Preview: Warriors go to work on Christmas against the Suns
Gary Payton, Otto Porter, and the Dubs present
Merry Christmas, Shabbat shalom, and happy Holidays to our Dub Nation families! The Golden State Warriors are spending the day with the Phoenix Suns in a battle of the West’s two best teams.
Of course, these games are always a little weird. Something about the mid-day schedule, or the holiday just seems to lead to some quirky games. This year, even more so, as the league is beset by Covid and related health and safety protocols. But the NBA is a business, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Holiday movies, it is that business will always forge on. Did Santa shut down because of that snow storm? No! He called in a favor from the once ostracized misfit to save the day.
And so too will the Warriors push on today. Without two starters (Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins) and key bench players (Andre Iguodala, Damion Lee), Golden State has found their Rudolphs.
Oof. We also have a late Xmas eve addition, as Moses Moody joins the Covid list. Man. It’s tough out in the world right now, friends.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (26-6) at Phoenix Suns (26-5)
WHEN: December 25th, 2021 // 2pm PDT
“I have something to tell you… I am not left-handed”
I keep thinking about that scene from the Princess Bride, where the supposed villain handicaps himself in a critical fight. An initial testing of his opponent before bringing the full weight of his expertise to bear on the fight.
Win or lose today, the Warriors are sword fighting with their left hands, and it’s not going to be too much longer before they flip to the dominant side and it’s Klay Thompson running around out there shooting threes next to Stephen Curry and Draymond Green again.
The Warriors are not alone in playing short-handed, but much like the tail end of last season, scraping away some layers has just exposed the heart of iron at the center of Golden State’s rotation. It still counts as playing short-handed, but watching the Warriors handle a very pesky Memphis Grizzlies while missing a good portion of their rotation was an impressive sight. Turns out, this unfortunate situation may have a silver lining — the Warriors are finding guys that aren’t just covering minutes, they’re thriving in them.
It’s actually 68.9 points if you consider Klay Thompson’s career average. But the point stands. How do you square playing against this iteration of the Warriors team right now? Lose to them, and you’ve got to live with knowing that there’s a second Christmas coming for this squad. Not just the players in health and safety protocols, but the prototypical “3 and D” wing when Thompson returns, and a rim-running athletic freak of a center are getting closer and closer to seeing the court.
But even sword fighting left handed, the Warriors are putting up a season for the ages. Now add Gary Payton II to the list.
Known for his defense (rightfully so), Payton was fully cut loose from the Warriors as recently as this October. Crazy to think about the path that has led him back here, where he has thrived well enough to earn a starting nod.
Daniel Hardee highlighted the shooting from various bench players in the last game — where Payton, Kuminga, Bjelica, Porter all had big shooting nights. But it’s the way these players have fit into the Warriors offensive ecosystem that should be making opponents nervous.
One of the key moves in the Warriors (B Grade) offseason was their intentional focus on players that “get” how to move in a team offense that is heavily improvisational. Watch this clip below, and notice how smoothly all the pieces of the Warriors system flow around each other:
Place holder, or permanent fixture, Payton is establishing himself as a useful veteran in a league that almost didn’t want him. You love to see it.
The Suns are good, and maybe more importantly, healthy. But hey, let’s all just have fun out there, hustle, and not get hurt! These games do matter a bit more against the other top teams, but Golden State has nothing to prove here.
Also, on behalf of the Dub Nation HQ family, I want to extend a very personal thank you to all of our readers and commenting community. From all of us to all of you: wishing you all a fantastic day, year, and life out there. Thank you for making rooting for our favorite team feel like a group activity.