Steve Blake

Golden State Warriors: Looking Ahead To The First Round

Dec 25, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) calls out to his teammates against Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mar 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Warriors 104-98. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Nov 23, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) stand during a break in play against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 103-102. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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

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LGW: Golden State Warriors Roster: Steve Blake and Jermaine O’Neal The New and Improved Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

(Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images and Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

(Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images and Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

Steve Blake and Jermaine O’Neal have filled a deep void, on and off the court, for the Golden State Warriors this season.

When the Warriors were unable to re-sign Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry in the offseason, they lost two players who were the heart-and-soul of the Warriors’ bench last season. Jack and Landry were also a huge part of the Warriors’ miraculous playoff run.

In Jack, they lost a backup point guard who averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game and who could run the offense, which allowed Stephen Curry to play off the ball. He also was a significant part of the Warriors’ team chemistry last season.

In Landry, they lost a backup power forward who averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. They also lost someone who was that low-post threat that added another dimension to their offense and that they severely lacked for a long period of time this season.

After a short and ineffective stint of Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights taking over their roles, the Warriors are finally getting production from a backup point guard, Blake, and a backup big, O’Neal.

The Warriors’ signing of O’Neal in the offseason was an under-the-radar type of move that many ignored or even criticized. Many said he was too old and too fragile to contribute anything to the Warriors.

When the Warriors traded for Blake, many Warriors fans saw potential in the trade but focused too much on the loss of Kent Bazemore.

Now that O’Neal is healthy and Blake is starting to settle into his new team, Warriors fans are finally starting to see the benefits of signing a proven veteran like O’Neal and trading for a hard-working, smart point guard like Blake.

When glancing at these two players’ stats for this season, they aren’t necessarily jaw-dropping or as good as Jack and Landry’s from last season. O’Neal is averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season, and Blake is averaging 8.0 points and 6.4 assists.

However, their contributions and their effect on this team are much greater than any stat can show.

Read about O’Neal and Blake’s specific contributions to the Warriors this season and the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.

LGW: Golden State Warriors Passing: Best in the NBA?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Are the Golden State Warriors the best passing team in the NBA?

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle recently asked Mark Jackson, Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O’Neal, and Steve Blake that question, and they all had similar answers.

Coach Mark Jackson, past master of the assist, answered my true-false question with, “I would probably say, off the top of my head, true, because we have playmakers and good to very good to excellent passers.
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Bogut answered “true,” with a caveat: “I think we are (the best passing team), but our hindrance is turnovers. … The asterisk you would put next to that is we’ve got to limit our turnovers to be the best passing team in the league.”
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Steve Blake answered the T-F question, “Quite possibly. … That’s a big part of what we do. We’ve got certain guys we need to be aggressive at times and just go one-on-one. But at the right moments, guys are making really good passes.”
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So enjoy it while you’ve got it, Warriors fans, because as O’Neal said, “It’s rare in professional sports that you get a team that likes each other and is very unselfish. Basketball can really become a very individualized sport within a team system. You see that a lot on some teams, but for us it’s about making the extra play, making the extra pass.”

Ostler brings up an excellent point in the article that O’Neal touched upon also. The Warriors’ excellent passing could be partially attributed to their elite team chemistry.

They all want to win badly, and that brings them closer to together. That underdog mentality and that never-say-die attitude breeds excellent team chemistry, which can take a team far.

So what makes the Warriors such a good passing team?

Well, first of all, all five of their starters are arguably elite passers, for their position.

Stephen Curry is a creative, crafty passer who can pass well with either hand, Klay Thompson is a great passer out of pick-and-rolls, Andre Iguodala is also a creative passer who creates plays and can drive-and-kick, David Lee has great anticipation of what his teammate is going to do and when and how he should pass the ball to them, and Bogut, for a center, also has great timing and anticipation as a passer.

Read more about the Warriors’ passing and check out some advanced passing stats in the rest of the article at Let’s Go Warriors.

