Preview & Chat: The Golden State Warriors

Emile Avanessian —  January 6, 2012

Records: Lakers 4-4 (6th in West), Warriors 2-4 (10th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.2 (12th in NBA), Warriors 98.9 (26th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.9 (12th in NBA), Warriors 106.5 (22nd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Warriors: Monta Ellis, Ishmael Smith (Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush are also possible replacements for the injured Stephen Curry), Dorell Wright, David Lee, Andris Biedrins
Injuries: Lakers: Derrick Caracter (out), Josh McRoberts (questionable); Warriors: Stephen Curry (out)

The Lakers Coming In: To observe these Lakers through the prism of conventional wisdom is an exercise in futility. That they’ve lost half of their first eight games, with one true howler in the bunch, is somewhat disappointing, but the stylistic inconsistency they’ve exhibited in arriving at this point is nothing short of infuriating.

The Lakers return home following- stop me if you’ve heard this before- a come-from-ahead loss in the Rose Garden. In and of itself, the 107-96 defeat is hardly a shock- the Lakers have dropped an incredible 24 of 30 regular season games in Portland during the Kobe Bryant era. What is maddening, however, is this team’s ongoing refusal to play to its greatest strength.

It stands to reason that on the heels of a red-hot first half, with Andrew Bynum a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, against a front line that features a defensively average (at best) LaMarcus Aldridge and the two-headed fossil that is Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, a team would exhaust every avenue to ensure that its star big man saw as much of the ball as possible going forward. The Lakers (namely Kobe Bryant) however, rather than continuing to pound the paint at all costs and allow Bynum to continue his evisceration of the Blazers’ bigs, were content to allow the game’s final 23 minutes to elapse with a mere eight field goal attempts from their MVP candidate* – with catastrophic results.

To lay the entirely (or even the majority) of the blame for Thursday’s defeat at Kobe’s doorstep would be totally irresponsible. The Lakers’ supporting cast- those players not named Bynum, Bryant or Gasol- combined to connect on just eight of 29 shots (27.6%) and missed all seven of their 3-point attempts. Gasol, meanwhile, turned in a performance that is becoming frustratingly commonplace. While he made seven of his 10 shots from the field for 19 points, Pau was essentially a non-factor down the stretch, both offensively (he made three of four in the second half, but c’mon! FOUR attempts??) and on the glass, where he did not manage his sixth rebound until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, when the game had already been decided.

No, Kobe Bryant, who made 13 of 24 shots (he missed four 3-pointers of his own, however) en route to 30 points and grabbed eight rebounds, is not the primary culprit of this defeat. However, with each passing game (actually just the losses), it becomes increasingly evident that Kobe Bean’s career has come full circle, but in a bizarre manner in which he finds himself once again diverting his attention from the game’s best offensive big man (to the tune of a whopping 38.85 Usage Rate), only this time someone else is the superstar on the ascent.

This is neither a call for Kobe Bryant to surrender his superstar status, nor to resign himself to spending his twilight as a role player. This is, however, an appeal to Kobe to recognize that in order for this team, his team, to legitimately compete for a championship, he must do what Shaq never could- give an inch.

* Yeah, I went there.

The Warriors Coming In: These are not your daddy’s Warriors. These aren’t even your Warriors.

Gone are the fun-and-gun days of Nellyball, when the defensively challenged Dubs would roll into town, pedal to the floor and fight tooth and nail to outscore you, succeeding roughly a third of the time. Oh, they still struggle on defense (22nd in the NBA) and after winning two of three to start the season, they still only win about a third of the time. They just do it more slowly now.

For the second time in six years, the Warriors are not among the NBA’s two most uptempo teams. Thing is, unlike last season, when they played the same style of ball and merely rounded out the top five, this season’s 91.4 possessions per game represent a paradigm shift. A high-IQ floor general in his playing days, rookie head coach Mark Jackson’s first order of business upon sweeping into town this offseason was to seek out the brake pedal. While this new philosophy is likely to pay dividends in the long run, it will take time for Jackson to change the mindset (or the composition) of the roster he inherited. In the meantime, there will be growing pains on D, with fewer opportunities to put points on the board.

Entering the season- as tends to be the case with this team- the Warriors’ biggest strength was expected to be in the backcourt. One half of that unit, Monta Ellis- a man I’ve likened to Allen Iverson– not only ranks (once again) among the league’s hardest working (40 minutes per game), most productive backcourt scorers (23.8 points per game; 22.5 APER, per Hoopdata) and prolific penetrators (making 62.2% of 7.4 attempts per game inside of 9 feet, including 5.4 at the rim), but is enjoying his best season as a facilitator (8.2 assists per game and a career-high 23.78 Assist Rate) and is coming off of a spectacular 38-point performance against the Spurs Wednesday night.

