It's a new season, but will first contact between Warriors and Nets go better than last year?
How revamped are these Warriors? Time to measure up against some top tier competition
Not since Obi-Wan Kenobi chopped the legs off Anakin Skywalker while concurrently talking about how much he loved him has the world seen such a dramatic reversal between two former teammates as we’ll see tonight when Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors take on former member of the dynasty, Kevin Durant. Sure, they’ve met since Durant left for the New Jersey Nets, but this will be the first time that the resurgent Warriors are playing against Durant’s new team.
Both sides have gone out of their way to say it isn’t personal, but I’m still expecting a little bit of extra oomph in a battle between two chosen ones.
On the injury front, the best 15th man in the league, Gary Payton II is battling a sore knee. The team has him listed as “probable” on their injury report - as always we will keep you posted if anything more concrete develops.
The Nets are playing without Kyrie Irving until further notice, but they’ve also got a couple of key players out on top of that. Paul Milsap is listed out (his second consecutive game of “personal reasons”) and sneaky good wing shooter, Joe Harris is nursing a rolled ankle.
WHO: Golden State (11-2) at New Jersey Nets (10-4)
WHEN: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 // 4:30 pm PDT (← early!)
Dubs hit some bumps
The Warriors’ hype train has hit a bit of turbulence (yeah it’s a flying train like that transformer Astrotrain, ok?). After just two losses, there’s a disturbing familiarity when things go wrong, and like that bridge that blew apart in the wind because of bad harmonics, it doesn’t take much to press the panic button for those so inclined.
So what can we learn from the limited library of two losses? There’s a sort of stacked significance to this Warriors team that revolutionized the league. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the NBA sure has flattered Golden State. With miles of defensive tape on the Warriors’ sets, every team now has coached up the principles of defending ball movement with help-heavy, switchable defenders.
This may not be a Finals preview, but these are the two best teams in the league right now.
So there’s a blueprint that the best teams will know. Defeating the implementation of that blueprint is really going to be a prerequisite for Golden State’s ultimate success this season. When games start to matter more and the halfcourt sets get less generous, how can the Warriors get around an off night from Curry?
Back in that first loss, the Warriors only managed to score three points in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies. And then more recently, a 14 point fourth quarter led to their demise in Charlotte. So even though it’s only two games, there’s a pattern. A familiar patter. The same pattern that was on fully display as the Toronto Raptors Box+1 shut down Curry as his top tier help fell away.
So sure, the teams aren’t too worried about a short-handed midseason matchup, but there are some deep principles that both sides will be testing. Curry went 7 of 22 overall against Charlotte (and 1 for 8 in the 4th). There’s no shame in not being as good when Curry isn’t playing well, he’s literally one of the most impactful players in history, and the offense is scoring around 22 points more per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor.
Here are the top minutes played. The colors indicate percentile rank, and the far right number is net point per 100 possessions when each player is on the court:
So I don’t know that I’m all that worried, but one of the things that led me to the world-rocking B Grade this offseason was that I didn’t feel like the team addressed some critical structural issues. The age old question: what do you do when your best player sits?
In preseason, it became clear that Jordan Poole was the best option for 2nd unit shot creation - which is really applicable anytime Curry is having a tough night. Poole is currently scoring at a below average rate (46th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass). I’m still a whole lot more Tigger on him than an Eeyore on Poole, but tightening up his shot selection may be a good idea - you know, if he wasn’t being asked to do crazy stuff for the second unit.
Teams are for sure allowed to lose. The Warriors have the best record in the league, arguably the best player, and have gotten here without Klay Thompson. No team is without faults. Two losses at this point is extremely solid, but if anyone is the nervous type, there’s plenty for the Warriors to work on after their second loss. But likewise, there is plenty to work with.
Thankfully, they’ve got plenty of weapons. Even an off night or two will balance out, as long as some elements of the engine are hitting.
Kevin Durant is without a doubt one of the best basketball players to ever step foot on planet Earth, which almost certainly means he's one of the best in the entire galaxy. Friend of the program, Joe Viray (who also suggested the Darth Reaper name after hearing about my intro) once called him a Game Genie cheat machine.
Durant is on a tear so far this season, and even without Kyrie Irving, he’s dragged his Nets out to one of the best records in the league.
I still find myself awfully wistful for this guy.
The Nets have a strong offense and defense, but then again, so does Golden State. Only one team can come away with a win. But man oh man do I miss it when they were on the same side.
Should be a fun game!