The Golden State Warriors have been the early darlings of the 2012-13 NBA season, off to the franchises’ best start in over twenty years. Perhaps most impressively, the Warriors have had fantastic success against some of the best teams in the NBA, with impressive wins against the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers. However, still to be determined for the Warriors is how they might fare in a possible upcoming playoff appearance, and a 115-89 shellacking at Staples Center to the Clippers showed there are still some areas of concern.
The surprising strength of this year’s Warriors team has been their rebounding and defensive tenacity. Golden State struggled mightily on the boards last season, but has improved from the 28th best rebounding team in the NBA to 2nd best this season. The Warriors have also forced teams to shoot low-percentage jump shots this season, which has helped improve their opponent’s field-goal percentage from the 45.3 % they allowed last season, to the sparkling 42.7% they are allowing this season. Most impressively, the Warriors have been able to put up these numbers without the help of star center Andrew Bogut, who was supposed to be the defensive cog that helped the Warriors improve in both areas this season. However, against the Clippers, the need for Bogut was never more apparent, as Golden State suffered mightily without a low-post presence . The Clippers controlled the glass, out rebounding Golden State 41-30, and dominated the interior, as Blake Griffin absolutely destroyed the undersized Carl Landry, and the overmatched Andres Biedrins. Without Bogut, the Warriors will have to figure out a strategy to stop dominant low-post players when rookie defensive standout Festus Ezeli is not on the court.
Another bright sport for the Warriors so far this season has been the All-Star level performances of Stephen Curry and David Lee. The duo have given Golden State consistent scoring, with Curry and Lee placing 9th and 10th respectively in the NBA in points per game. However, against the Clippers, both players struggled, causing the offense to completely stall. Come playoff time, smart defensive teams will gear up to stop Curry and Lee, and force someone else to beat them. The Warriors need their role players to consistently step up on offense in order to counter this defensive strategy.
It should be noted that part of the Warriors struggles on Saturday were fairly unavoidable. Chris Paul played at an MVP-like level, swishing a bevy of contested jumpers in route to a dominant 27 point 9 assist performance. Lee’s and Curry’s porous play are not typical of their usual performances, and will certainly not continue in every game going forward. The loss only put Golden State 4 games out of 1st place in the Pacific division, but that fact did not stop the Warriors from taking the loss to heart, as after the game, Golden State looked quite disconsolate in their locker room. Hopefully the Warriors can remember this feeling of dejection, and learn from their mistakes on Saturday, in order to prepare for the first playoff run the Bay Area has seen in over 5 years.
Ari Kaye (Cali Swag/ All About Sports)