A Look at the Warriors
You want to say the Warriors at 29-35 are having a tough season. But this is pretty typical of their performance the last few years. They're just good enough to make you hope but not good enough to crash the playoff party. Every year they're the darkhorse team that should make it and never quite does. Going into this game they are 1.5 games out of the constantly-revolving eighth spot in the West, which gives them plenty of incentive to take what for them will look like a winnable contest. They're riding a three game winning streak versus good teams--Detroit, Denver, and the Clippers--and they'll be assuming this will make it four. (You would be too if you had just beat that trio.)
The team switched personnel midway through the season, sending Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, and Ike Diogu to the Pacers for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, and change. They lost a little size but increased their desire to put up a lot of shots really quickly. This is Nellie Ball at its finest: put a ton of scorers on the floor and turn them loose. ANY of their top five scorers--Baron Davis, Harrington, Jackson, Monta Ellis, and Jason Richardson--would immediately become the second offensive option on our team and some on that list would even give Zach a run for his money. They're scoring over 105 for the year and they can really pour it in on you. Unfortunately they're allowing more than 107, which is both downright awful and the proof that running doesn't cure everything, nor lead to automatic wins. You still have to play defense in there somewhere to be successful.
Predictably with this new lineup the Warriors have been getting killed on the boards on a regular basis. This is quite a turn-around from the last few years. They also give up more assists than they create, which is a bad sign for a team aspiring to be an offensive juggernaut. They are not good at all from the free throw line and this is an exploitable weakness.
Besides all their scorers the name to watch out for is Latvian sensation Andres Biedrins. He's been on a rebounding tear lately, averaging more than 12 in his last four games. He's eaten up Adonal Foyle's minutes like they were chocolate covered Rice Krispies.
A lot of the Warriors have been out with various ailments but the only one still suffering is Blazer-killing forward Mickael Pietrus, who has been suffering from the flu.
What I'd Like To See:
- Nothing frustrates a running, gunning team like smart, patient offense. You can't hold the ball for long stretches without getting productive shots or they'll outscore you no matter how you slow things down. But they will give you good shots if you're willing to make a couple of the right passes to get them, and we should be. If you keep scoring smart and they can't run away from you, they'll eventually succumb.
- The San Antonio game was one for everybody else besides Zach. I really believe tonight is different. I don't think we'll get a ton of traction if Zach turns down shots in favor of the perimeter guys. I'd love to see him deep in the post from play one and just make a living down there all night. We still need some shooting to keep the Warriors honest, but Zach should also be able to score at will if he catches deep and we should take advantage of that.
- Transition defense will be a big, big factor tonight. If they get a ton of points in the paint we're in trouble. It won't be because they'll be bruising us inside, it'll be because they're running out and dunking.
- The Baron Davis-Jarrett Jack matchup is really scary for us. With age and knee problems Baron has to rely on strength and guile more than he used to in the days he was blazing fast, but he's a veteran who will get his shark on all over you the minute he smells blood in the water. Jarrett might be able to match him in size and strength, but not in sheer ability and probably not in confidence. This matchup has the potential to deflate us big-time. It would be a wonderful night for Jarrett to come up big on the offensive end to compensate. We should be playing more of his style of game tonight.
- Two other things you need to know: rebound hard and often, foul hard and often. No easy layups, no putbacks.
- This is a weird game momentum-wise. The Warriors are coming off a great winning streak against really good teams and now playing a sub-par one. Championship-level teams always win these but for mediocre (or worse) teams this is the classic scenario for a letdown. On the other hand Portland just played one of its best games of the year against a vastly-superior San Antonio squad before getting caught from behind in near-fluky fashion in the last two minutes of the game. Plus they've had five days off to think about it. In the normal world you'd think the team should build on that great game. Logic says if we nearly (and should have) beat San Antonio we really should come out on top against Golden State. But that's not the way the NBA works, especially when you're a young team. In fact this is also a textbook scenario for a stale, lethargic, clueless blowout loss, leaving fans to ask in forums the next day, "How the heck did that happen when we played so well the game before?" I guess it's just a matter of seeing whose bad juju will prove stronger tonight.
P.S. All of you folks who are holding off until the last minute with your Jersey Contest predictions, don't forget that this is a 6:00 tip-off!