Archives For Golden State Warriors

Records: Lakers 12-14 (11th in the West). Warriors 18-9 (5th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 (5th in NBA), Warriors 104.9 (7th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.2 (15th in NBA), Warriors 102.0 (14th in NBA)
Projected starting lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Festus Ezeli.
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out), Jordan Hill (questionable); Warriors: Andrew Bogut (out), Brandon Rush (out).

The Lakers Coming in: After surviving a nail-biter earlier in the week at home against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Los Angeles Lakers are owners of a three-game win streak and will be looking to improve on it tonight at Oracle Arena.

The team is still facing questions as it pertains to its rotation mind you, as evidenced by Antawn Jamison’s bagel in the minutes column against the Bobcats.

Devin Ebanks was the nominal starter against Charlotte but only saw five total minutes of playing action while Kobe Bryant (43 minutes), Jodie Meeks (39 minutes) and Darius Morris (29 minutes) played some heavy minutes. In addition, with Metta World Peace now playing power forward off the bench, does this mean the Jamison experiment is over?

The biggest news undoubtedly has to be that Steve Nash is scheduled to play tonight, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, and this might certainly be the boost of optimism the needs after a fairly slow start this season. But again, this leads to more questions concerning the rotations — let’s not kid ourselves though, it’s Steve Nash that’s coming back here! — as well as the amount of minutes that Nash can play and whom he plays them with.

Tonight’s contest will at least provide some temporary answers.

The Warriors Coming in: The Golden State Warriors have won eight of their past 10 contests and just recently took apart the Bobcats at home by double digits thanks in large part to their 14-of-27 shooting from 3-point range.

Stephen Curry is playing some great basketball this month, but so is David Lee as evidenced by his 23.2 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game on 59.6 percent field goal shooting in the month of December.

It’s worth noting that Lee had a triple-double last night against Charlotte; a performance that highlighted all of his skills.

With that said, the Warriors have lost seven of their last eight meetings to the Lakers and will want to finally tilt things back into their favor.

Warriors Blog: Warriors World covers the Golden State Warriors as well as the rest of the league on occasion. A preview of tonight’s contest by me from the Dubs’ vantage point can be found here.

Keys to the game: The one area of the game that absolutely bears paying attention in the contest tonight has to be rebounding. Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers are second in the NBA in rebounding rate while the Golden State Warriors are third.

Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will obviously play a huge role on this front, but it’s also important for Metta World Peace to snatch a fair amount of rebounds considering that he will more than likely be matched up against either David Lee or Carl Landry.

The starters should hold their own on this front, but the Warriors’ bench might narrow the gap much like they did the first time both of these teams played on November 9th, as they grabbed 23 of the 47 rebounds the Dubs accumulated.

In addition, the Lakers’ defense will have to make some tough decisions in their pick-and-roll defense, because the Warriors love to use David Lee as a pressure release point at the top of the key when defenses rotate. The end result is that the Florida product can take the open jumper, put the ball on the floor if a slow-footed big man is defending him or simply swing the ball to the open shooter where the Warriors are converting 42.1 percent of their treys in the month of December according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.

Golden State will stretch the court by occasionally playing Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all at the same time; which tends to open up the driving lanes and allow the Warriors to create high percentage shots. NBA.com tells us that the Warriors second most used lineup of the season features Curry, Jack, Thompson, Landry and Lee; and that unit produces 110.9 points and 29.3 assists per 48 minutes on 50.6 percent field goal shooting and 42.7 percent 3-point field goal shooting.

This might be one of those instances where D’Antoni is obliged to play MWP on the perimeter a little to ensure there is enough proper ball pressure being applied on ball handlers to ensure the Lakers do not lose containment on the perimeter and allow a multitude of open looks from deep.

With that said, if we get away from the stats, there are two facets that immediately come to mind in this contest:

I. The Lakers have always played well in Golden State. Lakers fans typically show up in every venue, but Oracle Arena usually has a large contingent; but one wonders if the team’s resurgence equates to more Warriors fans showing up; and also whether this new Dubs team rises to the occasion to play a team that’s had their number seemingly forever.

II. With Brandon Rush out for the year, the Warriors do not have one single player on the roster smart and disciplined enough to make life tough for Kobe Bryant other than Draymond Green. Seriously, Kobe has pretty much had his way with all of the Warriors players, but Green’s size and defensive IQ might earn him some minutes covering the Black Mamba; but otherwise it stands to reason that Bryant will have one of those nights where most of his jumpers look easy.

Tonight’s game certainly should prove to be entertaining and high paced, which could potentially produce a lot of fireworks.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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.