The Golden State Warriors pulled off an impressive sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the NBA Playoffs this past weekend, and they will have about a week off until they begin their second round matchup. We don’t know yet who the Warriors will be facing in the Western Conference Semifinals, but it will either be the Memphis Grizzlies or the Portland Trail Blazers (Grizzlies currently lead the series 3-1).
In this week’s Warriors Mailbag post, we will discuss the pros and cons of the Warriors having a week off before their second round matchup, the Warriors’ playoff rotation so far, and if Marreese Speights will see a decrease in his playing time in the second round.
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
It’s official. The Golden State Warriors, the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and the Los Angeles Clippers, the third seed, will face each other in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
To start out the preview of this matchup, let’s just say that the Warriors and the Clippers do not like each other, on and off the court. It seems like almost every time they play each other, there’s some type of scuffle and usually several technical fouls given out.
In addition, much of this tension has carried over to their relationships off the court. Most teams attend chapel with their opponent before each game, but the Warriors and Clippers refuse to attend chapel together.
Although their dislike for each other started just a couple seasons ago, there is certainly a rivalry between these two teams. This is why this first round matchup will be so entertaining.
It’s almost like it was meant to be. Both these teams have risen from pretenders to contenders in the past few seasons, and they both believe that they’re better than the other team. They also both play exciting brands of basketball, and whenever they play each other, the games are incredibly competitive, physical, and entertaining.
The Warriors and the Clippers faced each other four times during the regular season. Their first two contests were fairly close, and the next two contests were blowouts. They split the games 2-2.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that could decide which team wins this playoff series.
One of the key factors to this series is that the Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a fractured rib. The Warriors will struggle without Bogut for several reasons.
First of all, Bogut is the Warriors’ defensive anchor and rim protector. He doesn’t just block shots, he changes shots, changes how offenses attack the rim, and he defends the weak side extremely well. He also sets great screens on offense. These simple explanations don’t fully explain how important he is to the Warriors, offensively and defensively, as a whole.
Second, without Bogut, the Warriors will have trouble containing the Clippers’ size. Blake Griffin is a beast and is having an MVP-type of year. DeAndre Jordan isn’t a huge offensive threat, but his athleticism can really hurt the Warriors’ frontcourt.
It will be difficult for the Warriors to win the frontcourt matchup with the Clippers, but they could win the backcourt matchup.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson make up one of the best backcourts in the NBA. The Clippers will most likely send multiple defenders at Curry to try to force him into turnovers and bad shots.
Chris Paul defends Curry well and forces him to turn the ball over a lot, so this could be a tough matchup for Curry. They have played against each other so much during the NBA season and they work out together in the offseason, but these two often bring out the best in each other.
Curry has been playing at a whole other superstar level recently though, and it seems like no one will be able to stop him.
In terms of defense, the Warriors’ perimeter defense is one of their strengths. Andre Iguodala, Thompson, and even Curry at times, to a lesser extent though, are all great defenders and can lock down or contain whoever they’re guarding.
The Warriors could have difficulty with defense in the frontcourt though. Even if they decide to start Draymond Green at power forward, to guard Griffin, or Jermaine O’Neal at center, to guard Jordan, they will still face some trouble defensively, given the Clippers’ size and athleticism.
In order to limit the Clippers’ frontcourt offensively, the Warriors might want to employ the hack-a-Jordan philosophy. Jordan is shooting 42.8 percent on free throws, and the Clippers, as a team, shoot 73 percent on free throws, which is 26th in the NBA.
Griffin has improved as a free throw shooter, but in the right situation, the Warriors might want to foul him too. They need to be careful though, because Griffin does a lot of “flopping,” and the Warriors, especially Green, can’t afford to get into foul trouble.
The Warriors also need to be active on the boards. The Clippers give up 43.7 rebounds per game, which is 25th in the NBA, so the Warriors need to take advantage of that.
On offense though, the Warriors could benefit greatly from going small and playing Green at power forward and Lee at center. Warriors fans are well aware of Lee’s defensive deficiencies, but offensively, he could succeed in a smaller lineup.
As a center, Lee thrives because he’s able to utilize his quickness against slower, bigger centers. Also, as a center, he doesn’t have to fight for space in the paint, which he often has to do with whoever is playing center for the Warriors.
