D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Warriors, Game 44
Washington is in the Bay Area tonight to take on the Golden State Warriors. This contest begins the toughest stretch of the season for the Wizards. The next five games (at Warriors, at Clippers, vs Thunder, vs Blazers, and vs Spurs) are against the elite of the Western Conference, and all teams legitimate in the championship conversation. These opponents currently have a combined record of 161 wins and 66 losses (.709 winning percentage). The whole ‘above .500’ narrative could be a forgotten topic very quickly.
Washington lost to Golden State, 112-99, earlier this month in Washington. In that match up, the teams battled to a high scoring and exciting first half. But the Wizards came out flat in the second half, and a Warriors 34-15 third quarter advantage determined the outcome. Bradley Beal and John Wall struggled shooting, while Klay Thompson and David Lee dominated.
The Warriors are coming off one of their most impressive victories of the season in defeating the Portland Blazers, 103-88, on Sunday night. The Wizards dropped a tough one in Utah on Saturday night. They have had a couple days off in San Francisco, so there should be no “tired” excuses. In the last Washington game in Oakland, John Wall got ejected for taunting at Thompson to go to the basket. It may be safe to say, it may not be safe to say, but here goes: I don’t think Wall likes him.
For our preview today, J.M. Poulard (@ShyneIV), from ESPN Truehoop’s Warriors World is up first, and then Steve Berman, the Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy), takes the wheel and drives to the basket.
Let’s BLOW THE WHISTLE…
Teams: Wizards at Warriors
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA
Television: CSN, CSNBayHD
Radio: WFED-AM 1500 The Fan
Spread: Golden State fav’d by 8 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: So Kyle Weidie riled up portions of the Warriors fan base when he called Klay Thompson an overrated shooting guard on ESPN in August. Exact words:
“It’s hard to blame the natural inflation via Golden State’s run last season and fuel from rabid Warriors fans. The fact is that Thompson is kind of a liability on defense right now and can’t really produce his own shot from close range. Thompson played in 38 more games than Eric Gordon last season but made only one more FG than Gordon from inside 12 feet. He’s good, just not as good as some think.”
What has Thompson done so far this season to shut him up? And has he made enough improvements on defense?
J.M. Poulard (@ShyneIV): Klay Thompson is on pace to make more field goals from inside 12 feet this season than he did last season, but that’s not necessarily his strong suit. Thompson is not much of a creator off the dribble, which often results in him firing contested jumpers.
Still, he does a fine job of curling off screens and finishing in transition. Also, his post-up game is decent, especially when he catches a smaller defender on him through a pick-and-roll switch. Defensively, his focus comes and goes, but when asked to slow down a good player, he is usually up to the task. Last season alone, he accepted the challenge of defending Carmelo Anthony and forced him out of his sweet spots. When locked in, he is the third-best perimeter defender behind Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green.
Q #2: Which Warrior have you been most pleasantly surprised with this season? Which Warrior has disappointed you the most?
(And if Harrison Barnes is the answer, then who after him?)
@ShyneIV: Andrew Bogut. If not for Roy Hibbert’s solid play this season, coupled with Mark Jackson’s penchant for preferring offensive five-man units to close out games, he would probably get more headlines for Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not that this was not expected from Bogut, but rather that there was no way to know if we he would physically hold up. The biggest disappointment has been Harrison Barnes. He has simply struggled with coming off the bench and anchoring the Warriors’ second-unit offense. Another candidate is Marreese Speights. He has progressively gotten better as the year has gone along, but he has not been up to par overall. He was brought in to stretch defenses with his mid-range jumper (one of his biggest strengths) but has struggled connecting from that distance.
Q #3: Pace adjusted, the Warriors commit 16 turnovers per 48 minutes, tied with the Bulls and Bucks for most in the NBA.
How much of a threat could this be to playoff aspirations and who is most responsible for getting that number down? Otherwise, what Golden State stat keeps you up at night? What stat allows you to sleep easier?
@ShyneIV: The Dubs turn the ball over far too much, plain and simple. They are not an incredibly disciplined offensive team, which tends to result in miscues. The tricky thing about a high-turnover team is that the sloppy ball-handling can occur at the most inopportune time. Stephen Curry is one of the main culprits, but he is hardly alone. It’s really a team issue.
