Warriors proved they can beat top teams, now to see if it's repeatable against injured Lakers
The door's open, but the ride isn't free - Golden State has a path to the playoffs if they can walk it
One of the hardest things about watching basketball is that the answers can seem so evident what should change. This is why Anthony Randolph shined in my 2k video games as a Magic-esque backup point guard. So too does it go with the Golden State Warriors - a team that has been as defined by their inconsistency as anything else.
In last night’s 131-119 victory over the Utah Jazz could be the start of a new chapter of reliable, aggressive play. Andrew Wiggins is diving to the basket in pick-and-roll action with Curry, Wiseman looks aggressive, and new bench leader Jordan Poole is doing damage against the opponent’s second unit.
Up next, the mighty LeBron James, and his most recent super team, the Los Angeles Lakers. But all is not well in Laker land. Already reeling from the loss of Anthony Davis, the Lakers got multiple bites from the injury bug, like that one person that the mosquitos love when you go camping.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (20-19) vs Los Angeles Lakers (25-13)
WHEN: Monday, March 15, 2021 // 7:30pm PST
WATCH: ESPN, NBCSBA
The Warriors Voltron
This is a Warriors team that is obviously lifted up as far as Stephen Curry, and to a slightly lesser extent, Draymond Green, can take them. But as we’ve seen demonstrated time and time again this season, those two can’t always do it alone. Of course, it’s Curry, so sometimes it does work - as we saw when he took some internet chatter personally and blasted Dame Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers with a new career high of 62 points.
And to be fair, this is the path.
The way that not just this current Warriors team, but the franchise in general, gets back up on top of the mountain is mostly via Curry’s excellence. In the minutes with Curry on the court, the Warriors offense churns out points at a rate that would put the offense in the top 5 of the NBA (note, the Warriors offense is currently ranked 21st, excluding garbage time). His offensive impact of +20.2 is the best in the league, and is the second-highest such rating in the past 15 years.
Back when I worked at a hippy camp, the program director, this legendary force of a woman named Paul Pardini, would often talk say “You can talk the walk, but can you walk the walk? …And remember, we need you to do both.” In other words, real leadership (or at least the good kind) requires behavior modelling, but it also means that you’ve got to vocally work with people.
Remind them of the overall purpose, and inspire them to do better. Then, from there, you can lead knowing that you’ve got a bought in group that will follow. Not just because they believe in the leadership of Curry, but because of what they know they can accomplish if they do their supporting jobs next to Curry and Green.
Against the Utah Jazz, we saw what this iteration if winning Warriors basketball could look like. Jordan Poole (18 points in 22 minutes against Utah) looks to be the call up that was needed to enliven the Warriors’ moribund bench scoring. And despite some of my initial misgivings, I’m even coming around to the wisdom of throwing Nico Mannion into the bench mix as well.
Like the old Voltron cartoon, the supporting cast has changed (RIP Sven, the Blue Lion), but the team carries on. Yesterday, it was Andrew Wiggins, a player so maligned that our good friend Patrick Murray was on the LGW vidcast just yesterday talking about moving on from him. But 28 points on 16 shots - not to mention a ton of extremely solid defense - has got Dub Nation buying back into Wiggins island.
James “I'm coming off the bench and I’m angry” Wiseman put in a second consecutive promising performance yesterday. Now, I don’t know exactly what motivates a person, and this could just be a small blip, but it really feels like Wiseman is starting to significantly turn a corner.
And speaking of leadership, I couldn’t help but notice that Green’s most vociferous complaining about Covid testing coincides awfully neatly with the team’s important rookie getting in trouble for missing one of the frequent tests (and as a result, a big practice day). I’m sure Green is legitimately over the thrice daily tests, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Green mentioned in a moment of candor that he is mostly getting vocal on the issue in order to move the eyes as quickly as possible from our rookie’s mistake. That’s what leaders do… well that, and get a triple double.
Lakers in for some rough waters
The defending NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers are going through a few struggles. First it was superstar Anthony Davis going down, and now they’ve got a full-on situation on their hands over there.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has confirmed yesterday that the defending champs will be without additional players today (and beyond): Marc Gasol is out due to Covid Health and Safety protocols, Jared Dudley just went down with an MCL tear in his knee, and it looks like Alex Caruso could miss today’s game after he was placed under the NBA’s concussion protocol following a collision in the Laker’s Friday game against Indy.
Time for Golden State to channel John Kreese and pick up a second consecutive win against the upper bracket of Western Conference playoff teams. No mercy!
The Warriors have unlocked something in Wiseman, Wiggins and Oubre are finding their comfortable spots, nestled in the arms of the offense that Curry and Green lead, and if Poole can keep attacking, it looks like the Warriors bench finally has some punch.
Warriors win big 132-112.