In case you missed it, the Golden State Warriors thoroughly dominated the second week of the season. They deserve lots of credit for that, though it’s worth noting that their four opponents were very weak.
That changes this week, as the Dubs face off against two teams who were in the Western Conference playoffs last year, including one team that’s off to a very, very hot start.
Position entering the week
Conference standings: 1st
Net rating: 2nd (+11.9)
This week’s games
Monday, October 29 at the Chicago Bulls (2-4)
When: 5:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: Can Klay Thompson get it going? The Bulls are a tremendously horrific defensive team, so Thompson should get his fair share of good looks.
Why they could win: Chicago is young, inexperienced, and, quite frankly, bad. The Warriors should feast on these teams.
Why they could lose: The Bulls aren’t good, but the Warriors aren’t always incredibly interested in taking bad teams seriously. Golden State nearly squandered a big lead against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, then had to travel to Chicago, just to play a back-to-back against the Bulls.
Opponent to watch: Zach LaVine. After signing a massive extension in the summer, LaVine has made the Bulls look smart with his early season play. He’s averaging 29.3 points per game, and having the most efficient year of his career, by a mile. His defense is still very bad, but he’s been an impact player, and will be fun to watch.
Wednesday, October 31 vs the New Orleans Pelicans (4-1)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: How does Damian Jones do? Jones will be matched up against Anthony Davis, who has been on an MVP pace to start the season. That’s a tall task for anyone.
Why they could win: New Orleans has been excellent to start the year, but lacks depth and quality wing play beyond Jrue Holiday. If one or two of the Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson triumvirate goes off, it could be a very good night at Oracle Arena.
Why they could lose: Teams with strong interior options have given the Warriors some fits in recent years. Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle are averaging a combined 67.5 points per game, on ridiculous efficiency. They could cause some trouble.
Opponent to watch: Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic has done a tremendous job taking over for DeMarcus Cousins as Davis’ running mate. He’s averaging 23.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.5% from three-point range.
Friday, November 2 vs the Minnesota Timberwolves (2-4)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN, NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: The Timberwolves are highly dysfunctional, and have utterly botched the Jimmy Butler trade demand situation. As a result, their play fluctuates between disinterested and disconnected, and motivated and energetic.
Why they could win: Minnesota has a lot of weaknesses where the Warriors can attack. Of their three perimeter starters - Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague - only one is a competent defensive player. Admittedly that one (Butler) is a really, really good defender, but two out of the Curry, Durant, and Thompson trio will be guarded by poor defenders.
Why they could lose: Dysfunction and weakness aside, Minnesota is a highly talented team, that was well on their way to home court advantage in last year’s playoffs before Butler suffered an injury. Any time they put things together, they are a very difficult out.
Opponent to watch: Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns seems to be the player suffering most from the Butler drama. He reportedly only signed his extension under the pretense that Butler would be gone, but here we are. Towns has looked timid and unmotivated for much of the year, and his scoring, rebounding, and efficiency have all plummeted. That said, he’s still one of the most talented players in the world, and can go off on any night.
This week’s storylines
Can Klay get it going?
If you think that I’m recycling storylines, you’re entirely right. This is what I led with last week, too.
The bearded Splash Brother is now at just 5-36 from beyond the arc on the year. The buckets are coming, it’s just a matter of when.
I’d prefer soon.
Time for Bell and Cook?
Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook both played integral roles on last year’s championship team, but as of late they’ve had a hard time finding minutes. We’ll see if Steve Kerr can find some time for the youngsters, and if they make the most of it.
Separation at the top
The season is long, but it’s never too early to start looking at the standings. Last year, the Houston Rockets bested the Warriors in the regular season to earn the top seed. The Warriors are looking to get it back this year, and already have a strong head start.
Golden State is already four games ahead of the limping Rockets (1-4), and now James Harden has suffered a mild injury. We’ve got a long way to go, but the Warriors could give themselves enough separation this week that it never gets close again.