As for a stat that allows Warriors fans to sleep easier? Meet #FullSquad.
Questions with @BASportsGuy…
Q #1: How has Jordan Crawford fared so far as a Warrior? What is your take on this acquisition?
@BASportsGuy: It would be an understatement to say the Warriors’ back court depth was lacking before the trade that brought Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks to Golden State. Mark Jackson definitely has a plan for Crawford, at least initially, and that includes playing him either 13 or 15 minutes per game (those have been his minutes totals in each of the five games he’s played since joining the Warriors). Crawford’s role is simple: provide offense off the bench. Crawford spent the first few games showing off his range, making a few really deep threes. I noticed during Sunday’s win against Portland that he was doing a better job penetrating and getting teammates involved, and I asked Jackson about that after Monday’s practice.
“He had his best game last night with us,” Jackson said. “Quality minutes, we put the ball in his hands and he made plays out of pick-and-roll or isolation situations.”
The jury is still out as to whether he’s a guy the Warriors will trust as one of their first options off the bench all season, but the trade was almost risk-free. They gave up very little (Toney Douglas, who was really struggling to fit in here) to get Crawford, and they still have time to evaluate what they have before the trade deadline.
Q #2: Harrison Barnes was an x-factor for Golden State in the playoffs last season. The Wizards passed on Barnes to select Bradley Beal in the 2012 NBA Draft. How is the Black Falcon developing in his sophomore season?
@BASportsGuy: The development of Barnes — or lack thereof — has been one of the biggest stories surrounding the Warriors in recent weeks. Barnes was a high-flier in the playoffs, but I can’t remember the last time he dunked in a game. After a ton of preseason hype he has been getting worse as the season has progressed, shooting under 40 percent in both December and January and bogging down the offense with his slow-motion isolation dribble-drive attempts. I recently overheard a team employee say Barnes is “a shell of himself,” and I can’t think of a better description. On a scale of 1-to-10 his confidence level is zero, and his struggles will probably cause Jackson to start revamping his rotation soon.
Q #3: Warriors fans have the reputation as one of the rowdiest home crowds in the NBA.
Is this just a playoffs deal or does it happen during regular season games as well?
@BASportsGuy: It’s not just the playoffs, although I’ve never heard Oracle Arena get louder than during the first round series against Denver (although the place certainly exploded after Baron Davis’ famous dunk in the 2007 playoffs against Utah). The Warriors are riding a 58-game sellout streak, but the fans were incredibly loyal throughout a woeful 18-year run where they only made the playoffs once. The area loves basketball, and have been willing to struggle through some really bad games and teams in hopes of someday getting a glimpse of something decent. Now that the Warriors are winning and playing an aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball (usually), the fans come to every game expecting to scream and cheer.
Q #4: Weirdly, Washington is a better road team than at home. The Wizards still only have one road victory against a team with a winning record (last Friday versus the Suns).
How do you see this game doing down? Who wins, why and by how much?
@BASportsGuy: The Warriors have shown a tendency lately to play to the level of their competition, especially at home where they’ve been a relatively disappointing 13-7. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Golden State suffered a bad loss at home to Minnesota on Friday where they allowed 121 points which appeared to teach them a lesson of sorts. However, the Wizards might be a little more motivated for this game after the Warriors went on that 30-5 third quarter run against them a few weeks ago. The Warriors are favored by eight, but David Lee and Andrew Bogut are banged up. My feeling is the game will be a little closer than most expect and the Warriors will win by five or six on the strength of another great offensive showing from Stephen Curry (71 points and 23 assists in his last two games).
…with J.M. Poulard (@ShyneIV):
Have you hugged your inner Jordan Crawford today?
@ShyneIV: The real question is “why haven’t you…”?
When should we expect to see Justin Beiber wearing #FullSteez t-shirts instead of #FullSquad t-shirts?
@ShyneIV: Umm now?
Is there ever a time where you would not want to tell your momma about a man who’s going by?
@ShyneIV: Why do I feel like this is a rap song? And if it is, WHY DON’T I KNOW IT!!!!
How much of your liquid assets are tied up in Stephen Curry’s ankle?
@ShyneIV: All of them. Little known fact about Steph’s ankles: they have appeared in 300 of a possible 394 games. That’s actually good right?