4 p.m. PST
Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana
TV: CSNBA/HD | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog buddy: Indy Cornrows
The Golden State Warriors' 102-94 loss back in January can be summed up with two lines from NBA.com's notebook accompanying the box score for the game.
- "The Warriors once again came out inexplicably lacking in energy during the first quarter."
- "Even with the home debut of new acquisition Jordan Crawford, the Warriors' bench provided scant production."
Yet the Warriors were down just three points with 3:44 left in the game, which is either an accomplishment or a tiresome comment in the narrative of this season.
The Warriors can compete with the best team in the league, but they certainly can't win if only five players show up and they spot the Pacers 14 points in the first quarter at home.
And this Pacers team is a bit different with Evan Turner in the mix and giving the team more thus far than Danny Granger did, including running the point for the first time in Saturday's win against the Boston Celtics as analyzed by Pro Basketball Talk's Dan Feldman.
With Turner the designated one, Stephenson sometimes assumes point-guard duties when he grabs the defensive rebound. Stephenson does the same with Hill, but is maybe less prone to deferring to Turner...Defensively, opponents are flummoxed with Indiana's taller lineups - often just passing the ball around the perimeter, afraid to throw an entry pass over or through the field of long arms. The number of long jumpers the Pacers have forced these last two games is in line with their season percentage - except when Turner plays point guard. Then, it skyrockets.
As Feldman does note, it's hard to read too much into what happened for the Pacers against the Celtics and Utah Jazz and with George Hill expected back tonight the Warriors probably won't have to worry about seeing much of that anyway. But it does underscore a point that people made after the Pacers made the trade that coach Frank Vogel has apparently embraced: Turner appears to make this roster a bit more versatile than it was before and, in turn, a bit more dangerous.
And this comes at a time when the Warriors, quite simply, need wins: they're currently in sixth place in the Western Conference, just a half game ahead of both Phoenix and Dallas in seventh and eighth place, respectively (who will both be visiting Oracle next week) and 1.5 games ahead of ninth place Memphis (which has won seven of its last nine games). Looking at the Warriors' upcoming schedule, perhaps this is a game that we (as fans) can chalk up as a loss and move on to thinking about getting wins elsewhere, but every bit counts with the competition just to get into the playoffs so tense.
And the three keys to this win are pretty easy:
1. Energy: This "slow start, make it up later" stuff is probably not going to work against the Pacers - it didn't work for the Warriors at home, it probably won't work on the road.
2. Bench scoring: Hey, we have a new addition too: Steve Blake! Of course, if the Warriors are flat to begin with, no single player is going to help. But this is a different bench, for whatever that's worth, and the Warriors need Blake's ball handling and shooting to help them win this game.
3. Not settling for jumpers: Again, let's highlight that Feldman was talking about 13 minutes against lottery teams in his commentary about Turner. But settling for jumpers is a problem that the Warriors can fall into at times, even if it's not one of the team's primary problems - a stretch of a few possessions of settling for jumpers against the Pacers could be enough for the game to get out of reach. If the Pacers are willing to go big with Turner running point at all, it would stand to reason that they'd try it against the Warriors as a means to slow down and frustrate Curry. That means that they have to find ways to get moving toward the rim instead of falling into the trap the Pacers lay for them.
Can the Warriors win this game? Absolutely. But it has become nearly impossible to figure out which Warriors team will show up game-to-game or quarter-to-quarter, making it hard to make predictions.
But feel free to leave yours in the comments.