Hopefully, the third time’s the charm for the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs host the Denver Nuggets tonight for the third time this year. Coming off a pair of defeats to George Karl’s squad, the Warriors will need to raise their level of play if they want to avoid the early-season trifecta.
Here are a few keys areas the Warriors need to focus on tonight:
(And by the way, since Gregg Popovich is resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker against the Miami Heat in the only other game of the night, you can spend the time you would have devoted to that game right here, committing the following trenchant analysis to memory. You’ll be smarter for it, and can thank me later).
Keep Ty Lawson the Hell Out of the Paint
The Warriors’ pick-and-roll defense this year has changed. You may have noticed how frequently the guard chases the ball-handler over the top of the screen, a departure from last year’s preferred strategy of having the big man show way out on the ball-handler. Overall, we know the change in strategy is working; the Warriors’ defensive numbers are all vastly better than they were a year ago. The problem is that chasing ultra-quick guards over screens gives them a chance at a running start toward the lane.
And there aren’t many guards faster than Ty Lawson.
Lawson has gotten into the lane with ease in both contests against the Warriors this season, and once there, he’s been carving up the Dubs’ interior defense with quick passing to Denver’s athletic bigs. As a result he’s averaging 9.5 assists per game against the Dubs—his best figure against any team this year. If the Warriors expect to have a chance tonight, they’ve got to keep Lawson out of the lane. Failing that, they’ll have to stay home on their defensive assignments and hope Lawson can’t beat them at the rim himself.
Match the Intensity
Boy, that’s a lame cliche. But still, the Warriors really do need to play with the same fight that the Nuggets bring to every contest. Denver’s Kenneth Faried plays with about as much energy as anyone in the league, and he’s the guy who sets the tone for the Nuggets. There’s really no way to slow down his pace, so the Warriors’ frontcourt players must match his intensity.
If that doesn’t happen, Faried (along with the rest of Denver’s super-athletic lineup) will be a handful on the boards and in transition.
The Warriors, despite defensive improvements, still foul at one of the highest rates in the league. Part of the reason for that is the guards’ penchant for getting a little handsy (I’m looking at you, Steph). Another problem is the team’s inability to get out of the way when players are out of control.
Danilo Gallinari has changed his game over the past year or so. Instead of bombing away with high efficiency from the perimeter, all he does now is barrel into the lane hoping to draw a foul. He’s out of control often, and typically doesn’t even have designs on finishing plays. He just wants to get hacked.
The Warriors need to recognize this and either play sound position defense to draw charges, or simply retreat as he stumbles around on his own, looking for contact.
Just Win, Already
We get it—the Nuggets are probably a better team than the Warriors. But they’re not “three wins in a row” better. The Dubs need to take care of business tonight, because the next matchup will be back in Denver, where road teams go to die.
Tip-off is at 7:30 Pacific on TNT, unless the early game runs late (which it will), so just plan on 7:45. Cool? Cool.