Looney, Poole, and the Warriors bench revelation

Damion Lee joins lengthy injured list: out for an extended period (health and safety protocols), but in a surprise move: JTA may return tonight!

A day after facing off against points per game challenger, Bradley Beal and his Washington Wizards, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors open the doors to Chase Center for MVP front runner Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets will be coming for revenge. It was Curry’s 53-explosion in an unlikely win over Denver that really seemed to get the Warriors cooking recently, and though their win streak has ended, the Warriors will have a secret weapon up their sleeves tonight.

For the first time since last March, the Warriors will be playing in front of a live audience. I don’t know the health and safety protocols associated with yelling, but even at the reduced (35%) capacity, expect the home crowd to be raucous.

The home town heroes will need all the help they can get, because it looks like Damion Lee is out of action for a while. Lee has been quietly extremely important; he’s 5th in minutes played, 6th on the team in total points scored, and plays a hugely important role on a bench that has been steadily improving.

But here at Let’s Go Warriors, we don’t give you the bad news without any silver linings. Therefore, BEHOLD, the possible return of Our Guy (patent pending) Juan Toscano-Anderson.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (29-30) vs Denver Nuggets (38-20)

WHEN: Friday, April 22, 2021 // 7:00pm PST

WATCH: NBCSBA


Putting the fun in bench basketball fundamentalism

Kevon Looney may not be the world’s most exciting basketball player, but he is sneakily one of the league’s most dependable players. For a Golden State Warriors team that is fighting tooth and nail to thread the needle between winning enough to make the playoffs, and losing enough to keep their draft pick, Looney has been one of team’s most reliable players.

Looney has been handed the team’s starting center spot after injuries to Marquese Chriss and then James Wiseman, and while the rotations will look a lot different next season, knowing that Looney can more than adequately cover the center position as either a starter or bench player is a huge organizational win.

They say that correlation is not always causation. And sure, you can argue that when plays at his recent nuclear fusion temperatures, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what anyone else does - but you’d be wrong. Here’s a picture showing Looney’s minutes per game. Coincidentally or not, the Warriors have been playing their best basketball of the season in the month of April.

It’s a shame that Damion Lee is out for an extended period. If Slater’s report is accurate, then 10 days puts him out till May 2nd - an off day for Golden State. That would entail missing at least five, maybe six, of the Warriors’ 11 remaining regular season games.

Because of Lee’s absence, we can expect Kent Bazemore, Jordan Poole, and Kelly Oubre to play larger roles.

When Kent Bazemore was inserted into the starting lineup, it was a move necessitated by need. But once Kelly Oubre was ready to return to action, Kerr did the unexpected and said he was going to keep Bazemore as the starter, referencing ball movement.

One thing I noticed recently is that the team seems to be utilizing Bazemore out of the high post - almost like a passing big. According to Synergy sports data, Bazemore is “excellent” at generating quality looks for other players, and the offense derived out of him posting up is efficient enough to be in the 83rd percentile for guards/wings.

It’s a good thing too, because for a variety of reasons, the Warriors’ offense is highly reliant on assisted baskets. It’s a cornerstone of Kerr’s offensive philosophy that openings in the defense are primarily attacked with passes rather than off the dribble. As a result, the Warriors are vastly more likely to score off an assist at the rim.

Curry’s three-point attempts on the season

With Curry’s recent supernova play, I got to wondering to myself. “Self,” I said. And self said “Yeah dude?” "I wonder if Curry’s taking more threes during this run. Feels like he is.”

So I sat myself down and pulled up the numbers. For this one, we are trying to see three-point attempts per minute played. So after pulling all data from the fantastic resource over at basketballreference.com, and converting the weird minutes format to regular numbers, we get this graphic (the blue lines). Note that missed games have been removed to increase visual accuracy.

As you can see from the graphic above, it’s a fairly noisy stat, but looking at the underlying data - and maybe you can get a sense of taller blue bars towards the right of the graph - it does indeed appear that Curry has been increasing his three-point shot rate.

Because I was curious, I went ahead and also calculated a three-game rolling average for his three-point shooting percentage as well. To me, it looks like less of a correlation, but it’s important to understand that the law of averages says that as the volume increases, the shooting percentage should start to fall back to the mean. Not so in this case. Again, look at the right of the graph (the most recent games); not only is Curry shooting more threes recently, he’s been hitting them at some of the highest percentages of the season.

Though the underlying data for this image (and therefor the resultant picture) were pulled prior to Curry’s cold shooting against the 76ers, you can see why everyone is willing to forgive one off shooting night. Especially one that came on the fifth game in eight nights.

He hung 53 the last time the Warriors faced the Nuggets, and while I’m sure they’ll have some adjustments in store, Curry should once again be on the attack.

Nuggets staying afloat without Murray.

Last time we say them, the Nuggets lost starting point guard, and Bubble star, Jamal Murray. Shockingly though, the Nuggets have not dropped out of the upper echelon. Much like the Warriors, the Nuggets offense simply does not function without their key player, and Nikola Jokic is deservedly emerging as the league’s leading MVP candidate. He’s averaging 26.4 points, 11 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game while carrying the Nuggets to four straight wins.

Not to be ignored, the acquisition of Aaron Gordon has gone swimmingly. According to Cleaning the Glass, Gordon’s scoring efficiency is in the top 2/3rds of players at his position. The tandem of Gordon and Jokic isn’t just kind of working, they’re found a viable tandem that can carry the 4th-seeded Nuggets deep into the playoffs.

Predictions

FANS!!! There will be fans in Chase Arena for the first time since last March, and I don’t care, that’s a huge win. The Warriors are going to really miss Damion Lee. One of the fey bench players that has been reliable all season, it’s a tough, tough loss.

Non-wild prediction: Curry does not have a second consecutive off night. He may not bust out for 53, but he’s going to once again torch the Nuggets soft perimeter defense.

Wild prediction: Kelly Oubre also goes off. He’s been turning in some good games lately, and without Lee, he should get a little extra slack with the bench unit.

Music Friday!

I miss the world so much. Riding my bike into a show, locking my helmet and jacket to my handlebars and then going into the punk show with one glove awkwardly shoved in each pocket… can’t be beat! Except coming out after the show and standing there cooling off watching the show empty out into the street.

With the return to an open world in mind, here’s Toy Guitar.

I saw them at Ivy Room, the weekend before the world shut down. My last live show in over a year, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now!

A little less “punky” than most of my stuff, this is a side project from members of Swingin’ Utters, the best band to ever come out of Santa Cruz.