Round 2 Playoff Q&A w/ Tim Kawakami 5/7/07 (Part 2 of 2)

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.

We dropped Part I earlier this morning, here's Part Deuce:


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Golden State of Mind: Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko struggled early on in the Rockets series. If the Warriors are going to win the series, these two will have to be contained. Were their struggles due to a great game plan by Van Gundy to get them out of their games, or did they just not play well? What can the Warriors do to make sure that these guys don't have big games?

Tim Kawakami: Zone. ZONE. ZONE! Carlos Boozer is the answer to all that stuff for the Warriors--he's the reason they're going to have to play zone and he's the reason Kirilenko and Okur get so many good looks and paths to the rim. I think Okur and Kirilenko struggled early against Houston because they both struggle to find their offensive rhythm and the Rockets are very solid defensively. But once they find it--especially Okur--they can be very hard to stop. Usually, they find their rhythm after Boozer carves up some space, the defense reacts and suddenly, they have open shots.

How do the Warriors hold them down? Zone. ZONE. ZONE! The Warriors might give up some 'threes' if they fall back into a zone, but that's just what they'll have to live with--Dallas got decent long-range looks, and didn't hit them. It'll be the same with the Jazz, and the Warriors will have to collapse on Boozer and hope they get lucky once again with the three-pointers.

Golden State of Mind: Monta Ellis won the prestigious Most Improved Player award over guys like Deron Williams and Kevin Martin. Al Harrington's defense in the post and 3pt shooting were key factors in the Warriors' remarkable run to the playoffs. However, both players really struggled against the Mavs and by the end of the series both lost their starting spots. Was it all mental or did the Mavs figure out how to completely shut down these two guys? Do you see these two Warriors rebounding from their poor first round showing against the Jazz?

Tim Kawakami: I really don't think Dallas did anything special against Ellis and Harrington (or Richardson, truth be told) to keep them from doing much. Ellis and Harrington just couldn't match the intensity and speed of that series--but they'll have to find a happy place for this series, or else the Warriors will be in some trouble.

Other people have said it and I think I said it earlier in this Q&A: Ellis and Harrington could be the keys to the Utah series. I doubt Jackson will get all those Dirk-gift wide-open three-point looks. I don't think Baron will get through the defense as easily. Barnes is a wild-card, but Utah probably will be ready for him, too.

So that leaves Pietrus, Richardson, Biedrins, Harrington and Ellis. And I think Harrington and Ellis are the guys who Utah will allow to get up the open shots. They've got to create offense. They've got to hit the shots. They've got to make life easier for Baron and Jackson, and we'll see if they're up to it.

Golden State of Mind: Don Nelson dropped his rotation to 6 players with Al Harrington and Monta Ellis playing minor roles against the Mavs. Let's say worst case scenario and both of them struggle again- Will Nellie go with a short rotation again? How long can it last? Will the players tire out in this series against the more physical Utah Jazz? If Al and Monta don't step it up, will we be seeing more Kelenna Azubuike or any of the other bench players to give the starters some rest?

Tim Kawakami: Azubuike, maybe. But that's the extent of it. First, I don't think Nelson can get away with a short, short rotation against Utah. The Jazz is just too rugged to think you can get through a long series with a six- or seven-man rotation. They bounce you around, especially with their blind screens, and 37 minutes vs. Utah is like 50 against anybody else.

So if Harrington and Ellis struggle, Nelson might have to keep them out there, for at least 15 to 20 minutes apiece. It might not look real pretty. But, if only to give Baron, Jackson and Richardson some defensive rest, Ellis and Harrington can't be severe negative players in this series.

Somebody told me that Kenny Smith was saying on TNT that Jasikevicius could play a big role in this series. My response: Huh? That would make sense if Jasky was a guy who could jump in and hit a few threes and provide some defense in a five-minute stretch. But he's not that player. I think Kenny got some bad info on that one. No Warrior fan wants to see Jasky go up against Deron Williams for any amount of time.

Golden State of Mind: Utah Jazz big man Carlos Boozer is a beast who makes a living dominating the paint. He's a steady double double guy who has had some big games in the playoffs thus far. Why couldn't Yao guard this guy and what can the Warriors do to prevent him from going off? What type of numbers do you see Boozer putting up in the second round? What does Nellie have in store for Boozer to slow down the beast?

Tim Kawakami: I repeat: Zone. ZONE. ZONE! OK, maybe Biedrins can hang around Boozer just a bit. His length and footspeed could make Boozer work a little harder than normal. But we saw Boozer go 30 and 20 against Biedrins earlier this year, and that's possible again, if there's no ZONE. (Though Biedrins did just fine in the final regular-season meeting. With help, of course.)

Why did Boozer cook Yao so often? He did what everybody should do to Yao: Go at him, make him move his feet to get a better angle, get him tired. Boozer was the anti-Nowitzki. He just willed himself into the right spots against Houston.

I expect Boozer to put up decent numbers against the Warriors. But if he's at 22 and 10, the Warriors have a real shot. They lose (if I remember correctly, it's been so long since they've done any sustained losing) when they give up high-efficiency numbers, and Boozer can do that. If he goes for 30 and 15, that's the kind of inside efficiency that could take its toll on the Warriors. If he can't get up that many shots and isn't dominated on the glass, then that, to me, spells good things for the Warriors.

Golden State of Mind: What's your prediction for this series?

Tim Kawakami: You guys might blanche, since my picking against the Warriors seems to do them good, but I'm picking the Warriors to win in six games. I just can't see Utah winning at Oracle. I can't see anybody, except the Spurs, winning at Oracle. Too much noise. Too much love. Too much too-muchness.

That means the Warriors can win this series by taking any one of the first three games at SLC. I think they can do that. They might get blown out in the other two SLC games, but they can get red-hot and take one. I'm guessing it'll be Game 2. Baron finds lanes. Jackson and Richardson hit three or four threes apiece. Biedrins gets 16 rebounds and blocks four shots. Ellis and Harrington combine for 32 points and some good defense.

That's the recipe: Sweep at home, win Game 2 on the road, take it in another volcanic Game 6.

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All of us at GSoM wanted to thank Tim for another great Q&A and always taking the time to share his thoughts and analysis with the community. Tim has always shown us so much support.

Make sure to check out Part I of our Round 2 Playoff Q&A with Tim if you haven't already.

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