It’s funny to think how differently things would be feeling for the Golden State Warriors had one Damion Lee shot not gone in.
The Dubs are 1-2, but oh so close to 0-3. That’s a massive difference.
Lee’s game-winner against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday didn’t erase what had happened in the first 47:55 of the game, but it at least put the Dubs in position to salvage the road trip today, rather than try to limit the damage.
Who: Golden State Warriors (1-2) vs. Detroit Pistons (0-3)
When: 4:00 p.m. PT
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Projected starting lineups:
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Juan Toscano-Anderson, James Wiseman
Pistons: Killian Hayes, Delon Wright, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin, Mason Plumlee
Warriors: Beat Bulls 129-128
Pistons: Lost to Hawks 128-120
Warriors: 97.6 offense (30th), 116.0 defense (28th), -18.4 net (30th)
Pistons: 104.3 offense (24th), 112.2 defense (20th), -7.9 net (25th)
When the Warriors embarked on this four-game road trip to start the season, they — and we — knew they were facing two of the best teams in the league and two of the worst teams in the league. Splitting the four games always felt like a reasonable goal — had I told you a week ago the the Warriors would go 2-2 on the trip, you would’ve ben fine with that.
The devil is in the details, of course. The Warriors weren’t competitive in either of their losses, and they needed a game-winner to beat the putrid Bulls. It hasn’t been a good trip so far.
But it all looks the same in the win and loss column.
Now the Dubs have a chance to not just win their second game, but look genuinely good for the first time this season. I recommend they take that chance.
Players to watch
Warrior to watch: Kelly Oubre Jr.
By now you’re probably familiar with what Kelly Oubre Jr. has done this year. It’s been a bit shocking.
The good news: Kelly Oubre has had some ridiculous dunks this season. The bad: he is 0-for-33 on all other FGA. pic.twitter.com/yfk8iLqdAM— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 28, 2020
Can Oubre — who averaged 18.7 points per game while shooting 35.2% on threes a year ago — make his first triple? Can he make his first jump shot? Hell, can he make his first layup?
There are reasons for optimism. In addition to the fact that this atrociously bad luck and variance can’t last forever, Oubre has been tasked with guarding some spectacular offensive players so far this year. He was matched up with Kyrie Irving in the opener. He chased around Jrue Holiday on Christmas. He stared down Zach LaVine on Sunday.
Against the Bulls he’ll likely guard Delon Wright to start things off, and maybe spend some time on Derrick Rose when he comes in off the bench.
Those players aren’t Irving, Holiday, or LaVine. Oubre won’t have to work quite as hard on defense, which should make it easier for his offensive game to show up.
Piston to watch: Killian Hayes.
For a while it looked like there was a decent chance that the Warriors would end up with Killian Hayes in the 2020 NBA Draft. Hayes may have fallen to the Pistons at No. 7, but he was still at or near the top of many draft boards.
The Warriors surely have no regrets about taking James Wiseman at No. 2, but it’s always fun to see the competition. Hayes hasn’t been great so far, but he has shown the shiftiness and craftiness that had draftheads so interested in him.
Matchup to watch: Blake Griffin vs. Juan Toscano-Anderson, or whoever defends him.
With Draymond Green out, the Warriors have been going with a smallish lineup. Juan Toscano-Anderson is now the starting power forward, with Andrew Wiggins and Damion Lee both getting playing time defending 4s.
The Pistons are on the other end of things. They start a center in Mason Plumlee, with a forward/center at the 4 in Blake Griffin, and a natural power forward at the 3 in Jerami Grant.
So far this year Griffin has looked less like the physical force that made him an All-Star in each of his first five seasons, and more like a player transitioning to a life as a spot-up three-point shooter.
The Warriors will be happy if Griffin — a career 33.4% shooter from deep — wants to hang outside the arc all day rather than take advantage of Golden State’s lack of size at the power forward position. We’ll see if he tries to force the issue inside though.
Keys to victory
- Steph Curry must be the best player on the court by a wide margin
- Make Blake Griffin live — and more likely die — with his jump shot
- Don’t let Mason Plumlee beat James Wiseman on back cuts and lobs
- One of Andrew Wiggins or Kelly Oubre Jr. have a nice night scoring
Let’s go Dubs. Climb back to .500.