I'll be perfectly honest: I don't miss the "Bobcats" team name at all. It didn't evoke passion or team pride; it felt like a college or XFL team name in the end, and it's a joy to see the Hornets name back. So when they were scheduled to come to Oracle on Saturday night, it was happy and refreshing to see a new start to a franchise that has seen its fair share of losing seasons and struggles. Fortunately for us, all the re-branding in the world couldn't help Charlotte Saturday night, as the Warriors steamrolled the Hornets en route to a 112-87 rout.
Don't be fooled, this MJ-owned and constructed Charlotte team doesn't look like a pushover anymore. It is a well-balanced roster with solid weapons like Kemba Walker, a Warrior killer; Al Jefferson, who is the brute on the block who always gives our teams troubles; and the seventh-grader Lance Stephenson, whose unpredictability and raw talent would scare me to go against.
The problem for the Hornets was they were coming off a tough road game in Phoenix and got utterly run off the floor. On Slate Night in Oakland (the uniforms grew on me as the night went on, but they still looked like exhibition jerseys), Charlotte looked a step behind, a touch off, and couldn't keep up. This one was a blowout by the end of the third, after huge second- and third-period runs by the Warriors. The scoring attack was balanced and the offense was running on all cylinders — take out the messy garbage time and the team was playing clean basketball all night long. Every one of the 13 players who dressed got playing time, and Steve Kerr was able to sit all his starters for the last period. Let's break down the matchup:
A few observations:
This Warriors' defense will keep them in most games this season
The swarming physical defense displayed by the Warriors will allow them to stay in most games this season, even when the shots are not falling. It was anchored by Andrew Bogut's fantastic work against Jefferson in the first half, and their length causing Stephenson and Walker problems getting to the rim. In fact, Draymond Green played Kemba from baseline to baseline, frustrating the young point guard right out of his game. They came out tonight rested and ready to go and it showed with consistent pressure on the ball, causing turnovers and a rough shooting night for the Hornets.
The Warriors' relentless speed and aggression wear teams down
The consistent pushing of the ball, passing and movement, will wear teams down as the season progresses. Charlotte made it obvious from the start they wanted to slow the game down to a grind, but the Warriors' commitment to run back every rebound and made shot forces teams on their heels and this will show progressively deeper into the season. The passing is starting to come together — smarter decisions lead to easy layups and not having to force the offense. It's all keyed by bigs who can pass (Draymond Green running the break, Andrew Bogut playing traffic controller on the high screen hand-offs), and a deeper commitment by the roster to run the break and space the floor. Imagine as well, David Lee is one of the better moving and passing big men in the league, and he has played fewer than 10 minutes so far this year. Get well soon, David #fullsquad.
We needed a blowout
This could have been a trap game — early season, young team comes to town and uses the momentum to sneak a victory. Charlotte did it in Phoenix Friday night, but this is not the same Warriors team that shot 31% against the then-Bobcats last year at Oracle. Huge second and third quarters made this one a laugher, and a 30-point lead in the fourth allowed the rookies and bench to be emptied out with plenty of time to play. By the time Stephen Curry hit the three to end the third, the question was not if the Warriors were going to win, but rather by how much. We even saw a few minutes of the highly anticipated twin tower lineup with Ezeli and Kuzmic to finish it. Don't include any of the garbage time minutes on anyone's highlight reel by the way ...
I'm sure the Hornets will have a great season, and it's a pleasure to see their new roster in action. I expect them to cause some team in the East some trouble in the first round of the playoffs this year. Sadly, they came up against a hungry Warriors team finally figuring out how to play with each other, and confident with their direction going forward. Not having to play the starters in the fourth goes a long way, especially as the schedule gets harder later in the season. The Warriors were the better team tonight, and it was pretty clear from opening tip that they were going to take care of business. Let's hope this is the start of many blowouts to come.