His running mate, however, is another story. The Warriors will be without Stephen Curry for at least two games, after their second-year maestro rolled his left ankle in San Antonio for the second time in the young season, in a rather frightening scene, as he walked the ball upcourt, with no one in his general vicinity. These Warriors aren’t exactly world-beaters with Steph in the lineup. In his absence, with the likes of Ishmael Smith, Klay Thompson or Nate Robinson trying to fill the void, the Dubs’ outlook is bleak.

Warriors Blogs: For the Warriors’ perspective on tonight’s tilt at Staples, check out the excellent Golden State of Mind, as well as Warriors World, one of the web’s best team sites and the domain of FB&G’s own J.M. Poulard.

For more on Stephen Curry’s injury, check out these excellent pieces from Warriors World’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Hardwood Paroxysm’s Danny Chau.

Key to the game: No brain surgery here. This is a game the Lakers should win with minimal fuss. Which not to say that a strong effort will not be necessary, but with sustained focus in one vital area:

Dominate the interior. Plain and simple. At the moment there is not a defender outside of Central Florida that can stop Andrew Bynum, who’s averaging 22.3 on just 15.3 field goal attempts per game and crashing the boards (15.8 per game; 37% Defensive Rebound Rate, 26% Total) at a higher rate than anyone in the league. The Lakers must feed their beast early and often, as the Warriors have little beyond former Laker Kwame Brown (a big body and decent defender) and Andris Biedrins (big body, not a decent defender) to throw at Bynum on the block.

Additionally, the rest of the Lakers’ Big Three will do well to follow the big man’s lead and head inside, as Pau Gasol will spend much of the evening dueling with David Lee – as bad an interior defender as there is in the NBA – who, should foul trouble or extreme abuse on the defensive end become an issue is back up Ekpe Udoh, potentially a good defender but a total non-factor on offense. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant is likely to be checked by some combination of Monta/Ish Smith/Klay/Nate Rob/Dorell Wright. ‘Nuff said there.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm local start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Emile Avanessian


56 responses to Preview & Chat: The Golden State Warriors

  1. What a facile analysis. Bynum got 9 shot attempts in the second half and converted 2, while generally looking hesitant and indecisive when dealing with Portland’s double-teams. He had no problem dominating with only 7 shots in the first half so the idea that he was somehow starved in the second is disingenuous at best. I know it’s the ‘hot button’ issue right now, but last night’s loss was not about Kobe’s usage rate or Bynum’s touches, but the Lakers’ inability to hit outside shots or compete with Portland’s athleticism.

  2. “…it becomes increasingly evident that Kobe Bean’s career has come full circle.”

    I’m reminded of something Phil Jackson wrote ten years back. In November of 2000, increasingly frustrated with Kobe’s determination to score the ball, he took him to breakfast and tried to get him to buy into his partnership with Shaq. Kobe replied, “Hey P.J., I got to be true to myself”.

    Bold prediction here – there’s gonna be a lot of words written about our man Bryant this season. I hope Mike Brown’s got some seriously thick skin and a good sense of humor. Welcome to the firestorm.

  3. “this team’s ongoing refusal to play to its greatest strength”- I dont think the whole team should be blame with this, its only Kobe who continue to ignore this. To say that Kobe had decline is not true either, he is always a ball hog, with questionable decision making skill. Flashback the pre-season game vs the Clippers where he leave the ground with no deliberate plan, he end up being blocked by De Andre Jordan and injured his right wrist in the process. He was just lucky he had better team mates before who can compensate with his mistakes and even won multiple championship.

    When a player lost his athletic ability, he compensate that by creating smart play in the floor. Kobe’s athletic ability certainly on the decline and yet he also fail to acquire that general floormanship ability that can make him effective in a team. Who would you have, the ultra athletic ballhog Kobe or the less athletic and still ballhog Kobe? The former is the lesser evil.

    All of us is saying that we need an athletic player in the wing. Granted that we had an athletic player like Jamal crawford etc., There is doubt that Kobe will let that athletic player create his own shoot because Kobe wont even let Bynum or Gasol, which is the team greatest stregnth, to be the focal point of the offense.

    Call me a hater, but the Lakers is greater than the greatest of Kobe!

  4. Emile, watch the game again when you have the time. Pau is now the 3rd option on the team and to clear out space down low for Bynum, he’s now being positioned, in the scheme of things, up top. It’s quite insane (takes away the height and he’s none of the speed that the little folks do).

    Re Shaq, I wouldn’t have given an inch either. Since everybody’s in love with the new metrics, note his TS% here:

    To borrow the ole gambler’s adage and from the late P.T. Barnum as well, if you have the strength, use it; never give a sucker an even break. The even break would be Kobe jacking up shots instead of feeding the Big Aristotle down low. Likely still fails to perceive that was his 10-27, 4-13, 8-25 and 7-21 that lost that Finals. If you asked him today he’d likely give today’s answer, Get over it. If you ever have occasion to speak with him, remind him for me that Shaq went for 13-16, 7-14, 16-21 and 7-13 in the four losses. And tell him also that I’m still not over it.

