The juggernaut is rolling at full speed, and the Golden State Warriors are looking about as good as they ever have. After a couple of softer opponents, the Warriors tested their mettle against a very good Boston Celtics team. Now, fresh off their four-point win in Boston on Saturday, the Warriors head into Indiana to take on the Pacers in the final game of this road trip.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (35-15) at Indiana Pacers (32-16)
WHEN: Monday, January 28; 4 p.m.
WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse — Indianapolis, IN
WATCH: NBCSBA, NBA TV
RADIO: 95.7 The Game
Blog buddy: Indy Cornrows
A team without their star
Victor Oladipo was having a breakout year while leading the surprising Indiana Pacers to the third seed in the East. He led the team in scoring with nearly 19 points per game and was near the top for the team in both rebounds (5.6) and assists (5.2) ...so losing him sucks. In case you missed it, he went down just two games ago on a non-contact play — the diagnosis is not good and he’s done for the season.
One of my favorite parts about sports in general, and the NBA specifically, is that once a player gets injured, everyone is immediately rooting for them hard! Here’s Demarcus Cousins, talking about injuries and how hard these men have to work to get back on the court.
DeMarcus Cousins just went through a grueling rehab. He feels for Victor Oladipo: “We put our bodies through so much in the NBA. I feel like it’s undervalued.” pic.twitter.com/dEvFErmrzY— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 27, 2019
Without Oladipo, the third place Pacers are assumed to begin an inexorable slide back down the standings. How far and how fast they slide will be determined by how well the remaining players are able to step up and fill the void left by Oladipo’s unfortunate disappearance. They have got some options though.
Thad Young, a player many Warriors fans have been keeping tabs on for years, will step up — as will Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison — but will it be enough? Probably not against a Warriors team that is firing on all cylinders. But Oladipo and his injury have redefined the entire Pacers season and I assume they are now somewhat in need of a moral victory or two. A close game against this Warriors squad is probably what they’re aiming for tonight.
Can the Warriors keep winning?
No strangers to record-setting hot streaks, Golden State finds themselves well positioned to reel off a nice streak of wins here. Already at ten straight, the Warriors haven’t lost a game since that squeaker they dropped to the Houston Rockets back on January 3rd.
The upcoming schedule is not without danger — and of course anyone can lose on any given night — but after this Pacers game, the Warriors have a lot of very winnable games on the horizon.
Interestingly, while the team’s league-leading offense is continuing to climb, so is the defense. Once a perennial top defensive squad, the Warriors now rank 15th in team defensive efficiency. As Brady would say “decidedly mediocre.”
One element to pay attention to: Demarcus Cousins’ foul rate. Right now, the big man is averaging just over four fouls per game, which pro-rates to more than seven fouls per 36 minutes of action. Yes, he is recovering from a severe lower leg injury and hasn’t played real basketball in over a year, but fouling like this is unsustainable.
Against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, Cousins picked up five fouls in just 23 minutes. While the team doesn’t really need him for much more time than that, the abundant fouls can lead to all sorts of problems by putting the other team in the bonus, screwing up our rotations or getting other players in their own heads worried about adding more fouls to the pile.
Boston was the first real test for Cousins. The Pacers may not be quite on par with the Celtics after losing their best player, but they do have a number of good big men that they’ll be using. Right now, the Warriors aren’t too worried about all these fouls, but as the season moves along, at some point, this is going to become a discussion.