The Golden State Warriors kicked off the first week of their regular season on a strong note. The coaches and players have been prepping for the season for the past few weeks and their growth and improvement as a team is visible on the hardwood. At the same time, the Warriors have shown weaknesses, some easily correctible, others requiring more attention from head coach Mark Jackson and his staff.
The Dubs’ 2013-14 season started off at home in Oracle Arena in a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. All last year, I was critical of shooting guard Klay Thompson for his horrible shot selection and visible loss of confidence in his shot. All that seemed to be a thing of the past as the man often ridiculed as “Klunk” scorched the Lakers defense by hitting five 3s out of seven attempts and going 15-for-19 from the field for 38 total points. The Warriors played lights out in this game, with the only negative being Marreese Speights over-active trigger finger (more on that later). This was one of the best ways to start the season for the Warriors as they executed the game plan flawlessly and kept Pau Gasol along the perimeter, where he is less effective.
The Warriors’ second game of the young season took place against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. This game had its positive moments, but there were many negatives as well. Chris Paul exploited the Warriors defenders as he had an MVP-like performance; he had 42 points, 15 assists and six steals while having his way with the different looks Mark Jackson threw at him. Almost every perimeter player had a shot to defend Paul, but nothing worked against the league’s top point guard. One of the Dubs’ weaknesses last season was their inability to guard opposing point guards, and CP3 verified that the Dubs hadn’t improved in that aspect.
What made matters worse was that the Warriors, who were the fourth-best rebounding team last year, looked helpless on the boards. DeAndre Jordan gathered 10 offensive rebounds by himself while David Lee and Andrew Bogut often looked on helplessly, slow to react on multiple missed shots.
Then came the turnovers. The Warriors gave up the rock a whopping 28 times and the Clips capitalized on them, scoring 50 easy points as a result of those turnovers. Stephen Curry was the main culprit as he was careless with the ball and was bullied by the strong, aggressive defense of Paul.
The offense was a bright spot for the Warriors as Curry’s nine made 3s kept them in the game. They also got Andre Iguodala more involved as he managed to get a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists. Bogut also hit double figures points-wise, notching 17. They needed to get Klay more touches, however, as it seemed as if he had disappeared from the game after the first quarter. The bench didn’t provide much help for the Warriors in this one either. If that group could provide more meaningful minutes, it would be a huge boost for the starters.
Mark Jackson had an obvious gameplan against the Sacramento Kings and the players had executed it perfectly. Jackson fed Bogut the ball into the post in an attempt to force DeMarcus Cousins to gather many early fouls and the young big man had fallen into Jackson’s trap. After two quick frustration fouls in the first quarter, Cousins was pulled from the game by former Warriors assistant coach and current Kings lead man, Mike Malone. Cousins only played for a total of 18 minutes and the Kings best offensive weapon had been stifled.
It was smooth sailing for the Warriors after “Boogie” Cousins’ benching and I actually even stopped watching by the end of the third quarter. The Warriors dominated as both Curry and Thompson scored efficiently from the field, nailing 18 out of their 30 combined shots. One thing that does worry me is that the Warriors had lost the rebounding battle again, just not in the same dramatic fashion as was seen against the Clippers.
This Week’s Pros:
The Warriors starters are all on the same page, offensively. They play unselfishly and are firing on all cylinders. I do like having Iguodala handling the ball, but would like him to attack the basket more often. Not getting Klay Thompson more touches against the Clippers is inexcusable, especially with No. 11 shooting the ball with confidence after last season’s up-and-down performance.
Defensively, I love the extra dimension Iguodala brings. His long arms are disrupting passing lanes and it leads to tipped passes and forced turnovers by the Warriors. He does seem a bit rusty when it comes to his own man assignments, but he recovers extremely well and is able to challenge shots, even when he does get beat.
Draymond Green also deserves a mention, as he’s been the perfect sixth man in Harrison Barnes’s absence.
This Week’s Cons:
The Dubs still can’t guard the elite point guards, and with the position being so deep talent-wise in the NBA, this is a real concern. Toney Douglas was brought in to be that stopper, but he has his own offensive deficiencies and shouldn’t be trusted with the ball too often. Douglas is also trigger-happy and just isn’t the floor general Jarrett Jack was.
The absence of Jack and Carl Landry are being felt as the bench play is terrible outside of Draymond Green and the few minutes of Kent Bazemore is given. Marreese Speights shoots way too many long-range 2s and has an affinity with taking those contested jumpers. A man his size should be playing a lot closer to the basket going for easier shot attempts. Toney Douglas is making me miss Jack’s methodical approach to the game, especially since the only thing on Douglas’s mind is to shoot whenever he gets the ball.
The team’s rebounding issues are also worrisome. It seems to me like it’s just an awareness issue on Bogut and Lee’s part. They just haven’t shaken off the rust yet. Mark Jackson might need to reinforce the fundamentals of boxing out to them.
Next Week’s Preview:
Golden State starts off a four-game road trip in Philadelphia to play against the undefeated Philadelphia 76ers (this just doesn’t seem right). If the Warriors could keep rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams in check, this should be, theoretically, an easy win.
The Dubs’ next three games get a lot tougher as they go up against the rejuvenated Timberwolves, who are led by Kevin Love’s torrential start. Expect that game to be an extremely entertaining shootout thanks to the flashy playmaking of Ricky Rubio, Love’s ability to make a shot everywhere on the floor and Nikola Pekovic’s low-post game.
Last season, the Spurs and Warriors had extremely memorable games, which carried on into the playoffs. If Jarrett Jack had remembered his defensive assignment in Game 1, the entire result of that series could’ve been different. This’ll be the first rematch between the two teams since the playoffs.
The Warriors wrap up their road trip with a visit to Grizzlies, who have dominated the Dubs ever since the Tayshaun Prince trade last year. The result of this game will lie in the play of David Lee and Andrew Bogut. If they can handle Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Warriors have a strong chance to win, especially since Grizzlies don’t have many threats from the perimeter outside of Mike Conley.