By: Daniel Leroux
The Week that Was:
After crushing the Sixers to take the belt and getting a nice all-around win against a quality Minnesota team, Stephen Curry’s bone bruise took precedence for the week. Steph sat against the Spurs but the rest of the team rallied pretty well and got closer than expected to a victory, losing by two even though in my eyes it never really felt like they would pull it out. That game also marked the high point thus far for Toney Douglas, who shot five of nine from three and did not turn the ball over in 28 minutes.
With Curry back for Memphis, it stood out as a nice potential early season test against a likely playoff team. Unfortunately, the Warriors got outclassed and manhandled throughout the game and lost by 18. Their overhelping on defense helped a notoriously poor shooting squad to get looks for Mike Miller, who made 4/5 threes and played a meaningful role in the win. While I said 3-1 was the target, Curry’s injury took precedence and the week turned out alright considering the circumstances.
Harrison Barnes also looked better than expected in his return, though it does appear that it will still take him some time to get his minutes level up to normal. Replacing some of the less effective bench minutes with Barnes should help buoy the team against some of their worst stretches though it could take Jackson a little while to sort out the rotations.
The Soapbox: Experimentation Progress Report
About two weeks into the season, we have a small but useful sample of what Mark Jackson plans to do with this Warriors team in 2013-14. Unfortunately, injuries have changed the dynamics somewhat and we have only seen the team at close to “full strength” (excluding Festus Ezeli, of course) for a little over one game. The biggest positive so far has come from Jackson’s willingness to give ballhandling responsibilities to Andre Iguodala, including starting a lineup without a traditional Point Guard when Curry sat against the Spurs. Incidentally, that game also ended up the clear high water mark for Toney Douglas so far, though I’m guessing those two things are not heavily related. Part of the reason I supported other PG’s for the backup role once Jarrett Jack left for Cleveland is that Douglas plays better off the ball than on it. Coach Jackson may have a clearer understanding of this now and it may (and should) lead to Iguodala playing more minutes when Steph sits and playing the role of the initiator.
At this point, we have seen disappointingly little of Harrison Barnes at the four or David Lee at the five. The Barnes minutes distribution can be easily explained by his recent return and their opponents once he returned but we need to see more of David Lee with the second unit because that could be another effective way to keep the team afloat when Steph cannot be out there.
I fully expect to see Harrison playing Power Forward as the team gets closer to 100% and will be quite disappointed if the Curry / Klay / Iggy / Barnes / Bogut lineup does not get some run against Oklahoma City on Thursday to exploit Scott Brooks’ devotion to two-big lineups.
At this point, the willingness to experiment with primary ballhandlers other than Curry and Douglas means more to the team than Barnes at the four though that will change quickly once the team gets back to full strength. A nice start that needs a diligent follow through.
The Week to Come:
The Warriors return home needing to rebound from their tough back to back because they have two challenging opponents in Detroit and Oklahoma City. The Pistons have a deep and brutal front line in Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe but do not have the outside shooting that made the difference in the loss to Memphis on Saturday. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will always be tough to handle but Andre Iguodala changes the dynamic of these games since the Dubs finally have an individual who can competently defend KD. Golden State will have the chance to get well against a Utah team still looking for their first win on the season and unlikely to find it at Oracle.
2-1 would be a successful week while 3-0 would make a nice early season statement.