Lee needs space to work in the paint and in post-ups in order to be effective. This is why he plays so well alongside Curry and Thompson. The Splash Brothers space the floor, and the Lee is able to work inside the paint and around the rim.
The Warriors will certainly face some tough matchups in the starting lineup, but the Clippers might also have an edge in terms of their bench and coaching. The Clippers have Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, and others all coming off the bench. That is an extremely deep bench with lots of different players who could hurt the Warriors.
The Warriors have had a fairly inconsistent bench this season. Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Harrison Barnes, and Marreesse Speights will be called upon for significant contributions off the bench, and they will have to step up big if the Warriors want to pull off the upset.
In terms of coaching, the Clippers might win the coaching category too. Although Mark Jackson led the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals, Doc Rivers has won a championship. He has more experience, and he’s a defensive mastermind.
Jackson knows how to motivate his team and could out-coach Rivers in that sense, but it’s yet another challenge the Warriors will have to face.
With all this being said, the Warriors have more heart than possibly any team in the NBA. They will not give up, they will give their best, and they will put up a fight. They won’t go down easy, so don’t expect this series to be over quickly.
Prediction: Clippers win in 7
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The Golden State Warriors’ first half of the 2013-2014 season can be described as…underwhelming. At first glance, the Warriors haven’t had a disappointing season at all. They currently have a 32-22 record.
However, given the immense amount of talent on this team, the Warriors could certainly improve and have a better record, especially given the fact that they boast one of the best starting lineups in the NBA.
Many NBA fans and analysts had high expectations for the Warriors this season, and some even believed that they were championship contenders. That might’ve been a little premature, but the Warriors, despite some underachieving, still have a great chance at making the playoffs and possibly moving up into the top four or five in the Western Conference.
If they want to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs, although it might be difficult, the Warriors need to improve in several areas in the second half of the season.
First of all, they need to play better at home. The Warriors’ record at home doesn’t look too bad. They currently have a 16-10 record at Oracle Arena. However, the Warriors boast one of the best, if not the best, home court advantage and the best fans in the NBA.
Warriors fans are known for being raucous, loud, energetic, and extremely passionate. The Warriors sometimes appear complacent when playing at home, as they assume that they will get easy wins because of their quality crowd.
The Warriors can’t make these types of assumptions, and they need to compete hard every night. Of course, this is easier said than done. The Warriors need to play with more effort at home in the second half.
Speaking of making assumptions, the Warriors have also had a bad habit of playing down to their competition. Often when they play a team with a lesser record than theirs, they don’t play as dominantly as they could. On several occasions, they lose these games because they didn’t take their competition seriously.
On the flip side, they play up to their competition as well. In theory, this is a good characteristic, but it promotes an inconsistent playing style. The Warriors have been able to beat elite teams like the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Clippers, but they have lost to teams they should’ve beaten like the Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards.
As Jermaine O’Neal told Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group, the Warriors need to fight for each game and show how badly they want to win.
“There’s 29 games left, and I’ve said all along that this team, we’re going to be a reflection of what the players put into it,” O’Neal said. “I know it’s been a lot conversation about Coach Jackson, and to me it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard, because at the end of the day, the players have to have a certain type of will.
“It’s all will. It boils down to if you want it bad enough, you’re willing to do whatever it is.”
If the Warriors want to have a strong second half of the season, this inconsistent play needs to stop. The elite teams have off nights, but they find ways to beat teams they should beat and play well every night. The Warriors need to prove that they can play on that level.
In order to have a successful second half, the Warriors also have to find a way to limit their turnovers, which they have struggled to do all season. Turnovers are to be expected in the NBA, but the Warriors need to limit the sloppy, careless, and avoidable turnovers that lead to easy buckets for their opponents.
Those are the types of turnovers that kill momentum, slow the game down, and decrease a team’s chances of winning. Those are the types of turnovers that the Warriors need to cut down on if they want to have a strong second half.
Lastly, one of the most important factors in order for the Warriors to have a successful second half is health. The only Warriors that have played in all 53 games so far this season are Draymond Green, Marreese Speights, and Klay Thompson.
When Stephen Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut all start, the Warriors have won 69.7 percent of those games. Those five players have only started together in 33 games this season though.