LGW: Golden State Warriors Bench Playing As A Unit And Making An Impact

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

Since the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors have gone 7-2. Part of the reason for the Warriors’ recent resurgence into playoff relevance is their bench play.

After being heavily criticized for most of the season, the bench has been consistently productive and effective at maintaining or increasing leads in a game when the starters go to the bench.

Much of this recent success by the bench can be attributed to Steve Blake. This was the perfect trade for the Warriors, because he can help the Warriors in so many ways.

Off the court, he’s a great teammate, he works extremely hard, and he brings a toughness to the Warriors.

On the court, he is an experienced point guard who can run an offense, create plays for his teammates, knock down threes, play defense, and can play off the ball too.

Based on Blake’s recent production, Stephen Curry has gotten more rest. Curry appreciates Blake’s production immensely, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

Backup point guard Steve Blake has 21 assists and one turnover over the past five games, and his strong play has allowed Stephen Curry to rest more often.
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“My minutes are down, and I’ve been able to try to be more efficient, which is helpful,” Curry said.

Another reason why the Warriors have had such great bench production recently is because Mark Jackson has been playing Blake, Jordan Crawford, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Jermaine O’Neal together.

Read the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.

Golden State Warriors: Looking Ahead To The Final 6 Weeks

Mar 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Andre Iguodala (9) and point guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrate during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors have a lot to prove in the final six weeks of the season. During this final stretch, they will have to fight for a playoff seed, they will have to fight through fatigue, and they will have to find some consistency and momentum going into the playoffs.

This season, as usual, the Western Conference is the more competitive conference, so it will be even tougher than usual for the Warriors to make the playoffs and gain a top-four seed.

There are four teams who will most likely be battling for the last three spots in the Western Conference standings: the Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies.

All four of these teams are currently within three games of each other, so the fight for a playoff spot will most likely come down to the last day of the season.

The Warriors have 13 of their last 20 games at home, which they need to take advantage of, given the tight playoff race.

There are some key matchups coming up in the final six weeks of the season for the Warriors. Next week, the Warriors face three quality teams who are all playoff contenders. They face the Suns at home on March 9th, the Mavericks at home on March 11th, and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 12th.

The Warriors need to think of those first two games as must-wins, because of the proximity to both of those teams in the standings. The Warriors have had luck against the Clippers this season too, so if they can win all three of those games, that would certainly help their playoff chances.

The Warriors also have a tough back-to-back at the beginning of April. They face the Mavericks in Dallas on April 1st and the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio on April 2nd. Again, the Warriors need to beat Dallas, because they’ll be fighting for seeding.

Jan 28, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (10) celebrates with center Andrew Bogut (12) against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Warriors beat the Raptors 114-102. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs beat the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals last season, so the Warriors would like to make a statement to the Spurs in that game by beating them on the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

In the final six weeks, the Warriors also face the Portland Trail Blazers, who are currently the fifth seed (one seed ahead of the Warriors), in Portland twice. Those games are big matchups as well.

The Warriors have a favorable schedule for the final stretch of the season, given the amount of home games they have, but they need to improve in several areas in order to make a strong push into the playoffs.

First of all, the Warriors offense needs to improve. The Warriors’ defense has been stellar, if not elite, all season. However, despite having many offensive weapons, their offense can become quite stagnant at times.

The Warriors can become complacent on offense and settle for isolation post-ups, which can be effective at times but also eliminates any beneficial ball movement, which is one of their strengths.

Their ball movement is what fuels their up-tempo offense. When they push the fast break, get in transition, and get shots before the opposing team’s defense can set up, the Warriors offense flows much better. Once they get into that rhythm, it’s hard to stop them.

When they settle for isolation post-ups, it slows down the game. The Warriors need to play at a fast pace and force the other team to play at their speed in order to be effective.

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and the Warriors’ frontcourt of David Lee and Andrew Bogut are all great passers, so the Warriors need to take advantage of this more.

On offense, the Warriors also need to limit their turnovers, because this messes with their rhythm too.

