have a hard time winning.
  4.  We need to slash and run cutters on offense because their guards will let you by and their bigs (other than Foyle) won't stop you.  If the spacing is as good as it was on Wednesday we should get some clear alleys.
  5.  Take care of the ball and above all get back, get back, get back!
Two stats should tell the tale of this game:  the Warriors' field goal percentage and both teams' free throw attempts.  If the former is high it means they're on the break a lot and we're doomed.  If it's low it means they're shooting contested shots in the halfcourt.  As long as we don't get killed on the boards we've got a shot to stay even then.  The free throw attempts will tell which team is attacking the rim more.  Points in the paint is also a good catch-all stat if they track it.

Given the Warriors' loss the other night I think we're going to have a hard time containing them.  Our guards are decent and they mean well, but they're so young to be dealing with this athletic backcourt.  Maybe if Roy slides to the point and Udoka takes the two-spot we can hang.  Or maybe our young guys will surprise everybody.  Or best of all maybe this becomes about Zach in the post and Przy blocking shots and snagging boards rather than Davis, Richardson, and Ellis leaving tire marks on our backs and fouling out all of our big men.  One can always hope...

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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