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Game 35 Preview: Warriors vs. Blazers

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A Look at the Warriors

Golden State has been on a bit of a rollercoaster lately, going 5-4 in their last 9.  In general they have lost to very good teams and beaten the middle-of-the-road and worse, the exception being their last game in which they beat the Spurs 130-121 in overtime.  They have failed to score 100 only 7 times in 35 games this season, one of them being a 105-95 loss in Portland in December.  They average almost 109 points per game, shooting 45%, and 35% from the three-point arc.  Their most amazing stat is their average of 27.3 three-point attempts per game.  In other words, nearly 1 in 3 of their shots comes from distance. I have not checked for sure, but they have got to be the only team in the league that attempts more three-pointers than free throws.  Secondly they allow 30 free throw attempts for their opponents per game, close to the worst in the league.  Their defense is no great shakes either.  They allow better percentages than they shoot in every category.  They plan to shoot more shots than you do and make enough of them to edge you out.  Also of note are their 8.7 steals per game (that's a bunch), 13.6 turnovers (that's not much), and their near-48 rebounds given up (a ton, but largely reflective of the amount they shoot, though that's five more than they grab themselves).

None of this is a surprise if you've watched the Warriors in the last season or so.  Neither is the statement that team stats can't really encapsulate what they do.  The Warriors are all about mismatches and individual dominance.  They are led by Baron Davis who is on quite a tear lately, scoring 26 or more in 6 of the last 8 games.  Not far behind is backcourt mate Stephen Jackson, who is averaging 21.5 for the season and regularly pops off for 25 or more.   The two of them are a major headache for any opposing guard tandem.  Then they bring high octane scorer Monta Ellis off the bench.  Nobody touches that trio for point potential.  Their frontcourt consists of Al Harrington, Andres Biedrins, and athletic pocket forward Kelenna Azubuike.  This is small ball, scoring ball, throw it down your throat ball at its most pure.  Playing the Warriors is like defusing a bomb.  Click the right wires and you're going to be OK, but one moment of inattention and they are going to blow up all over you.  And it will be messy.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  It's all but guaranteed that somebody for the Warriors is going to go off. You have to pick your poison with this team.  Somebody has topped 25 in 10 of their 15 losses.  The trick is not to let everybody go off.  They are 1-6 when scoring below 100, 3-9 when scoring below 105.
  2.  Get back in transition.
  3.  Cover the three-point line!  They can and will shoot it.  It will be fascinating to see what develops along those lines from these two teams.
  4.  The Warriors don't get that many offensive rebounds compared to their number of shots.  PLEASE don't make them in to a rebounding monster.
  5.  Keep the turnovers low.
  6.  In something like 3 out of their last 4 games in Portland the Warriors have imploded, notably Stephen Jackson.  I would absolutely take it right at him, try to frustrate him, and generally make life hell for him.  If you put pressure on them this group of semi-unpredictable individuals will sometimes crack.  Keep your cool and play your game hard and see what happens.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)