Saturday, April 02, 2016

Wrinkles in Time for the Warriors-- and the Spurs

Golden State's loss to the Celtics on Friday night shakes up the rest of the regular season schedule, possibly for the Spurs as well as the Warriors.

The loss meant that the Warriors will not be the first team to win out at home for an entire season.  But the Spurs still can be.

The loss also means the Warriors must win one of its two remaining meetings with the Spurs to surpass the Bulls' season record by one game.

It also means that the Warriors will have to win one of its remaining two road games, either at San Antonio (where this Warriors team, like many before it, has not won) or in Memphis.  And of course, win out at home against Portland, Minnesota--and the Spurs.

What both the Warriors and to a lesser extent the Spurs do about resting their starters will likely be determined game-by-game by outcomes.  If the Warriors lose more than one game, Steve Kerr may well opt for rest.That will also depend on when the Warriors clinch the best overall record, giving them home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Which will also factor in whether or when the Spurs rest their vets.

Now the Warriors cannot tie the record by winning their home game against the Spurs.  That might lessen the pressure on the Spurs, and they might rest their veterans for that game.

But the game in San Antonio might be different.  If the Spurs haven't lost at home at that point, they would be highly motivated to go all out to win over the Warriors, so they can be the first team to win out for an entire season.  If the Warriors still have the 73 win possibility, they too will send out their starters.  But if either or both conditions don't pertain, this game may well be played by backups.

As for the Celtics game, the Warriors most prominent vulnerability was in evidence: turnovers.   Also the loss of Andrew Bogut in the second half allowed Boston to keep pace offensively.  Steph Curry and the team made adjustments to free Curry in the second half, but Klay Thompson was stifled--that's a problem.  Still, the tying shot rattled off the rim at the end of the gain, and there wasn't enough time for Curry to reload.  

In the end, of course, it's one game at a time.  And Sunday's game against Portland is no gimme, especially with Bogut listed as questionable, and neither Iguodala or Ezeili apparently ready to play.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tonight's Challenge (Update: Met!)

As the season record gets closer, Golden State Warriors are doing what is expected of a great team--winning against inferior opponents at home.  (Although as more teams adopt their style of play, no game is safe.)  In a few hours they face one of the remaining obvious tests: less than 24 hours after their home victory Tuesday, they are playing in a different time zone and altitude, in Utah.  If they win this game, the record comes more than a game nearer.

After the game....

The Warriors victory over the Jazz in overtime may be their most significant win in months.  This was not only one of their biggest remaining tests of the regular season run at the record (and possibly their biggest), it may be their last playoff preview.

This is especially true if--as Tony Parker is saying--coach Popovich rests his starters in the remaining two Spurs games with the Warriors.  (Cautioning that such player statements have been tactical misdirections before. If the Spurs are still undefeated at home when the Warriors arrive, I don't see them giving that game away.)

This game showed two things.  The first is the basis of everything: the Warriors as a team have no significant weaknesses in their game. (Of course this game was not the first time this was exhibited.)  They can play defense, they can score in every way, they rebound, they steal, they block shots and they make their foul shots. They can protect the ball (though there have been more games lately when turnovers were higher than they should be.) And they are, as Steve Kerr likes to say, very competitive.  They will exploit any weakness of the other team.

The second is that even though they were playing at Utah altitude after getting there at 4 a.m. from a tough game at home, and were probably physically as well as mentally weary, they pulled up from their reserves the skills and effort to win.  The game in regulation was uneven, but they ran away with overtime--especially Steph Curry.  He wore the Utah defenses down.

 It all bodes well for the playoffs, and, oh yeah, the Record. It was their 68th win, the most in franchise history, one game shy of the Lakers record that the Bulls broke.  They can tie that one on Friday when the Boston Celtics come to Oracle Arena--a streaky team that's got a pretty good record, coming in for their second of a road back to back.