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Rested Pacers host fully powered Warriors on back-to-back
Also: Remaining Warriors schedule released, opens with brutal stretch against Clippers, Lakers, and Jazz
The Golden State Warriors are back to whatever represents “full strength” in this injury-stricken season, and back in the win column after holding on last night to beat the New York Knicks, 114-106. Stephen Curry scored 37 in his return after a one-game absence due to dizziness (my guess: dehydration?), and there was a whole lot to like about a Golden State team that is unsteady, but improving.
Tonight’s opponent: the well rested Indiana Pacers, and their zone defense. Let’s go!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (17-15) at Indiana Pacers (16-15)
WHEN: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 // 4:30 pm PST
WATCH: ESPN; NBCSBA
How good are the Pacers? Good enough to get the 4th seed in the East
Looking at the Pacers stats, it’s hard to make sense of how this team is the 4th seed. Their 12th ranked defense, and 15th ranked offense seem at odds with the Pacers success. And adding to the head-scratching: like the Warriors, this is a Pacers team playing without a significant portion of their starting lineup. TJ Warren is out after foot surgery, and newly acquired Caris LeVert is out indefinitely after an MRI taken during a routine trade physical found what has been described as “a mass on his left kidney.” Both Warren and LeVert would be starters on a fully healthy Indiana squad.
Domantas Sabonis may not be an All Star, but he has certainly been the star of these Pacers, averaging 21.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. A big man with legitimate size and some nifty ball skills, Sabonis and his partner on the wing, Malcolm Brogdon can be are a dangerous combo. Brogdon, for his part, is quietly having a heck of a season as well - he leads the team in points (21.6), assists (6.6), and steals (1.3).
In the teams earlier meeting this season, a 104-94 win over the Warriors, Sabonis was everywhere, with a stat-stuffing line of 18 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. It should be a great test of a newly strong Warriors defense that is currently ranked fourth in the league.
Warriors are seeing improvements where they’re needed the most
The Golden State Warriors’ story is plainly written on the roster. Anchored by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Golden State came into the season expecting some stalwarts to keep doing their thing (Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins), and a whole bunch of unknowns. After weathering some bumps and bruises along the way, it looks like some of the unknowns are finally rounding into shape.
Kelly Oubre had one of, if not the, roughest start to a season on a new team. Clanking shots like Andris Biedrins, and bumping into Steph Curry like he was playing defense for the bad guys, Oubre was a disaster for a large chunk of the early season. But that is old history now. Oubre has emerged as one of the team’s most important defenders, a willing passer and vociferous scorer - all while playing with a panache that is just the right level of saucy:
Likewise, rookie center James Wiseman is making a bunch of strides that bode well for the future. Bumped to the second unit in favor of reliable but Earthbound, Kevon Looney, Wiseman is putting up good numbers on offense, while also cleaning up some of his most glaring defensive deficiencies.
Wiseman has the physical tools to be dominant, but we’ve seen plenty of players arrive to the NBA only to find that their physical acumen isn’t enough to make it (boy, was I wrong about rookie Anthony Randolph!).
Here’s a play from last night. Note how smooth Wiseman waltzes through the phases of this play, from ball screen, to slip, and then finishing with a solid post move to seal the deal:
As long as the fringe pieces continue to develop, the Warriors will count this season as a success. While the team has loftier goals for the future, no one would mind one bit if this team turned into a monster in the final portion of the season. Right now, that outcome looks a whole lot more likely than it did just a few months ago.
With Covid still rampaging through the United States, the NBA took a staggered approach to releasing this season’s schedule. Just released, here’s the first look at the remainder of the season, which we now know will wrap up on May 16th.
Notably, the Warriors (supposedly facing an easier tail end of the schedule) will kick off the second part of the season with a brutal three game stretch against the Clippers, Jazz, and Lakers - the #1, #2, and #3 seed in a brutal Western conference.
Also, the Warriors will have a nice break, with their final game before the All Star break on March 4th, they have a full week off before the season resumes on the 11th. Also important, that big home stretch to close the season? If things go well enough, it could be an opportunity to get fans into Chase for the first time this year.
And finally, it looks like promises of an easy back end schedule were overblown. According to this, Golden State’s end schedule is the 10th toughest.