Conspiracy theorists may wonder about the timing of the critical article released by Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN prior to their airing of the penultimate preseason game on their television network, but the preseason is supposed to be a time for team to prepare for the season.
In the case of the Golden State Warriors 2016-17 season, a very significant part of this preparation is dealing with media chatter like the ESS article. Steve Kerr doesn’t seem overly worried about it, but it sure is a lot to think about for all of us Warriors fans. And so it was that the Warriors headed into their penultimate preseason game in San Diego amid the breaking waves of media controversy fueled by an Ethan Sherwood Strauss article and a somewhat overshadowed profile of Kevin Durant.
As soon as the opening whistle blew, it was clear that the Warriors were set out to attack this game with a focus that offered one of those streaks of basketball that reminds us of the reason people are afraid of this team this year. After the Warriors got the tip, they dribbled down and eventually passed to an open Draymond Green for three. The ball was moving well in these opening possessions, the first basket was the result of some nice off-ball movement and nifty passing from Zaza Pachulia. Although he doesn’t have the best hands, even after fumbling the initial catch, Pachulia manages to find the correct pass every time.
The second Warriors basket was a Stephen Curry walk up three pointer, from a few feet behind the arch. This is the sort of play that is just disheartening for the opposition. Steph is able to shoot and score from outside the traditional “danger zone” and it appears as if the league’s defenses are still struggling to remember that. Just to finish out this initial possession set from the Warriors: on the next subsequent possession Klay Thompson gets a steal, and pushes down the court resulting in dump pass for an easy KD transition dunk...all of the sudden it’s 8-0 with less than a minute and a half elapsed. Lol timeout Luke Walton.
It doesn’t get any easier once play continues with Curry stealing a rebound from Mozgod, faking a three in transition and then getting sent to the line for two after being fouled on the drive. Steph seems well aware of the need to improve his double move, and you can see that he is going to fake the three and then use the hesitation to initiate his drive as one of his main go-to moves this year. He has talked about counters to the increasingly physical coverage, and I think this is one of them. After another steal by Steph (again) on the very next and yet another Dubs bucket makes it 12-0 before the first Lakers bucket manages to go in.
Pachulia made a number of great passes in this initial run, hitting cutters, making two very nice wrap-around dump passes after getting his man in the air, and generally doing the sort of facilitation Andrew Bogut has led us to expect from our starting center.
Looney and Andre Iguodala for Pachulia and Durant was the first substitution if you are watching for stuff like that. I think Looney has a good shot at passing James Michael McAdoo on the backup big depth chart. His nose for the ball and ability to run shoot and pass contributes to the sort of role player contributions that the team is looking for to fill in the cracks between all our superstars.
Another interesting thought: one of the Warriors’ secret weapons is the allure of their style of play. Maybe the Lakers want to play fast, but there were some ill-advised shots that I think were the result of them trying to keep up with the Warriors’ offense. It is clear that the Dubs are able to operate at a completely higher tier, but I think a lot of teams are going to try and run with us (and end up regretting it).
It all results in a score of 33-20 warriors at the end of the 1st. Klay and pachulia with 3 assists each and the Warriors look well in control.
However in the 2nd, the Lakers slowly chipped away at the lead and managed to close to within six points before a Steph Curry three pointer (on Klay Thompson’s 5th assist) brought the lead back up to nine and led to another Walton timeout with two minutes left in the half. The lead remained at nine at the half. But after winning the second quarter 23-19, the Lakers probably headed into the locker room telling themselves they did well to stop the initial bleeding.
Looking at the halftime stats, it was a pretty well-balanced attack: Curry and Durant both went for 10 points each, and Green and Thompson both chipped in 8 points. The Lakers…ehhhhh who am I kidding, nobody reading this cares. The Lakers were alright but they’re a young team. Much like the old days of Kobe and Shaq dominating us, the tables have turned now and it really feels like this young Lakers team has no chance at beating us.
Arrogant? Maybe. But you’d be arrogant to if you had a team doing stuff like this
Stephen Curry to a falling Kevin Durant who find Klay Thompson for the 3! https://t.co/fxgEtNiiGP— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) October 20, 2016
Oh, and also this : )
Kerr mostly stuck with the starters through the third and the Lakers played them to a virtual standstill, with the Warriors taking the quarter by a single point 35-34 and still leading by a comfortable double-digit margin, 87-77.
Side note: does anyone else feel like the 10-point lead is an emotional advantage? For my money, a double-digit lead is the mark of where you can relax a little as a basketball team. Anyways, Kerr brought in the reserves at this point and the Warriors held the Lakers at arms length for the fourth. Winning the quarter by a single point again and carrying them to an 11 point victory, 123-112.
Got to be Steph Curry!
In just under 31 minutes, he went absolutely bonkers for 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting (including 6-of-12 beyond the arc), five assists, five rebounds and three steals. Yeah, Durant is a fantastic addition who managed 27 points in 30 minutes (to go along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block), but Steph still feels like the most dangerous man on the floor.
(Sorry, I’m a rookie writer, I don’t know where to get the little circle picture for WW award! I’ll try and have it handy for my next recap!)
Kevon Looney and Javale McGee were the standout bench performers. As I mentioned above, Looney was the first big off the bench, and ended up pitching in 10 points (but nothing else). McGee only came in during garbage time, but didn’t miss a shot. It’s clear that the coaching staff is intrigued by these athletic, above the rim players. Just like Sleepy Freud predicted a long time ago, it appears increasingly likely that McGee is destined to be a Warrior this season. Final cuts should be made prior to Friday’s game, so we should get an indication of the final roster very soon.
Draymond came out focused, hitting the first shot in the game and going on to lead the team in plus / minus (plus 21 in just under 32 minutes), 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a steal fill out his stat sheet and are hopefully enough to begin to move the conversation back to his play on the court.
The Warriors are off tomorrow but return to work Friday morning for a shootaround in Oakland prior to facing the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night at Oracle.