Saturday, November 12, 2005

A win, great! Maybe.

The Warriors are 4-2 behind a win last night over the New York Knicks, 86-84.

It's a win, yes. But, should we be happy about this? There's the normal reaction from me, reacting from a win from a team that has been losing for 10 years -- I'm happy after any win.

However, there are expectations of this team, and there is the simply fact that the Warriors could have a 1-5 record, a 6-0 record, or anything in between.

I could depend on one's opinion of the Knicks. If one believes the Knicks are a decent team that has just been unlucky to go winless in seven games thus far, then one is fine with the Warriors record and believes it indicates a good team. If one believes the Knicks are a poor team (like say, I do), then one might realize that three of the Warriors four wins have come against teams who have yet to win a game.

Two against the Knicks, one against the Hawks. Let me tell you why I'm a little apprehensive about the Warriors right now:
  • Way too many three-pointers being shot. The Warriors lead the league in three-pointers attempted by a full shot over the second place team (the 1-4 Supersonics), and by almost six shots over the third place team, the Suns. Why? They're 14th in percentage of made threes, and have never been a big-time three-point shooting team. This means there are too many guys sitting on the perimeter waiting to cash in from penetration, which usually only comes from Baron Davis.
  • They're getting outrebounded by an average of five rebounds a game, and are 26th out of 30 teams in giving up offensive rebounds. Only four teams are worse than Golden State in giving up offensive boards.
  • They're 28th in free throw shooting percentage.

Now, on the flipside, they are playing good team defense, but those offensive rebounds they're giving up will negate that to some degree. They're first in the league in turnover differential at +.8, meaning that even though they're turning over the ball too much for my liking, they're getting almost a turnover more from the other team.

I've been getting the feeling that the Warriors are better than all the teams they've played against, but for whatever reason, they let the inferior/poor teams hang around too much, either because of turnovers, poor free throwing, letting the opposition have too many offensive rebounds, or taking too many three-pointers.

Let's call it: playing to the level of their competition. They were getting smacked around by the Hawks in the first half of that game, and played a hell of a second half. They had no chance to rest against the Bucks because Milwaukee was playing good basketball in that game. That's when we've seen the best out of this team -- when there's been no choice. In the other games, the Warriors haven't had to play their best basketball because they other teams (the Bulls and the Knicks), weren't a real threat to pull away. They did just enough to win against the Knicks, and just enough to lose against the Bulls (and I'm skipping the Jazz game because of Davis being out that game).

So we'll see something tonight, I think. On the road against a high-scoring team again, a team in Phoenix who has had more problems than the Warriors in rebounding, and plays almost non-existent defense. It will certainly be interesting, but I think the Warriors really need this win to back the Milwaukee win up -- two victories against quality teams on the road instead of just one will solidify their current standing of second in the West.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

On the Map

Alright. This is the one we were looking for. On the road against an improved Milwaukee Bucks team, a team which much of the basketball world was taking notice of. What did the Warriors do?

Beat 'em, that's what. 110-103.

Not only was this a good game from the standpoint of a win and the type of win it was, it was a great game from the aspect of seeing the Warriors fix critical shortcoming from their first three games. Like:
  1. Rebounding - no, it wasn't good, but it was better -- the Warriors were only outrebounded by two. Offensive rebounds given up was still high at 15, but I wanted to see some improvement, and I did. I believe part of it was coach Mike Montgomery going with a smaller, three-guard lineup for much of the 4th quarter, leaving Derek Fisher in the game down the stretch. Fair enough.
  2. Free throw shooting - at 73%, much, much better than any of the previous three games, and about where it needs to be for this team to win these tough road games.

But all that crap aside, what a game. Troy Murphy took most of his offensive game outside, and was putting daggers in the Bucks heart all night, scoring 25. One play I particularly like from him was a three-point play, but on a drive. After stroking it from outside all night, Murphy took a pass from Baron Davis and seemed to know he'd get a defender flying at him, so he immediately drove to the hoop and converted a tough, inside bucket.

