Game Thread. There's always money in the banana stand: Warriors small ball pays dividends yet again

Heading into a prime time rematch against the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State turned to an old chapter in their history books: Nellie ball

The Golden State Warriors just blasted the Dallas Mavericks, putting up 147 points while playing zero traditional centers. Don Nelson must be smiling. Nelson, now growing weed and living his best life with his wife in Hawaii, has been enjoying his divorce from professional basketball - but his legacy lives on.

The best part for Golden State? This doesn’t need to work everyday, or all the time. With James Wiseman and Kevon Looney expected back within a couple of weeks, the Warriors don’t need to worry overly much about the wear and tear on Draymond Green at center. In the meantime, this stopgap measure isn’t only effective, it’s fun!


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (12-10) at Dallas Mavericks (9-14)

WHEN: Saturday, February 6th, 2021 // 5:30 pm PST

WATCH: ABC

Injury update: Looney, Wiseman still out, but it looks like Paschall is leaning towards a return!


Defense makes it all possible

Don’t look now, but the Warriors have slowly morphed into a good defensive team. Coach Steve Kerr has been pounding this drum since training camp, and it looks like his prioritization of defense has finally been realized.

For a Warriors team that is waiting on the return of Klay Thompson to fully ignite the offense again, Kerr’s Warriors have turned their focus towards shoring up things on the defensive end of the court, where Golden State was among the league’s worst performers last season - finishing 25th in the NBA.

Like so much with this franchise, the story on the improvement here starts with the hard work and talent of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. On full display in this clip; Kristaps Porzingas is still recovering from a string of leg issues, but watch the Warriors primary duo throttle this work from the Mavericks top two scorers:

As much as everyone will gawk at the gaudy offensive output (which, to be fair, was real nice), it was the defense that drove the Warriors separation - especially after halftime. Check out the box score:

Just like the We Believe team did so much damage against the Dirk Nowitzky Dallas Mavericks, so too were these modern era little Dubs - those referred to by our own Eric Apricot as Golden State’s Puny People lineup - a death knell that rang in the hearts and minds of a Dallas team as they got blasted out of the game in the second half.

After losing the rebounding battle 25-19 in the first half, Golden State turned the tables and blasted the glass with a 26-18 advantage in the second half. It was the first game this season that the Warriors were able to subdue an opponent to the point where Curry took the entire 4th quarter off, and though Golden State is a far cry from their previous heights, this is exactly the sort of progress Kerr and the Dubs are hoping to see this season.

No one personified this more than Juan Toscano-Anderson, a player that has spent most of the season collecting DNPs has just spent the last two games handing out buckets. Known mostly as a defender (which was supposedly the asset that helped him earn a roster spot here) he played nearly 40 minutes in the previous game against the Mavs, chipping in 14 points on just 8 shot attempts, one game after scoring 16 points on 9 shots.

Before these last two games though? Large swaths of emptiness:

As much heat as the Warriors organization has taken over “wasted” roster spots, I think we can all agree that you can’t always know where your team’s contributors will rise up from. Which brings up another guy…

Oubre’s 40 piece

Kelly Oubre jr. was not having a great season. Fresh of a knee surgery, and struggling to find his way through the complex byzantine offensive system that the Warriors employ, Oubre’s impact on court has been less than stellar. But set loose against the popsicle-stick-and-glue defense of the Mavericks, he popped off an astounding 40-point night, setting a new career high.

The Warriors are known for their collaborative nature - like when Green said after the game, “When I nail a guy on a screen and Steph hits a three, I probably feel better than he feels about making a three.” Oubre, to date, has played more of a play finisher than a facilitator - but he’s a willing passer, when he sees it:

That clip is from the excellent treatise on Oubre, by Marcus Thomson over at The Athletic, which you should read. But Thompson goes on in that article to quote Oubre’s discussion of his growth and learning experience with the Warriors:

“It’s been a great learning experience for me. I take it back to me just being a freshman in college again because it was more of a psychological change. I had the tools to take it to the next step but mentally I had to slow myself down and wrap everything and find my flow. So, I’m finding that gradually.”

It’s that gradualism that has been so frustrating for Warriors fans this season, watching Oubre gum up the offensive sets and miss shots. But that same “finding” is beginning to bear fruit. Delicious, slam dunk flavored fruits.

Up till now, it was impossible to see if there was a light at the end of the tunnel, or if it was just a pair of headlights headed right at you. With Oubre, the Warriors have another long-limbed willing defender, a player that can cause the sort of athletic, disruptive chaos that the aging Warriors core covets as an addition.

Oubre just rewarded the patience of a Warriors team that stood by him through an early shooting slump. And it’s that same patience that is really at the heart of the Warriors seeming reticence in the face of pressure to move Oubre out of the starting lineup. Because “Oubre can go off for 40” changes the dynamics, it pushes the ceiling of what this Warriors team can do. And the best part for Oubre and the Warriors is that this doesn’t have to be hard.

Curry will always be the top item on an opposing team’s scouting report - that’s not going to change. But what Oubre’s explosion does is start pulling defensive attention.

According to Synergy Sports, Oubre had 25 total scoring possessions against the Mavericks - seven of which were transition buckets. The team has been emphasizing defense and fast pace all year, both areas that Oubre thrives in. And playing alongside Curry makes it easier for Oubre to get clean looks. He happened to miss a lot of them in the opening salvo of the season’s first quarter, but with regressions to Oubre’s career averages expected, alongside his growing familiarity and fit in Golden State, Oubre will get a lot of chances to go for 40… if he can hit his shots.

Here’s Draymond Green. He’s talking about James Wiseman in the clip, but some of what he says here applies in equal measure to Oubre’s ability to fit into the pass-heavy, fast, complicated Warriors scheme:

“To play that type of pace, and that style, you know? It takes some getting used to.

Everything’s happening so fast and on the fly…. Just from an understanding perspective, I’m not sure he can. But I am 100% sure he can get there.”

Side note: how crazy is it that the Warriors are legitimately talking about their blue chip top draft pick center running out there and playing Nellie ball.. but he’s a beefy seven footer?

Predictions

Oubre will not go off for 40, but I bet that both he and JTA turn in another good game against the Mavs.

The “starters vs. starters” matchup did not go well for Dallas. That pairing was a -5 in 6 minutes to start the game for the Mavs, and then another -6 to open the 3rd quarter. Barring a Luka explosion, it looks like a matchup the Warriors should continue to win.

Dubs do it again, 126-112.