Despite having to make the trek out to Salt Lake City yesterday, GSoM friend Tim Kawakami found some time to graciously do another great playoff Q&A with us. Tim always brings a fresh perspective to the Bay Area and Warriors sports scene. Make sure to make Tim's blog Talking Points with Tim Kawakami a daily stop. Also, make sure to check out his work in the San Jose Mercury. Tim's always got the latest scoop on the Bay Area sports scene and some great insights. Warriors Nation is lucky to have Tim covering the Warriors.
Golden State of Mind: As we saw in the Dallas series a major key to winning in the playoffs is having confidence. The Warriors just pulled off the biggest upset in NBA history, while the Jazz just came through in the clutch against a solid Rockets team on the road in a hard fought Game 7. Which team do you think has more confidence right now?
Tim Kawakami: Winning Game 7 on the road is big for Utah, but the Confidence Team in this series has to be the Warriors, who turned the Mavericks into a pile of 67-victory smoke and ashes. That's the beauty of Don Nelson's approach in these playoffs--they play fast, loose and cocky, and once you get momentum like that, it's hard to stop. They just keep coming and coming.
I do think that Utah is better positioned to slow down the Warriors because the Jazz has the size and discipline that Dallas didn't. And at some point, the Warrior tidal wave is going to ebb a bit. Right? At some point? But any team with Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson playing at their highest, most aggressive level is going to have the confidence edge in a series.
A Warrior official told me recently that Jackson flat-out scares a lot of opponents into surrendering before the game really gets going. Let's see if he scares the Jazz.
Golden State of Mind: Warrior fans have finally been recognized as some of the best in the league. Dallas fans seemed pretty tame, but Utah fans are known for being some of the loudest. The Warriors have yet to play in a hostile environment, but they will in Utah. Do you think the Utah fans will affect the Warriors? How do the Warriors take the crowd out of the game?
Tim Kawakami: Yep, Utah will be a much tougher road court than Dallas. I think Dallas is loud, but that arena was also full of pressure--Dallas was the No. 1 seed, was supposed to win the championship, and the pressure was always there.
The Utah fans will feel a challenge to be just as loud as the Warrior fans. Everybody saw what effect the Oracle explosion had on the game; Utah will want to do the same. How do the Warriors keep the crowd out of it? I don't know that they can, entirely. I've been at that arena for some really tough games, and the crowd is there the whole time, through good and bad.
I think they'll especially get all over Baron and Jackson, which isn't terrible for the Warriors, because they're the two guys who can take it. We'll see if Al Harrington and Monta Ellis, who will have to provide more than they did in Round 1, can shake off the jitters and perform on the road in this series.
That's what it's going to take for the Warriors to steal a game in SLC and to tamp down the crowd: Ellis going to the rim, Harrington hitting a few early 'threes.'
Golden State of Mind: A lot of sports analysts claim that matchups were the ONLY reason the Warriors so effective against Dallas, not because the Warriors are a good team. To what extent do you agree with that and with that logic in mind, do you think there are any Jazz players that might be X-factors or matchup nightmares for the Warriors? My bet is that Matt Harpring will school them... (DJ Fuzzy Logic)
Tim Kawakami: Harpring's a good call. Harpring is a perfect example of the kind of player Dallas doesn't have--all elbows, shoulders and nice dives to the hoop. The Warriors have played tough for six weeks now, and Harpring can answer that. Harpring vs. Matt Barnes. Yeah, I like that one.
My pick, though, for a Jazz X-factor is Mehmet Okur, who basically is the player Troy Murphy dreams of becoming. Okur isn't terrible on the post, so the Warriors have to put somebody big on him (Jackson?), but he can light it up from mid-range and three-point distance, too, and he's a key part of the Jazz's huge rebounding edge. What am I talking about? The Warriors will probably zone the Jazz a better part of this series.
I do think the Warriors have fewer match-up advantages against Utah than they did against the Mavs. But I also think that they didn't beat Dallas ONLY because they could exploit the Mavs' soft middle and because Nowitzki was lost against Jackson.
The Warriors are a good team now because they're fearless. It's very, very hard to get a team to lose it's fear of failure in the playoffs, and somehow, Nelson's got the Warriors thinking every shot they take, they're going to make. I don't know how long it'll last, but it's perfect while it lasts. And it's not just about match-ups.
Golden State of Mind: An interesting subplot in this second round series is Derek Fisher vs the team that traded him a salary dump early in the summer. Does Fish harbor any ill feelings towards that team that dumped in the Salt Lake? Do the Warriors hold any grudges towards a player who reportedly either wanted a starting spot or a buyout from the Warriors? How do his former teammates on the Warriors feel about him?
Tim Kawakami: I don't think Fisher is bitter that the Warriors traded him, since I believe he wanted to be traded and the Jazz was a better situation for him. I think it's more a case of Fisher being disgusted that he wasted two years in Warriorland, when the Warriors weren't ready to win. I think he would've loved to be part of the current Warrior team, but he didn't want to stick around to see if it could work out.
Grudges? Doubt it. NBA players understand when the situation isn't right. Baron is friendly with Fisher and I doubt that has changed. I think the best Warrior players respected Fisher and still do. I think Fisher respected some things about the Warriors, and still does. What bugged Fisher about playing for the Warriors was the lack of a cohesive plan, which started with Montgomery and permeated everything, until it all changed with the Indiana mega-trade. What bugged the Warriors about having Fisher around was that he just didn't fit in a Baron-centric world. Everybody understands that. No bitterness.
Golden State of Mind: Baron Davis flat out dominated Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavs and was arguably the NBA's MVP for the first round of the playoffs. What kind of game plan do you expect from Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan to try to slow down BD? Will Sloan have Deron Williams or Derek Fisher D him up one on one? Or will Baron see a lot of double teams? Given his Game 7 hamstring injury and Sloan's physical style of hoops, how do you see BD playing in this series?
Tim Kawakami: This will probably be a much tougher series for Baron than the last one, and we know he barely made it through the last one. My guess is that Fisher starts on Baron early (the way he started on Tracy McGrady), bumps him around, gets a ton of help from the Jazz sea of hard bodies, then turns it over to Deron Williams late.
Williams and Jason Kidd are the only two point guards in the league who can stay with Baron physically, so that's a match-up I'm going to enjoy watching through this series. But it'd be foolish if Utah doesn't try to bang Baron some--Dallas tried that with Buckner and George, and gave up after he kept spinning those guys around. The Jazz guys won't get spun around. I think this could be a tough, tough series for Baron, but knowing him, I think he'll still find a way to make a large impact.
Stay tuned for Part II later this afternoon!
Also check out Tim's blog post previewing the series: Warriors vs. Utah in Round 2: It’s the right match-up