The Warriors can also find more ways to integrate Iguodala and Bogut into the offense. Iguodala has said that his hamstring still bothers him on offense, but he needs to find ways to be more aggressive and contribute offensively.

Bogut can also contribute more than just on tip-ins and putback dunks. This would take some scoring pressure off of Curry, Lee, and Klay Thompson.

Feb 22, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Steve Blake (25) celebrates after a play against the Brooklyn Nets during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 93-86. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Second, the Warriors need consistent production from the bench. The reserves were a significant reason why the Warriors were able to pull out a win against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. They allowed the starters to rest more than usual, and they out-scored the Pacers’ bench 34-11.

Harrison Barnes is starting to find his groove as a reserve, Jermaine O’Neal has been a beast on the boards and on blocks and he’s a valuable, veteran presence in the locker room, Jordan Crawford is finding ways to score and contribute, Draymond Green is doing a little bit of everything, and Steve Blake has been the perfect fit for this bench unit.

The Warriors have a lot of great pieces on the bench, so it’s just a matter of finding the right mix of players to play at the right time. Blake will certainly help in this area, because he is the type of player that makes the players around him better.

Third, another reason why the Warriors need consistent production from the bench is to preserve their health. The Warriors have had a bad history with injuries, and they need to make sure they monitor Curry and Bogut’s minutes.

Lastly, given all these areas, the Warriors need to find some consistency, in all these areas. Consistency is what breeds elite, championship contending teams, just look at a team like the Spurs. They’re the model for consistency and quality.

The Warriors’ defense has been pretty consistent, so they need to maintain that. They need to find a consistent rhythm on offense though.

If their bench can contribute offensively on a regular basis, this would give the Warriors an edge in many of their games. If the bench plays well, the starters get more rest, which will only benefit them when the playoffs start.

Consistency is key for the Warriors. If they can establish some consistency, they will ride some momentum into the playoffs.

LGW: Steve Blake Discusses Warriors’ Bench and Playoff Chances on KNBR

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

Steve Blake was only recently traded to the Golden State Warriors, but he sure thinks highly of his new team.

On Tuesday, Blake went on the Murph and Mac show on KNBR and showed his excitement about joining a winning team.

The Warriors were certainly excited about acquiring Blake too. When they traded for him, they acquired a player with a high basketball IQ and a strong work ethic.

Blake attributes his basketball knowledge to getting the chance to play with some great teammates over his 10-year NBA career in which he’s played for seven different teams.

He’s played with Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and Brandon Roy, and he also credits all the great coaches he’s played for with developing his basketball IQ.

“I’ve learned the game from a lot of different perspectives: different defensive concepts, the way coaches run offense,” Blake explained on KNBR. “For me, I just save all that stuff in my mind and try to get better from that.”

Based on his experience, he knows that team chemistry can take a basketball team far.

Blake won an NCAA Championship while he played at Maryland, and he credits that championship to the team’s commitment to playing together.

He sees that same team chemistry with the Warriors. He mentioned in his interview how impressed he was with how close the players are off the court and how they truly enjoy being around each other.

Read the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.

LGW: Golden State Warriors Bench: Starting to Find Their Groove

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the Golden State Warriors, the win last night over the Detroit Pistons wasn’t perfect.

Their superstar, Stephen Curry, struggled to shoot the ball as effectively as he normally does.

Their defensive anchor, Andrew Bogut, who had been out the past seven games with an injured left shoulder, wasn’t the dominant, defensive center that he normally is.

Their double-double machine, David Lee, was out with the flu.

However, the Warriors found a way to win because of their bench. The Warriors’ bench production has been heavily criticized this season, but in the past few games, the bench has made significant contributions to the Warriors’ wins.

On February 20th, the Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 102-99. Steve Blake made his Warriors’ debut during that game.

Although he scored just three points, Blake admirably led the second unit in the Warriors’ win, despite not having even one practice or shootaround under his belt.

Jordan Crawford also contributed to the Warriors’ win over the Rockets with his 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting.

Read the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.