Photo by Gary A. Vasquez | US Presswire
The Golden State Warriors will face an inconsistent Dallas Mavericks team tonight that presents an opportunity to exploit a major weakness and head home satisfied after a 2-1 road trip.
Tip-off: 5:30 pm PST
Where: American Airlines Arena - Dallas, TX
TV: CSN Bay Area | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Mavs Moneyball
The major takeaway from the Q&A with Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball today: the Mavs are an inconsistent team in multiple areas of the game.
The Mavs' biggest weakness this season has been on the boards, where the Warriors have been pleasantly stronger than they have been in recent years with their increased frontcourt depth. But in being a relative weakness for the Mavs, the Warriors should be expected to do some damage on the boards, even on the road. The key statistic to watch tonight might be turnovers.
Key statistical battleground: Someone has to win the turnover battle
The challenge: While we've given plenty of attention to the Warriors' shooting woes this season, through 10 games the Warriors have turned the ball over more often than their opponents and actually have among the worst differentials in the league.
The opportunity: the Mavs are right down there with us in the turnover cellar, meaning someone has to win the turnover battle tonight.
Kirk did a pretty good job of describing why that's happening for the Mavs in his Q&A earlier today, which can essentially be summed up by saying that there's a pretty clear formula for opposing defenses to force the Mavs into offensive stagnation:
Turnovers have sporadically been a problem for Dallas as well; bad decision begets bad decision. Closing off access to Darren Collison to the paint has been big. Elton Brand's offensive game has gone the way of the dodo so there's often no high post outlet for the Collison PnR. When this happens the offense bogs down because Mayo is not very good at getting to the basket. That leaves Vince Carter as the only Maverick willing to hunt for his shot and the results aren't great because Carter isn't that guy anymore.
But what about the Warriors? Where are these turnovers coming from?
In both teams' cases, the fact that they have poor turnover differentials also indicates that they're not forcing any turnovers, which can be as much a calculated byproduct of a defensive strategy as a fatal flaw. But for now, we'll save the defensive side for another discussion and focus on the offense.
Early on this season, a fair amount of attention/vitriol was directed toward Curry for his turnovers. While it's true that he hasn't been a terribly efficient ball handler this season, as Kirk's description of the Mavs illustrates, it can be hard to pin a turnover problem on one player - at times it's a broken system. But looking down the Warriors' roster, one thing that really stands out is that without Bogut out of the lineup the Warriors are relying somewhat heavily on turnover prone posts to fill the minutes.
Statistics via Hoopdata.com.
Grated, these are players who haven't been playing major minutes consistently, but Biedrins and Ezeli have averaged a combined 27.3 minutes per game this season and are turning the ball over at a well above league average rate even for centers. Nor are they major factors on the offense - if you're hardly getting touches, nobody can really place the blame for turnovers on you; I'll readily admit this should not be the focal point of cutting down on the Warriors' turnovers. But if there's a reason the Warriors are forced into small ball, having a post rotation with two non-factors offensively - who could potentially harm the team by turning it over more if they did get more touches - is certainly the beginning of an explanation.
Overall, the combination of Curry being a relatively turnover prone point guard so far this season, having to play two relatively turnover prone centers, and the combination of poor shooting and too many isolations that make it easier on defenses guarding a team not especially known for its ability to penetrate will lead to miscues on occasion.
The hope would be that Bogut's return makes the offense a bit more fluid; the reality is that he'll still need to find a rhythm and build chemistry with his teammates as well.
Key matchups: the frontcourt
Despite the poor offensive showing from the Warriors' centers this season, this game against the Mavs does present an opportunity to for them to make a major contribution on the boards and, as mentioned above, it should almost be expected against a Mavs team that struggles to rebound.
That could mean a big night for Landry on the boards and getting second chance points by pure force of will, but it would be great to see Biedrins and Ezeli going to work on the defensive boards as well and making sure the Mavs don't get second chance opportunities if the defense can force their defense into jumpers.
Of course, that begins with cutting off that guard penetration to trigger the domino effect that Henderson described, but giving up second chance points to this team would be disappointing given their numbers to this point.
A winnable road game
Finishing this road trip 2-1 with a win tonight would be an encouraging sign for this team and everything points to it being a very winnable game.
And of course there's that fantasy of being over .500 late in November.
If the Warriors can take better care of the ball than the Mavs, force them into jumpers as they've been prone to do this season, and exploit what should be a rebounding advantage, they should be able to win this game.