  5. When the heck did this site devolve into a Kobe hate-fest?

    In response to the post, the reason Bynum didn’t “pound the paint” in the second half was because he was completely ineffective against Portland’s double team. Furthermore, he was completely gassed in the 3rd and 4th quarters (lingering effects from tweaking his ankle right before halftime?), so when he did get the rock in the post he didnt have enough lift to power through defenders. He missed a number of chippies at the rim that looked to be the result of fatigue.

    I do agree that Pau needs to be more aggressive, as there were several times I noticed last night where he caught the ball and did not even glance at the rim before swinging the ball back outside. Shoot the ball Pau!

  6. 5

    “I do agree that Pau needs to be more aggressive, as there were several times I noticed last night where he caught the ball and did not even glance at the rim before swinging the ball back outside. Shoot the ball Pau!”

    I made the point during last night’s game that Pau suddenly seems to be content with simply catching the ball at the high post and either swinging the ball or casting away from 15-20 feet. Is the trade that wasn’t still on his mind?

  7. Lakers fans are so sensitive. Emile doesn’t disparage or “hate” on Kobe anywhere above. He explains that he’s not to blame for the loss (rather ineffectual shooting from a poor performing supporting cast was the main culprit) while pointing out what continues to be true: the offense still routinely goes through #24 where it could tilt more towards the bigs. Where’s the hate there? How’s that so unfair?

  8. Ah, Kwame. Brings back memories doesn’t it?

  9. Darius, my “Kobe hate-fest” comment was not directed at Emile or the post but rather at a few specific commentors above and the general tenor of some commentors on this blog over the past week or so.

    My response to the post was that I felt the Lakers couldnt pound the ball inside to Bynum in the second half due to the fact that he was fatigued and was not very effective against Portland’s double teams.

    If Drew keeps up this pace, he will be seeing more than his share of double teams, and I am hopeful that Brown and others on his staff are devising options and coaching Drew to better handle them when they come.

  10. No McRoberts again for tonight’s game

  11. Is it really that hard to enter the ball to Pau? How about throwing it above his head since Lee is intent on fronting?

  12. Fellas, I am thinking of getting League Pass to watch the Lakers in NJ. Is it worth it? Do they offer games in HD? I can’t even begin to tell you how much I took for granted living in LA for 20+ years which included Chick Hearn and Lakers games that ended at 1030 as opposed to 130. Any comments re league pass would be appreciated.

  13. we can moan about Kobe all day, the fact is we only have 3 good players, that is an irreconcilable situation

  14. Bad plays. Bad basketball.

  15. 0-5 from three so far. Shocking.

  16. This is team is painful to watch offensively.

  17. Well look at that. Nate Robinson, another player we could’ve gone after, is lighting us up so far.

    But a guy like him wouldn’t fit in with this team. He actually has speed and athleticism.

  18. the lakers should just run the triangle.

  19. Dan,
    Noted. Thanks for clarifying.

  20. Oh my eyes. This is absolutely brutal basketball.

  21. This is tough to watch. Lakers have 33 with 1:18 to go in first half.

  22. we can moan about Kobe all day, the fact is we only have 3 good players, that is an irreconcilable situation

    Correct. Kobe, Pau, and Andrew all have their faults, but they are not the issue with this team.

  23. We’re losing at home to a team that probably can’t even beat Syracuse. Pathetic.

  24. @ Slappy

    Odd to find the 2004 Finals Kobe stuff here. Detroit was just better than the Lakers, particularly after Karl Malone went down. Kobe didn’t play well, but Shaq would have had to average 50 a game for the Lakers to win that series.

    @ Dan in OC

    Right. We all know that Kobe sometimes jacks up shots that he really shouldn’t, but you can’t just dump in the ball into a big guy 50 times a game against modern NBA defenses. People seem to forget that.

  25. Pathetic .. Awful .. Lethargic .. Disgusting .. Uneventful .. Uninspired Display Of Basketball

  26. Also, Kobe is 5/10 tonight.

    Pau and Andrew are a combined 4/13.

  27. The 1st half was a Jumbaco.

    Someone remind this team that they have a game to play tonight at Staples.

  28. Kermit Washington said before the game on the radio, “in my days all the teams had 3-5 great players, nowadays they only have 1 or 2″…. so true

  29. The Lakers are not dominating the interior, they are being out shot in the paint. Turnovers and poor 3 point FG% continue to be a problem.

    The Warriors zone defense is bothering the Lakers

  30. I know it’s probably been beaten to death, but games like these rub salt in the wound Lamar left when he quit on his teammates out of ego.

