Back-to-back: Warriors vs. Kings - no time to rest on your laurels
Fresh off a sparkling win, Golden State gets right back to work against another Pacific Division opponent
As Stephen Curry waited courtside after his career-best 62-point game last night, Golden State Warriors owner, Joe Lacob walked past, grinning like a school boy. On the hot mic, you could hear him facetiously ask Curry “still got some left in the tank for tomorrow?”
Curry responded in the affirmative.
Under the new NBA travel regime, Curry and the Warriors are holding court at Chase Center. They’ll re-open up the doors to welcome in another Pacific Division opponent today: the Sacramento Kings. After an awful start, the Warriors were pulled back into wider consideration on the strength of Curry’s offensive explosion last night, but his detonation obscured some other aspects of Golden State’s team that are finally lining up.
Can the Sacramento Kings build off their strong early season showing, or will the newly minted reborn Warriors team crush them for old times’ sake?
WHO: Golden State Warriors (3-3) vs. Sacramento Kings (3-3)
WHEN: Monday, January 4, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST
Blog Buddy: The Kings Herald
The Yin and Yang of Curry and Green have restored balance
In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. So it goes with the Warriors critical pairing of Draymond Green and Stephen Curry.
Though the two are opposites in many ways - one known for offense, the other for defense; one cool and easy going, the other hot and lacking an emotional volume control nob - their combined basketball mastery will be at the center of whatever happens with Golden State this season.
Curry garners the most attention, but Green’s impact can be just as critical. After missing all of training camp, and the team’s first three games, Green truly showed up last night. With a markedly different vibe from his opening game, Green pitched in with 8 assists, 3 rebounds, a block, and a steal - but as per usual with him, the box score numbers only tell a small fraction of the tale.
Defensively, Green is without question the straw that stirs the drink. His direct defense (see clip above) is a big deal, but his presence allows so many little things to go right. Last night against the Blazers, there was a post play that Green correctly predicted, fouling up the shooter just enough for Wiseman and Wiggins to converge to snuff out the shot attempt and secure the rebound.
Speaking of Wiseman, the rookie center posted the first double-double of his career, wrestling down 11 rebounds - a new career high - to go along with 12 points (on an efficient 6 of 9 shooting from the floor). Of course, Green is only indirectly involved, but it’s not hard to notice the early interest Green is taking in helping craft the Warriors center of the future…and the present.
Like a good 3-in-1 oil (seriously, that stuff is magic on squeaky hinges!) Green and Curry, working in tandem, tend to make everything easier for their teammates. In particular, Wiggins seems to benefit from a significantly more friendly basketball reality while sharing the floor with Green:
While there was certainly plenty going wrong over the first five games - definitely more than can be completely explained by the absence of Green - it’s no coincidence that all the parts started clicking right as Green hit his stride.
This is the Wiggins that the team needs. He doesn’t need to carry the team, but an efficient offensive output, alongside his reliably solid defense would go a long way towards propelling the Warriors up the food pyramid of the NBA landscape.
Oh no, Kangz?
The Sacramento Kings continue to be afflicted with a recurring bout of mediocrity. Despite slowly fixing their roster, there are plenty of problems afoot, even as the Kings incrementally inch their way back towards relevance. With two wins over the Denver Nuggets, and one against the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento has had some solid moments in this young season.
Now, coming off back-to-back losses against the Houston Rockets, the seams are unravelling a bit. Nothing too shattering, but talented rookie Tyrese Halliburton has been out since last week, nursing a bone bruise in his wrist; and despite contributing just 10 points and 4.4 assists per game, they miss him.
Adding to the chaos, Marvin Bagley continues to be… complicated. The third year player is incredibly important to the Kings’ future, but has struggle with scoring efficiently, and coach Luke Walton reduced his playing time. In an interesting wrinkle, it was Bagley’s dad who took to twitter to demand a trade, followed shortly thereafter by De’Aaron Fox’s father piping up on the public social media platform encouraging the team to do precisely that.
As Warriors fans have experienced over the past two seasons, player development is not a straight line. As young players work on their game, and adjustments, it’s expected that these hiccups are going to occasionally surface; here’s the lowdown on the recent developments from Bryant West, over at The Kings Herald:
Marvin Bagley III had a bad week on the court. After a strong 1st half showing against the Nuggets on Tuesday, Bagley sat on the bench for all but 6 minutes of the 2nd half. It’s disappointing that Luke Walton didn’t find him more minutes in that contest, but he stuck with what was working and the Kings netted a 125-115 victory - their most impressive win of the season. Then across the two Houston contests, Bagley’s confidence and patient play was replaced by rushed efforts and missed layups.
So, what is going right?
Well, De’Aaron Fox continues to impress. In his fourth season, the speedy point guard appears to be putting it all together. He leads the team in scoring (21 points per game), as well as assists (6.2 per contest), and steals (1.7 per). He’s also a foul magnet, something that is a concern to a slap-happy Warriors team that ranks 28th in the league with .253 free throws per opponent shot attempt.
Our old pal Harrison Barnes is quietly Black Falconing his way to a career as a reliable rotation player for the Kings. Much like Mike Dunleavy jr., Warriors fans have trouble trueing up the relatively pedestrian impact for a player drafted relatively high; but Barnes has positive impact on the court. I’m hoping for some fireworks in the Barnes/Wiggins matchups tonight.
The Warriors are coming in for the second game of a back-to-back, but I still like their chances now that they’ve awakened a bit.
Curry will outplay Fox, but Fox should have a field day against the Warriors defense - unless Green can marshal the defensive forces, of course.
Speaking of Green, he and Wiseman will have an interesting battle against the Kings frontcourt players. Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley will present a challenge, but I think the days of watching Wiseman get dominated by the likes of Whiteside and others of that tier will be gone sooner rather than later.
Why not: Dubs win two in a row!!