The Warriors continue the “Murderer’s Row” portion of the schedule with a matchup in San Antonio. The Warriors are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Heat where they were outworked and bullied by Miami. But, this game will be another test for the Warriors as they continue to solidify that they are a legitimate playoff threat.
For the Spurs, they are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have been outscoring their opponents by an average of 18.2 points, so they are starting to settle in and play some of their best ball of the season. In addition, you can never underestimate that what the Spurs lack in youth and speed they make up in experience and execution. The Spurs play an “old man at the YMCA” type of game, but, in the end, you walk away shaking your head wondering how they ran you off the court.
The Warriors will have to overcome the loss of Stephen Curry for likely this game and probably tomorrow night at the Hornets. According the Rusty Simmons of SFGate.com, Curry has said that he won’t suit up again until he can pass all the medical and strength tests for his ankle. This is definitely a cautionary measure as a result of all the premature comebacks made in previous years. So, Jarrett Jack will again play the bulk of minutes at point guard spot tonight.
The Warriors struggled to execute in the halfcourt against the suffocating Miami defense, and this will be the case against the Spurs as well. San Antonio ranks 10th in opponent’s field percentage. If there are opportunities to get easy buckets in transition, the Warriors must take advantage of them.
However, that’ll be easier said than done against a Spurs team that is scoring at a pace of 103 points per game (third in the NBA) while shooting 48.7% (second in the NBA). In addition, the Warriors must not become a jump shooting team, a much too common theme in many of the losses this season. To execute in the halfcourt without Curry, the Warriors will probably rely on a heavy dose of David Lee in the post, and perhaps even Harrison Barnes, who has been showing some signs of breaking loose offensively over the last week or so. They will needs Barnes’ scoring to pick up the slack in Curry’s absence.
Lastly, the Dubs must care of the ball. The Warriors are 29th in turning the ball over which has been their Achilles heel all year. Without their primary ball-handler, they cannot give San Antonio extra possessions or the game will get out of hand quickly. The recent trend that has led to turnovers is when Warrior players (Thompson, Barnes and Jack being the main culprits) pick up their dribble at unfavorable points on the court, allowing the defense to anticipate passing lanes. That leads to turnovers and transition buckets the other way.
All the Warriors will be responsible for some ball-handling with Curry out, but they need to be aware of where they are on the court and not put themselves in a “precarious position,” as Jim Barnett says.
Keys to the Game
1. Bench Play. The Warriors bench against Miami was non-existent, partially due to Jack being moved to the starting lineup. Charles Jenkins and Draymond Green have to chip in some buckets to make this game competitive. Jenkins looked lost with the second unit against Miami and appeared rattled by the defensive pressure. Look for him to bounce back from that outing.
2. Unsung Hero. The points need to come from somewhere. The bench was silent during the Miami debacle. Expect someone (anyone, please!) to step up tonight if the Warriors are in the game. My guess: Jenkins.
3. Keep Tony, Tone, Toni out of the lane. Easier said than done. Parker routinely has big games against the Warriors due to porous defense. The Dubs have drastically improved in that department, so It will be interesting to see if Jack and Jenkins can limit Parker to shooting mostly jumpers. If they can’t, not only will Tony get his, but so will everyone else with wide open threes and easy dump offs for layups.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (23-14) at San Antonio Spurs (30-11)
WHERE: AT&T Center
WHEN: Friday, 5:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area
Prediction: Even if they follow the keys to the game, I think the Warriors will still be hard pressed to win without Curry against the Spurs, who are 17-2 at home this season. Too much to overcome, but they’ll fight the Spurs for three quarters. 103-95 Spurs.