As measuring stick games go, this Warriors road win against the Timberwolves was pretty intriguing. The Warriors not only beat a well-coached and extremely talented upcoming young team on their home floor, but they did it in convincing fashion. This might prove surprising to some pundits, particularly those at ESPN, but the Warriors are a far superior team to the TWolves, and will remain so for the forseeable future.
I can think of quite a few reasons for this, but the two most important are these:
1) Stephen Curry is a much better player than Ricky Rubio. The reason is simply that Curry is one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA, and Rubio is a virtual non-scorer. The effect of this was evident even in this game in which Curry struggled, shooting 2-8. No matter how he’s shooting, Curry draws the other team’s best defender, and the attention of the entire defense. That’s what has been getting Iggy 20+ points a game.
But opposing teams need worry only about keeping Rubio out of the lane. They can hide a bad defender on him, and sag off, daring him to shoot. As a result, Rubio’s teammates need to work harder to score than do Curry’s, his phenomenal passing skills notwithstanding.
Not saying Rubio isn’t a really good player. Just that he’s not close to the player Curry is, and never will be.
2) David Lee can play Kevin Love even any time he chooses. As in this game tonight. And as in this game a couple of years ago, in which Lee decided to put an end to Love’s record double-double streak. And as in most any game he has met Love in over the years, because in addition to being a great player, David Lee relishes a challenge, and shows up every single night. Home or away. 81 games a season.
It is extremely demoralizing to the TWolves when Kevin Love’s man can play him man to man, and match him play for play, and on the boards. It neutralizes their biggest advantage, the advantage they rely on to draw double teams, warp defenses, and open up their offense.
Omg, did I just call David Lee a good defender? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. Please ignore what I just wrote. And unwatch the post defense that Lee played on Love. Say, at 4:20 2Q, or again at 3:00 2Q.
And try not to think about the fact that the Warriors are second in the league to Indiana in Opponents’ Shooting % this year. We all know that’s impossible for a team that has David Lee at power forward.
Coaching: Jackson got the matchups right to start this game. Curry played the small forward Corey Brewer on defense. Iggy guarded the TWolves most dangerous backcourt scorer, Kevin Martin. Which left Klay Thompson chasing Rubio.
Jackson played big again on the second unit, despite the return of Barnes. I think in the future this rather weak TWolves second unit can be better exploited with small ball. But for the next few weeks at least, I think Jackson would be correct in protecting Barnes. And as we saw, the Warriors bench performed admirably in this game, even in less than perfect configurations.
Jackson did a great job attacking the weakest defender on the court, whether with Iggy or Klay Thompson (or David Lee).
And it seemed to me that he “broke his offense” several times in the fourth quarter, to get Klay Thompson some shots.
Curry: Had a rough shooting night, but limited the TO’s for the second straight game, despite being face-guarded by Rubio, who is one of the best in the entire league at creating steals. I simply don’t see this as an issue going forward. Curry is too smart, his skills are too great, and his unfamiliarity with the Warriors’ new players and new offense will fade.
And Mark Jackson will get better at scheming to break the blitz.
Dr. Felt diagnoses a minor sprain, and predicts that Curry will take the court Friday against the Spurs.
Iggy: Didn’t do a great job with his primary defensive assignment, which was Kevin Martin (23 on 7-15). He’s always a phenomenal team defender though.
After Curry went down, Point-Iggy looked pretty darn effective to me. Beautiful pick and roll with David Lee at 3:30 3Q. And that Iggy-Thompson-Green backcourt is terrifying defensively.
Looks like he was pretty clever by choosing to play with the Warriors wasn’t he? By the end of this season, the pundits might consider him a scorer again.
He’s getting Klay Thompson shots. But Curry and Thompson are getting him more.
Thompson: I created a bit of a stir calling Thompson an obvious future all-star, and a potential Hall of Famer last season. Doesn’t seem that far-fetched now though, does it?
I think he’s quite clearly the third or fourth best shooting guard in the entire league right now, after Harden, George and Wade. (But I suspect the Heat might be a better team this season with Klay in place of Wade.) Who else is better?
I’ll go further: I think he’s going to be a much better player than either Reggie Miller or Chris Mullin. Questions of clutchness aside, he can shoot with both of them. In addition, he has Mullin’s total floor game. He simply radiates genius on the offensive end.
But what separates him from those players is his defensive ability. Nothing has shocked me more than his growth on that end. He’s a much better athlete than I initially thought, but it’s his genius for basketball, his hoops IQ, that aids him the most: he KNOWS where his opponent is going, and gets there first.
Hoops IQ, and one more thing: competitive desire. His WILL to defend.
Harrison Barnes, take note.
Barnes: Pretty impressive showing after sitting out that long, no?
What I like the most about Barnes is how he runs the court and finishes. I think he’s the best finisher on the Warriors, including Andre Iguodala.
Take a look at that end-to-end runout at 6:50 3Q, that he finished with his left hand, off the glass, at full speed. Not a lot of players have that ability.
Of course, on the ensuing TWolves possession, Brewer buried a three in his face.
Bogut: I kind of got the feeling he took this game off, how about you?
I did enjoy seeing him lead the break at 9:40 3Q, though.
But I didn’t enjoy seeing Rubio torture him in pick and roll, for the And One layup, at 8:05 1Q. A theme that continued until he foolishly fouled out trying to draw a charge in the 4th quarter.
Bogut doesn’t budge an inch from the lane to defend the pick and roll. He’s ten times less mobile against it than even Shaq was. It doesn’t hurt much against non-shooters like Rubio. But against Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker….
Speights: Yes, he can hit that three. How about using him to really spread the floor?
8 rebounds in 16 minutes, many against Big Pek and Love.
JON: Shooting woes continued, but got to the line, and was a difference maker on the defensive end. 3 blocks and 6 rebounds.
Looked good to me. Remind me again why Fitz kept screeching about Bogut being out?
The Bench: As Barnes returns, and Jackson finds his rotations, I think we’ll discover that fears for the Warriors bench are greatly overblown.
To my eye, by simply mixing in some starters, the Warriors can have one of the strongest benches in the league. There is nothing that says you need to put five bench players on the floor at once.
Point-Differential: It’s obviously quite early, but we are seeing something quite new from this Warriors team this season: the creation of huge winning margins against inferior teams.
Point-Differential. The Warriors are currently leading the league, at +13 per game.
Yes, it’s very early, and the stat is sure to plummet after the upcoming road back-to-back against the Spurs and Grizzlies. But it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Because point-differential is the single best predictor of the eventual NBA champion known to man and statphreak.
Bob Fitzgerald: The immortal Bob opened the broadcast by saying this about the matchup between Kevin Love and David Lee:
“If the Warriors are even even in this matchup, we’ll take it!”
Which of course, made my head explode.
I have a homework assignment for you, Bob. Before the next TWolves game, take a look at the boxscores between the TWolves and the Warriors over the last three years.
Maybe you’ll open the broadcast by giving David Lee his due.