    It really would have worked out if management had stood up to him and refused when he requested a trade. It’s not like he would have poisoned the locker room. Teammates rally around someone as popular and well-liked as Lamar (was), and they would have convinced him to play hard.

    Basketball is a business, not a romantic relationship. He should have been a man, got over it, stuck with his brothers.

    Hope he enjoyed watching the Mavs get their rings.

  31. yes, the league pass has hd games. there are different “levels” of subscription, for things like online access, and mobile access. you don’t get every game by every team, but it is a pretty good value for $170. order it through your cable/satellite provider.

  32. i expect the two rings odom already has, helped him get through the mavs ceremony.

  33. Also – it’s really not that hard to beat a zone. Against man-to-man, you screen your teammate’s defender. Against zone, you screen your defender’s zone for your teammate.

    Or, you plug the middle, spread the floor, and knock down open looks beyond the arc.

    Not that hard – but hard enough if you don’t know what to do (See: Heat, Miami).

  34. This is the combination of a slow, poor shooting team mixed with a new coach and a new system; a fraction of a real training camp to learn said system; no time to practice due to a condensed schedule; and a condensed schedule that can tire out even the fittest athletes.

    Thank God the only money I’m shelling out to remotely support the NBA is through my satellite bill. I can’t imagine how pissed I’d be if I were a season ticket holder paying full price to watch WNBA-caliber basketball.

  35. Can’t help but chuckle at the lineup of Kobe, Gasol, Murphy, Kapono, and Blake…even though we’re up 6 it’s still kind of a crack up to watch 🙂

  36. Kobe buzzer beater for 3 at end of third quarter

  37. Matt Barnes has been awesome filling the lanes in transition.

  38. Lakers finally putting up a show

  39. Did not get a chance to post during last nights game, only have posted a few times actually, but I didn’t because I was in the delivery room for my baby girl! Just thought id let y’all know that I had the game on the whole time!!! Hahaha my wifey didn’t even care I think it helped her focus! Much love.

  40. Ah there’s been too little man love between Pau and Kobe lately – a sight for sore eyes:D

  41. Unable to watch the game tonight, someone tell me why Bynum’s stat sheet was so empty on the offensive side of the floor?

  42. Lakers8884- #45

    Kwame out-played him lol…

    On that note- If you are outplayed by Kwame Brown, does that disqualify you from being a teams first option? I kid, I kid!

    Good win Lake Show!

  43. #42 congrats

    #45 Bynum just didn’t bring it today. Personally I think he had a hard time against Kwami.

  44. Congrats Mac Dizzle! Just caught the end of the game. Kobe’s free-throw antics are pretty funny, if they weren’t so sad. The man must be in so much pain.

  45. thats the main objective, for Bynum to be double team so that it will free our shooter..If the shooter wont hit the open treys then thats better pills to swallow rather than having a bone head plays.
    Kobe wants to be double team so that its a spectacular play if he made the bucket!

  46. Thanks guys! Ill take the Lakers winning on my daughters birth day!

  47. #42 Baby MacDizzle brought luck to the Lakers. Congrats and get sleep for you will remain awake for the next coming months.

    Kobe @ 39, I thought it was a good idea to trade Kobe. huh? Where would the Lakers be without the injured Kobe in the last 9 games?

    There goes the Blazers, great team at home and usually s*cks on the road, Wallace 1 pt. Why? He’s motivated to play when he’s against the Lakers.

  48. Lakers will have better record if only Kobe was smarter player! He had the chance to affect the game tremendously if he only made the right plays. Lucky for us his basket were falling tonight.

  49. @Mac Dizzle, Congratulations!

  50. Ben10, are you just messing with everyone at this point? Aside from this preposterous idea that Kobe is a dumb player who has only relied on athleticism to excel in his career, are you really trying to say that he didn’t have a significant positive impact on this game (along with the majority of the other games of the season)? Or are you still stuck on those two questionable games earlier in the season? Or is this just based on his higher than normal usage rate that mysteriously coincides with being less than 10 games into a season where for the first four games the Lakers had 1.5 offensive options?

  51. @matt..the greatness of Kobe can be attributed to his killer instinct which basically his desire to shot the ball against all odds. thats the quality of a true superstars. however, he can be greater than great if he could adjust his game to the game itself. why would you shot the ball if your basket are not falling? why wont you pass the ball if your team mates are open. Lebron has this quality but sadly he dont have the killer instinct that will put him on the same league with kobe! I didnt say that Kobe didnt have positive impact in the game but he could have greater positive impact in a game if he play smarter in which we all know he very capable of but chooses not to.
    This is not the only season where Kobe shot the team to death, Remember game 7 vs Boston?
    I think I am just asking too much for Kobe!