Hey, the Warriors are actually favorites tonight! How long has it been since that happened? The Pacers will enter the Oracle having lost 4 of their last 5 games. This is not the same team that won three straight by beating the Warriors back in Indiana. Why not? For a very simple reason: Troy Murphy is back.
That may seem a little harsh, but hear me out. The Pacers team the Warriors faced in Indiana was a defensive juggernaut. In the absence of Murphy, they had uber-athletic Danny Granger at the four, and plugged the hole at the small forward with defensive stopper Dontay Jones. Those forwards, anchored by 7-2″ Roy Hibbert, were extremely effective at stifling the Warriors penetration, and forcing contested outside shots.
The Troy Murphy version of the Pacers will be far easier for Monta and the rest of the Warriors to operate against. We all know about Murphy’s help defense. He’s about as helpful as a tree stump. Dontay Jones has been relegated to the bench. This in itself is enough to sink the Pacers’ defense.
But wait, there’s more! Mike Dunleavy has returned! And TJ Ford has recovered from the mysterious back injury that forced him out of the previous Warriors game, putting the far better defender Earl Watson back on the bench. I think its safe to say that this will be a far easier team for Monta to get to the rim against than the Indiana team of a couple of weeks ago. Not to mention the Lakers. I expect a big game from Monta.
Having Turiaf back should make a big difference for the Warriors in guarding Hibbert: they might not have to double-team him, enabling their wing defenders to stick with Indiana’s three point shooters. Will Turiaf start? Even Mikki Moore might play Hibbert straight up this game, since the Warriors no longer need to worry about their big men fouling out. Expect the Pacers to have a tougher time getting open shots than they had back in Indiana.
The biggest defensive challenge for the Warriors will of course be Danny Granger. He’s simply too big for Monta. Will the Warriors open with Anthony Morrow on him? I think that’s a recipe for disaster. Coach Smart has hinted that Maggette will come off the bench. But I don’t see anyone other than Maggette on the Warriors roster to guard Granger with. Don Nelson would probably put Vlad Rad on Granger, and Morrow on Murphy (would he really?). This is the most intriguing matchup of the game.
The Warriors are -2 home favorites. Hmm. Call me a homer, but I like the Warriors in this game.