Jason Richardson was his usual self, scoring 23 along with 14 rebounds. His outside shot has become silky smooth, and he seems to be able to get himself into the best shooting position even when a defender is on top of him (those crazy hops help a bit there). Announcer Jim Barnett made a very good point in observing that Richardson's scoring hasn't dropped off despite the presence of Baron, and in seeing these first several games, I now don't expect it. He's a star, and looking like he may be in the transition to becoming a superstar. He was also, much to my delight, instrumental in keeping Michael Redd's activities to a dull roar. Redd got 21 points, but only went to the line twice and was almost non-existent in the 4th quarter. After the first three games Redd was averaging 31 per contest, so this sends a nice little message that the Warriors are capable of containing the opposing team's superstar.

Ah, and then there's Boom Dizzle, Mister Davis. Fifteen assists, 20 points, and some clutch shots. Yawn. Another day at the office. It's hilarious -- the Bucks had to know what Baron was doing everytime he got a pass on the blocks, but they couldn't stop it. He'd back down T.J. Ford, or whomever was guarding him, drive towards the baseline or to the middle of the key, and pass the ball off to a cutting/waiting player around the basket after drawing a double team. It was methodical, it was deliberate, and it was beautiful.

The Mike Dunleavy Fidget-O-Meter will stand pat at a modest 3.1 for now. He didn't have a good game, really, but he was a factor in the 2nd half with a couple of nice shots.

So, they pass the "test", but have another one today in the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd half of a back-to-back against a dangerous team. Perhaps Mark Stein of will finally give the Warriors a bit of credit if they go 3-0 on an East Coast roadie.

Then again, who cares what he thinks?

EDIT: Craving for attention, I end up seeing a load of talk about Kobe Bryant instead. Yes, surely, the Lakers are an early season story, but then, so were the Bucks. And the Bucks just got beat by the up-and-coming Warriors at home, yet this seemed to garner little notice. Well, they'll have no choice but to notice if the Warriors come back to Oakland 4-1.

Go Warriors!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Are the Bucks found money?

The Warriors will have tip-off with the unbeaten Milwaukee Bucks in a bit less than three hours from now. Another tough road game, as the Bucks have been impressive in the early going. Are the Bucks just hot right now, or ought we to pencil them into a playoff position this year, and for a victory tonight?

The Bucks have a fairly impressive and youthful first six players. Starting with the explosive scoring talents of Michael Redd, the Bucks have several emerging talents in T.J. Ford, Bobby Simmons, Andrew Bogut, and Maurice Williams, all of whom are 26 years old or less. They also have Jamal Magloire, a nice inside presence to add some scoring, rebouding, and a bit of defense.

After that? I can't, for the life of me, figure out what's happened to Joe Smith, who should've figured prominently somewhere in all this. It's pretty much peanuts after that, although Toni Kukoc used to be able to score some.

In their first three games, the Bucks have rebounded well, and attempted a lot of 3-pointers, which one might expect with the bulk of their scoring coming from the backcourt. They've probably turned over the ball a bit more frequently than coach Terry Stotts would like, but they've managed to beat two questionable teams in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and one good team in the Miami Heat -- who were without Shaquille O'Neal.

So it's a bit hard to evaluate them at this point. They've managed to win three without losing any and they're at home, so this will still likely be a tough assignment for the Warriors. With the Bucks likely to outrebound the Warriors, Golden State must at least try to limit second-chance points for Milwaukee, as offensive rebounds have been a huge issue in the early going. Also, the Warriors will not be able to afford shooting a poor percentage from the line again in this game -- that's got to be fixed tonight.

I'm looking at the matchup at the shooting guard position with Redd and Jason Richardson and wondering how much they will let J-Rich actually guard Redd. I'll going to assume Mike Montgomery will want to give his best on-the-ball defender on the team, Mickael Pietrus, as much time on Redd as possible to not only up the defense on Redd, but to avoid fouls and the tiring out of J-Rich.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Better to win ugly...but boy, that was u-g-l-y

Okay, I'm officially on a Rampage.

The Warriors officially have a problem with free throws.

Yesterday, in their 83-81 victory over the equally-as-free-throw-inept New York Knicks, the Warriors left about nine points unscored from the line in a thoroughly convincing imitation of Shaquille O'Neal, shooting a rim-damaging 47% (I'm gleaning that number of points figuring from the league average of 75% - the Warriors actually missed 15 free throws yesterday). Luckily the Knicks were only a tad more competent, shooting 52% themselves.

I can only assume this is a huge anomaly, as the team shot 72% last season, and no longer have two of their poorest free throwers from last year in Uncle Cliff Robinson and Eduardo Najera.

