Golden State Warriors (28-17) vs. Dallas Mavericks (19-26)
7:30 p.m. PST
Oracle Arena - Oakland, CA
TV: TNT | Radio: KNBR 680
Buddy Blog: Mavs Moneyball
Q&A: Why so glum, Mavs fans? | How legit are the Warriors?
One way to summarize the joy of having center Andrew Bogut back in the Golden State Warriors' lineup came courtesy of a Jim Barnett comment early in the third quarter of Monday's win against the Toronto Raptors.
Klay Thompson had just knocked down a three from the right wing early in the shot clock to extend the Warriors' lead to four but Barnett noted - correctly - that the Warriors had missed Bogut rolling to the basket off a high pick and roll with Curry (and really again after Curry swung the ball to Thompson for the three).
Barnett was calling for the Warriors to reward their big man for running the floor and making the right cuts to the basket on a few possessions and putting himself in position to score. At the same time, he had to acknowledge that Thompson was having a "beautiful game". And then Curry came down a possession later and hit one of his patented ridiculous pull-up threes in transition. Just prior to Thompson's shot that triggered Barnett's note about missing Bogut, Harrison Barnes scored on a drive to the basket, which was set up by Bogut's ability to handle the ball a bit and hand the ball off to Curry who picked up an assist.
Bogut had an obvious impact on the game without even scoring a point during that sequence, but creating more options for the Warriors offensively that would put a strain on any defense; with Bogut back in the lineup, this is a unit with options to spare on offense. And the possibilities that offers this unit really is beautiful to watch unfold, even when they pass on one opportunity to capitalize on another.
There's a poll over at SB Nation's Mavs Moneyball today asking which Golden State Warriors player worries them most, with All Star forward David Lee leading the way as of this posting likely due to the Mavs' persistent rebounding struggles this season. Yet for the first time in a very long time, it's possible to say legitimately that the strength of this Warriors unit is probably greater than the statistical sum of its parts: they can at once stretch the floor with three point shooters and force double teams with a legitimate interior presence in ways that in theory - or perhaps just the wildest extremes of my imagination - make them nearly impossible to defend.
Although its tempting to look at this team and wonder if they have that singular superstar that can put them over the top against the league's elite, it's also reasonable to say that they haven't come anywhere close to maximizing their potential even as they have established themselves as a legit playoff team. And Barnett's comment really sort of highlighted the key to that: this team will go as far as their selflessness and willingness to make the extra pass takes them rather than needing to climb on one sturdy individual's back to lead them as close as they're destined to come to the promised land.
Of course, playing selfless ball has not at all been a problem for the Warriors this season - it's the thing that has stood out as most impressive about them all season, as described well by Jarrett Jack in an article by SB Nation's James Herbert the other day.
"When you play hard for somebody else -- because we play for each other in this locker room -- I think when you do that, your goals fall right in line as well," Jack said. "I take the floor every time to help D-Lee get to the All-Star Game, help Steph get to the All-Star Game or help somebody get another year on their contract if they're a free agent, help coach Jackson get Coach of the Year. Those are the reasons why I take the floor and try to play as hard as I can, not so much for the benefits I'm going to reap on my own individual situation."
But the next step for this team is fully integrating Bogut into the flow of things, which there is probably room for improvement on as Barnett observed even if it's a minor quibble given that the strength of their other options. And once Bogut does get into better game shape and his teammates do start hitting him at the right time and in the right place, this team will be a force to be reckoned with for any opponent.
Whatever we witness tonight against Dallas, it probably won't be anything near the quality of basketball we can expect to see in April when the Warriors take the court in the playoffs (and forgive me for looking ahead that far - I'm already unreasonably giddy about this). In the meantime, it's going to be fun just looking for those little moments that offer glimpses of how amazing this unit could end up becoming once everything comes together at full potential.