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Game Thread: Warriors debut "Oakland" theme as they welcome Spurs to town
Warriors to wear the City Edition Oakland jerseys for the first time!
While there’s no truly “easy” stretch in an NBA calendar, the Golden State Warriors are entering one of the softer portions of their season. The Warriors have once again proven themselves worthy of our faith, coming back recently from 22 down to the Clippers, and a 19-point deficit to the Lakers. It’s a reminder to everyone that any team featuring Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will have a stiff backbone, no matter the odds.
Of those games, only three are against mid-tier playoff teams: the Jazz (the best of the bunch by far), Spurs, and Suns - but these are all winnable games for a Warriors team that seems to be finding themselves.
Tonight also marks the first appearance of the Warriors’ “Oakland Forever” City Edition design this year, which includes both jersey and home court redesign.
I don’t know if it’s intentional irony or not, but calling this design set “Oakland Forever” just one season removed from the franchise moving away from their long-time home in the East Bay hurts me a little bit. I know not everyone cares - and I have to admit my close living proximity to Oracle factors into my feelings around the team’s departure - but the Oakland love from a franchise that didn’t just walk away, but tried to leave the tax payers holding the bag on some old bills will always feel bittersweet to me.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (7-6) vs. San Antonio Spurs (8-6)
WHEN: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 // 7:00pm PST
Spurs: stable, boring, or a bit of both?
It’s hard to call what the Warriors are doing these days “stabilized,” but whatever you want to call it, Golden State is beginning to find what works. We knew it was high usage Stephen Curry, but the emergence of Eric Paschall (12.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in under 20 minutes per game), and newfound defensive chops of Andrew Wiggins have afforded the Warriors some stability.
How good this team can be through the course of an entire season is anyone’s guess, but the Warriors have recovered from their early season tailspin to emerge as a clear playoff team in the crowded Western Conference.
Tonight’s opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, are also entrenched in the mid-tier playoff team pile up. After the retirement of Tim Duncan, and departure of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have kept the same brand - stable, but perhaps lacking excitement - as they try to bridge the gap into their next era.
The Spurs aren’t great, but they are a good team. Coached by the legendary Greg Popovich, this is a squad that has distilled the essence of Tim Duncan into a team-wide philosophy. Led by an aging core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and DeMar DeRozan, (and also I guess maybe Patty Mills?), this looks like a team that is built to succeed by not screwing up.
The Spurs boast the league’s 10th ranked defense, and cough up the least turnovers per game out of the entire NBA. The offense leaves a bit to be desired, but they’ve still managed a better overall mark on that end than Golden State. In other words, this is going to be a tough game, and the Warriors will be coming in expecting to lose the turnover battle, while facing a stout, smart defense.
“If I had to win a game tomorrow, I wouldn't start this group…”
Coach Steve Kerr is working with a flawed, but not wholly untalented roster. Balanced in between maximizing every moment of Stephen Curry basketball, and the need to develop the next generation of Warriors stars, Kerr has found himself under increasing scrutiny. It’s not just Kelly Oubre - a player Kerr has repeatedly pleaded for patience on - the Warriors are also trying to bring 19-year old Schrödinger's cat of a player, James Wiseman up to speed.
Here’s the full quote:
Though it sent noisy reactive ripples through Dub Nation, this isn’t a crazy sound to my ears. Wiseman looks nervous and unsure out there, like the game is going too fast. Those are the sort of wrinkles smoothed through playing time, not film review. Same goes for Wiseman’s troubling frequency of defensive lapses and dropped passes - he needs playing time to work through those… but at the same time, the Warriors do have better players right now sitting on the bench.
The same goes for Kelly Oubre. His shot has fallen off at a historic level, and barring catastrophe, he will start regressing up towards the mean - which has been pretty nice for him over the course of his six year career. And assuming the shooting returns, Oubre has the frame and speed better suited to freely switching up to forwards and bigger players, a skill Kerr knows will be heavily valued in any meaningful playoff series.
So he has to stick with some underpowered players. Preferring to tinker with rotation and minutes allotment, Kerr and the team are showing improvement - though not always a steady one, it’s happening.
After finding my faith lacking against the Lakers, I’m going to go Gold Blooded and predict a win over the mundane excellence of the Spurs tonight.
As Joe Viray said in our writers chat, “I just hope the historical penchant of the Dubs getting their asses kicked by the Spurs in those colors doesn't show up tonight.” It can’t, because this is Stephen Curry’s Warriors.