Despite all these games missed by the starters due to injuries, the Warriors are still in the playoff hunt. That’s the good news.
In terms of goals for the second half of the season, Mark Jackson has said that the Warriors want to build on the lessons they’ve learned in the first half of the season, hit their peak near the end of the season, and then ride that momentum as long as they can in the playoffs.
Curry shared that same sentiment with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We’re trying to secure our spot in the playoffs and make some noise,” point guard Stephen Curry said. “The goal is obviously to represent the Western Conference in the Finals, so that’s on the horizon for us – if we take care of business.
“I feel good about it. We’ve learned a lot. Obviously, we haven’t played to our potential so far when it comes to playing at home and winning games that we’re supposed to, but those are things that will toughen us up. We’re a hungry team that is going to come back on a mission.”
If the Warriors can bring more effort in their home games, play hard every night against any opponent, limit their careless turnovers, and stay healthy, the Warriors will have a strong second half and will ride that winning momentum into the playoffs.
Marreese Speights has had a rocky start to his time with the Golden State Warriors.
In the offseason, the Warriors signed Speights to a three-year deal in the hopes that he would replace Carl Landry‘s production from last season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite happened…yet.
Last season, Landry, along with Jarrett Jack, was one of the most important players off the bench for the Warriors. In 81 games with the Warriors last season, he averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game, and he shot 54 percent from the field.
In 37 games this season, Speights is only averaging 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds on 38.7 percent shooting and in only 12.2 minutes per game.
To be fair, Speights and Landry have completely different skillsets. Speights is more of a mid-range jump shooter than Landry was, and Landry has more success with post-ups than Speights does. Although neither one is known for their superior defensive ability, Landry held his own in that department last season.
With that being said, Speights has recently started to play more like the player the Warriors hoped they would get when they signed him in the offseason. He’s playing with more energy, and he appears more confident out on the court.
Read the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The Golden State Warriors are expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference this season. They have six proven starters and have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Despite all these impressive qualities, the Warriors’ bench has been disappointing so far this season.
Even though the Warriors have a deep roster and have such a powerful starting lineup, the bench hasn’t come together as a cohesive unit yet. To be fair, there are many new faces coming off of that bench this year, such as Toney Douglas, Marreese Speights, Ognjen Kuzmic, Jermaine O’Neal and Nemanja Nedovic.
In addition to these newcomers, the Warriors’ reserves also include Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green. They will also have Harrison Barnes coming off the bench soon and once Festus Ezeli returns from injury, he will come off the bench as well. The Warriors certainly have talent coming off the bench, but the reserves haven’t shown yet that they can play cohesively together.
“I’ve been very disappointed in the way that those guys have closed out ballgames,” Mark Jackson said about his bench. “They’ve had opportunities to play extended minutes and they haven’t made statements with their play.”
The bench has really struggled in a few specific areas. Generally, the reserves have struggled on the offensive side. Defensively, they are actually quite impressive.
The first thing the bench is lacking is someone who can create their own shot. This is the area where the Warriors miss Jarrett Jack the most. With the shot clock winding down and a broken play, Jack was able to make something out of nothing and create his own shot. No one on the Warriors’ bench has shown they can do that this season. Once Barnes comes back though, he will most likely help in that category.
Second, the bench needs a proven floor general. They need another ball handler and someone who can initiate the offense. Douglas, Nedovic and Bazemore haven’t proven that they can run the offense smoothly and create opportunities for their teammates if a play breaks down. Unless one of those players proves that they can consistently do that, Jackson might have to keep one of the starters in with the reserves at all times. To ensure the offense continues to run smoothly, Jackson would have to leave in a playmaker like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala.
Lastly, the Warriors’ bench is lacking a serious low-post threat. This is the area that the Warriors miss Carl Landry the most. Landry was a threat from mid-range and on the low block. He could back down his opponent and attack the rim. The Warriors have tried to run plays with O’Neal and Speights on the low block, but they haven’t been successful. O’Neal is not quick enough anymore to be a consistent low-post threat, and Speights is more successful as a mid-range jump shooter off of a pick-and-pop, for example.
It’s hard not to speculate how successful this Warriors bench would be if they had been able to keep both Jack and Landry and have Barnes as a reserve too. However bad the Warriors’ bench can look at times, there are several reasons why it’s too early to panic about the bench play so far.
