GameThread #4: Philadelphia 76ers @ Golden State Warriors - Happy(?) New Year!! + Taking a Peek at the Early Returns

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Tip-Off: 6:00pm PST

TV: CSN Bay Area HD | Radio: KNBR 680

Blog Buddy: Liberty Ballers | Q&A with Mike Levin

Tonight the Golden State Warriors hope to ring in the new year on the Liberty Bell (the Sixers do bring that with them when they play on the road, right?). Unfortunately Monta Ellis is expected to miss tonight's game to be at home with his family after recently losing his grandmother. While Monta takes some time to deal with things more important than basketball, there is some good news on the court for the Warriors: Steph Curry is expected to return tonight!

Hit the jump for an update on Curry's ankle and a very early look at how this team stacks up in this very young season. In case that sentence wasn't enough of a disclaimer... WARNING: VERY SMALL SAMPLE SIZES AHEAD!!

Steph Curry, Back in the Saddle

You can check out the whole story here, but let me share a couple quick quotes that I found promising.

Curry took a flight to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., on his day off Thursday to work in the company's lab on a lower, wider shoe that will give him extra support. Team trainers also are trying a new taping technique for his oft-injured ankle.

While the shoe angle is interesting, I think a good tape job is likely to have a bigger impact on ankle support, at least in the short term.

"I wanted to get in the lab and see if there was something about the shoes I was wearing that maybe didn't fit my foot right or something that maybe we could do to put in the shoe to make sure I don't turn my ankle to the outside because I naturally have that rotation," Curry said. "They're still analyzing all the data that we collected. I changed to do a different style of Nikes for (Saturday), and hopefully that will help and I would think we found a fit that will allow me to avoid those injuries."

It sounds like they took a pretty intense look at Curry's mechanics. I wonder if we'll be seeing a sprain-proof Steph Curry signature snow-shoe coming out in the coming months.

Who are these Warriors?

As I've said more than a couple times, I feel like I'm getting to know this team one game at a time. I'll be the first to tell you that doing any kind of serious statistical analysis after three games is a pretty silly thing to do, but hey, I'm hungry for some numbers so let's do some not-so-serious statistical analysis. Bring your own pinch of salt.

Offensive Efficiency:

Last year the Warriors ranked about middle of the pack on offense (13th) and so far this year they are in the same neighborhood (16th). We've seen the offense click for short spurts, but this team hasn't yet hit their stride on that end of the court. Their defense should spring them for more easy fast break buckets, but they will have to find some reliable half-court options as the season continues.

Defensive Efficiency:

This was obviously a struggle for this team last season as they placed squarely in the bottom third of the league (26th) and it shouldn't be any surprise to anyone who's watched the games so far that there has been a significant turnaround there. So far in this young season the Warriors are in the top third, ranking 6th. We've seen this team do it in different ways, creating a ton of turnovers against the Bulls, and holding the Knicks to 40% shooting. I think getting a couple early wins with a banged up Curry will probably go a long way to getting this team to continue to buy in to the coaching staff's continuous preaching of defense.

The Power of the Free Throw Line

We know how important it is to get to the line, and we also know that last years team was horrible at it. They were dead last in Free Throw Rate, and second to last in Opponents FTR. That ugly combo made them last in FTR Differential by a huge margin. They were shockingly worse than any other team in the league. So far this year they are about middle of the pack in FTR Differential, and if they can continue to play aggressive defense without sending the opposing team to the stripe repeatedly, that would be a huge benefit to the team.

That's about all the time I'm prepared to spend looking at team numbers that are likely to change pretty dramatically as the season moves on, but after only three games against some pretty tough opponents I think there are some very promising signs. We'll continue to keep an eye on things, but I can't help but feel good about this team and what they've shown us early on.

Enjoy the game, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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