Favorable Schedule And Correctable Issues Give Warriors Opportunity
The Warriors’ loss to the Bobcats on Tuesday was ugly, frustrating and concerning. Now that it’s over, let’s see how the rest of the month shapes up for Golden State.
Looking ahead, the Warriors certainly have a favorable stretch of games for the remainder of the month. To start off, they face the 24-24 Bulls on Thursday, whose record is particularly unimpressive in the lowly Eastern Conference. Yes, the Bulls beat the Suns on Tuesday, but that came after a 19-point loss to the Kings the day before.
More importantly, the Warriors match up very favorably against the Bulls. Power forward Carlos Boozer’s defense leaves plenty to be desired, as he allows opponents to shoot 55.4 percent at the rim, according to NBA Player Tracking Data. That’s the eighth-worst total in the NBA among players whose opponents attempt at least 4.5 field goals at the rim against them per game.
That means David Lee will have a field day unless Bulls center Joakim Noah steps in to provide some help. That is, assuming Lee’s abysmal 3-of-13 performance on Tuesday isn’t a sign of things to come. Either way, the Bulls will have trouble guarding both Warriors big men (Lee and Andrew Bogut), which will create matchup problems all over the floor.
The main question, however, is whether the Warriors can capitalize on that weak schedule after the Bulls. The Dubs have lost to the Bobcats, Wizards and Timberwolves in the last six games, which doesn’t bode well for games against mediocre competition. The Wizards and Timberwolves are .500 teams, so they aren’t terrible by any means, but the convincing loss to Charlotte was particularly concerning.
Following the Bulls game on Thursday, the Dubs travels to Phoenix for a tough road game before coming home to face the 76ers and the surprisingly non-dominant Miami Heat. The Heat will also roll into ORACLE Arena in the midst of a grueling six-game road trip, including a matchup against the Suns the night before.
But then, it only gets easier. Golden State closes out the month with games against the Kings, Rockets, Nets, Pistons, Bulls and Knicks. Each of the last four teams in that stretch don’t have winning records as of this writing, despite playing in the lackluster Eastern Conference. That easy stretch of games could be just what the Warriors need to overcome their current rough patch.
How the Warriors Can Improve on the Court
This point pertains to Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes in particular. Arguably the two most athletic players on the team, Iggy and Barnes settle for three-pointers and mid-range twos far too often. The best results come when they drive to the hoop and use their ability around the rim to score.
As WarriorsWorld’s own Jordan Ramirez noted in his game recap from Tuesday, Iguodala acted as a “passive game manager we’ve come to [know] him as all season,” which is entirely true. Sure, the Warriors signed Iggy primarily for his defense. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make more of an impact on offense, especially when the rest of the starting five can’t get it done.
Playing at a Faster Pace
This goes along with the “more aggressiveness” point, but I’m referencing the Warriors’ lack of urgency around mid court in particular, when they slow the pace and thus settle for too many isolation matchups. This came back to bite the Warriors on Tuesday, when they settled for far too many mid-range jump shots thanks to their inability to penetrate inside.
Particularly when the Dubs are struggling to score in the paint, pushing the tempo could pay serious dividends. As evidenced by their four fast break points on Tuesday, however, they didn’t prefer that strategy. Also, when the Warriors do have the chance to make plays on the fast break, they have to actually capitalize, which didn’t happen against the Bobcats. When Harrison Barnes dribbled the ball off his foot during an isolation play against Cody Zeller, that essentially summed up the Warriors’ fortunes in the game on one play. (That, and Klay Thompson’s endless amount of clankers.)
Despite the tough results as of late, the Warriors have an excellent opportunity to right the ship on Thursday against the Bulls; whether they’ll actually capitalize remains to be seen.