First of all, this Warriors team and the bench, specifically, need some time to adjust. There are so many new players and they’ve only been playing together for a couple months now. They’re just now getting a sense of what the rotation will be like throughout the season. Soon the reserves will have a better idea about when they will usually come into a game and who they will be playing with. This comfort will certainly help them play more cohesively.
Second, Barnes hasn’t played yet in the regular season. His presence and his play will significantly improve the Warriors’ bench. He can create his own shot, as mentioned before, and he can provide that much-needed spark off the bench. He will be the offensive focal point for the Warriors’ second unit, which will allow the bench to thrive and will help Barnes’ development as a player.
Even if the bench still struggles once Barnes is back, Jackson can continue to play one of his starters with the reserves. So far, he’s played Thompson and Iguodala with the reserves, which has usually produced better results since it gives the bench that much-needed playmaker. With Barnes and another starter playing with the reserves, the offense would flow much more smoothly.
Also, Ezeli’s return will greatly help the bench too. His presence won’t necessarily have the same impact that Barnes’ presence will have, but Ezeli allows Jackson to rest Kuzmic and O’Neal more. It also will give the Warriors another big man off the bench who can rebound and defend.
The Warriors’ bench has clearly struggled so far this season. Having Barnes play with the reserves will vastly improve the Warriors’ bench, especially on offense where the bench has struggled the most. Although the bench has been disappointing so far compared to last season’s dynamic duo off the bench, Jack and Landry, there is no need for concern just yet. The Warriors will find a way to adjust, and the bench will continue to evolve into a useful weapon for this young, contending team.
This article was originally published on Let’s Go Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors went into the offseason with two main priorities: re-signing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Since that didn’t happen, it appeared as if the Warriors would have a weaker roster going into next season. However, based on the moves the Warriors have made so far in the offseason, they have more than made up for their losses.
With the departure of Jack, the Warriors had to fill the role of backup point guard, so they drafted Nemanja Nedovic with the 30th pick in this year’s NBA Draft. In addition, Kent Bazemore has started to develop his ball handling and decision-making skills in order to get more minutes as a backup point guard.
They also signed free agent Toney Douglas, who will most likely play the majority of the minutes as the backup point guard. Although Nedovic and Bazemore are a little unproven, Douglas is a solid backup point guard who can defend extremely well and will more than adequately relieve Stephen Curry of some minutes. Even though Jack was a valuable asset to the team last season, the Warriors made up for his loss with other players who collectively bring similar, or better, skills.
The Warriors signed Marreese Speights to fill Landry’s former role of backup power forward. Speights is 6’10” and 245 pounds, and he can play both power forward and center. Speights is also only 25 years old, and by signing a three-year contract, he will play with the Warriors while he is in his prime. Speights can shoot the mid-range shot, but he lacks some efficiency closer to the basket. He isn’t quite the scorer that Landry was, but he’s a better rebounder and shot blocker. Speights is a quality addition to this Warriors team.
The Warriors also needed to fill the backup center role, since Festus Ezeli is out with his right knee injury and Andris Biedrins was traded. In order to address this need, the Warriors signed Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal is listed at 6’11” and 255 pounds, and he’s a fantastic shot blocker. O’Neal is a 17-year NBA veteran and six-time All-Star, and he has played in 90 postseason games in his career. O’Neal has experienced a lot of trouble with injuries in the past few years, but he will bring size, defense, and veteran leadership to this team.
One criticism for the Warriors the past few years has been there lack of athleticism. Harrison Barnes certainly improved that aspect, but this team, and any team really, could always use more athleticism. The Warriors addressed this need and more when they signed Andre Iguodala. He brings athleticism, a great work ethic, speed, an ability to excel in the open court, elite defense, playoff experience, and veteran leadership. Iguodala is the complete package. He’s extremely versatile, and his presence alone makes this Warriors team a serious contender to be a top-four team in the Western Conference.
With all these additions, the Warriors also strengthened their bench, which they needed to do with Jack and Landry leaving. The addition of Iguodala also probably means that Barnes will now have to come off the bench, which will only strengthen their reserve unit as well. The Warriors have done a great job this offseason in addressing all their needs.