But it's getting old very quickly. The team's free throw percentage from the first three games read like this: 64%, 58%, and the 47%.

Also wearing out its welcome is the way the Warriors are getting dominated on the glass, especially in the category of offensive rebounds. Let's review the games thus far:
  1. Against Atlanta, they were outrebounded 47-38, and gave up 20(!!!) offensive rebounds to the Hawks.
  2. Against Utah, they were outrebounded 48-41, and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to the Jazz.
  3. Against New York, they were outrebounded 51-40, and gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Knicks.

This team, as it stands right now, will not be making any playoffs. You can't consistently win giving up a 17% disadvantage from the free throw line and getting outrebounded by an average of eight boards per game, which is the team's dilemma right now. They ought to be very happy they've won 2 of 3, and that they had a decent chance to win vs. the Jazz, too. At the same time, they must play better. Good news is, they are playing excellent defense, but constantly giving up those offensive rebounds will negate that advantage to a large extent.

Mike Dunleavy is quickly becoming a problem, too. He looks very much the same as the previous seasons, although I admit it's still obviously very early. However, shooting 26% from the floor, 18% from the three-point line, averaging just under three rebounds a game, having an almost even turnover-to-assist ratio while scoring less per night than last season...

...that isn't how I wanted to see him start after the Warriors gave him 44 million. Can you blame me for being fidgety? Heck, why aren't you fidgety? Fidget, damn you! I am absolutely certain that owner Chris Cohan is fidgeting his ass off right now.

Until Dunleavy starts playing better, I'm staring an Official Fidget Meter, which will track just how uncomfortable the Warriors fanbase and front office should be over Mike's on-court performance post-contract. Scale of 1-10, decimals used freely, with ascending fidgetiness as the number gets higher.

If it continues to be a problem over the course of 20-30 games and it looks like the Warriors do have a shot at the playoffs, it could grow into the Start Mickael Pietrus campaign in a hurry. Pietrus gets lost on the floor almost as frequently as Dunleavy, but has two things over Dunleavy to bail him out occasionally: better energy, and better athleticism. He also plays much better defense. Dunleavy is a much better ballhandler, passer, and shooter in theory, but can't seem to translate that statistically. We'll see how it pans out.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yeah, well, what'd you expect?

No Baron Davis, no chance, right?

Well, no. That is, yes, there was no Baron Davis, but yes, the Warriors had a chance.

Whatever. 91-85, Jazz over Warriors.

Now, there's good news here:
  • The Warriors lost by six but missed 16 free throws for the night, so they could have won the game with better free throw shooting.

But, of course, there's bad news:

  • The Warriors lost by six but missed 16 free throws for the night, so they could have won the game with better free throw shooting.

If you'll recall the recap from Thursday, I shrugged off the Warriors poor free throw shooting in the first half of their game vs. the Hawks, partially because the Warriors won that game, and partially because they shot better from the charity stripe in the 2nd half.

But this, this is a problem. It's a problem that has to be fixed immediately, because it has already directly lead to a loss after only two games of play. Can we reason that they Warriors missed free throws because of the absence of Baron? To quote Dr. Evil, "No, not really. I can't back that up."

Was that the only problem? No, not quite -- the Warriors shot very poorly from the field (37.2%), and hit their three pointers at an anemic 23.8% clip. Can we reason that this was because of Baron's absence? Yes, I think we can. The Warriors just don't have a reliable playmaker without Davis, which is why this team was flawed to begin with. Lots of decent-to-good support/complimentary players on the Warriors (yes, Jason Richardson is a complimentary player, but a very, very good one), but no real playmakers.

So, without Davis, the Warriors shots just aren't as open, they don't come within the flow of the offense as often, they become very reliant on their outside shots falling, and...

...they're the same team as before he came. One that wins at around a 30% clip.

Does this game worry me? No, because we all know this season is predicated on Baron playing the vast majority of it -- think Barry Bonds to the Giants as Baron is to the Warriors, and you'll about have it.

We'll see if Baron laces 'em up this morning vs. the Knicks. Frankly, I'm all for resting Baron against the lower eschelon East teams, as the Warriors of last season without Baron had a 6-7 record against Eastern non-playoff teams, a group to which I'd believe the Knicks belong again this year. If he's really recovered, fine, but if he's not, why push it against a team that the Warriors may actually be able to beat without him?