Preview and Chat: Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  March 24, 2008

Records: Lakers 48-22 (2 seed, percentage points back of New Orleans); Warriors 43-26 (8 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.2 (3rd); Warriors 114 (4th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 (5th); Warriors 110.5 (22nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Warriors: Barron Davis, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington

Thanks guys Big thanks to Gatinho and kwame a. for doing an amazing job stepping in while I stepped out. Fantastic posts.

Mardy Fish and the Warriors: Stay with me, this is about basketball.

The most interesting match I saw out at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament was then 98th ranked journeyman American Mardy Fish taking on the once unstoppable force of Roger Federer. Fish plays a game of all offense — huge serve, always seeming to go for the winner (particularly on the first couple of shots of the rally) and generally going for broke. But, get him to play a defensive-game, dictate the tempo he plays at, and he is not a huge threat.

The problem is, when a guy like that is on, he is almost unbeatable for a day. And Fish was on against Federer, hitting every shot hard and in, attacking every chance he could and a few he couldn’t and still making it work. After the match Federer said little went wrong with him, it was all Fish (6-3, 6-2).

Fish basically is the Golden State Warriors of tennis. When they are hitting threes (say 50% in the first half and 40% for the game), when they can get out and run without paying a price, they are hard to beat. Adding to Federer’s problem was he was not his unbeatable self, he had a lot of unforced errors — basically the turnover of tennis. Those took Fish off the hook and allowed him to continue to be aggressive. The Lakers did that early last night with the Warriors, playing sloppy on offense which allowed the Warriors to do what they do best.

(By the way, Federer essentially was the San Antonio Spurs of tennis, able to dictate his game despite what anyone wanted to do. The only people who gave him trouble were guys who were hot for the day — Safin in Australia a few years ago — or great defensive players such as Nadal. But, like the Spurs, one wonders if Federer has lost a step. We’ll find out about the Spurs in the playoffs, Federer at Wimbledon.)

The Lakers made a heroic comeback, but those often flatten out as the team expends so much to get even they lack a finishing kick for the stretch run (to mix in another sports metaphor). It happens, and frankly after that first half I’m not sure the Lakers deserved a win.

Somebody suggested in the comments we may want to avoid Golden State in the first round — I say bring them on. What the Lakers lacked last night was an inside attack to really punish the way the Warriors want to play. I love Ronny, but he is no Gasol/Bynum on offense. If the Lakers started Gasol and brought Bynum off the bench in a first-round matchup, the Warriors would have no good counter. What got Dallas into trouble last year was 1) they got away from the type of game they want to play and played at Golden State’s pace; 2) Dampier is the only inside guy for the Mavs, Nowitzki lives on the perimeter or 15 feet out. Phil would not make those mistakes.

My NCAA Bracket: This is all you need to know — my wife is ahead of me in the standings. I spent a lot of time debating a couple of games in the second round — Marquette/Stanford and Davidson (I had that first round win)/Georgetown. In the end, I went with Marquette and Georgetown. And you wonder why I hate to make predictions.

I have just 8 of the final 16 still alive, I’ve already down to six possible for the elite 8, and the only saving grace is all four of my final four teams live. The best pick I had so far, Kansas State over USC in the first round.

Keys To The Game: In a weird roll reversal of most games, the way to control the Warriors offense is at the Lakers offensive end. First, take care of the ball, no turnovers. Second, run the offense and dictate your own tempo — don’t rush your shots. Odom, Luke, I’m talking to you, play at your pace. Third, pound the ball inside for baskets, ideally with bigs but penetration will work too.

Then, get back in transition D.

The Lakers did well on the glass last night, but they needed more points inside and needed to take care of the ball (17.5% of the Lakers possessions ended in a turnover, up from the 15.1% average for the season, and the first half was horrible).

And, close on Stephen Jackson if he’s hot.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both KCAL (9) in Los Angeles and league pass nationally