Sunday, February 24, 2008

Warriors Battle Injuries at a Critical Point of the Season

The win against the Celtics could have been the most impressive win of the Warriors' season in terms of drama and quality of opponent. The win against New Orleans on the road stands out as well, but the Warriors beat the Celtics without Stephen Jackson.

The W's have been terrific all year with a roster full of healthy players, but recently health has been an issue. Captain Jack has been ailing from an ankle injury since Feb. 9 against the Kings and Andre Biedrins is recovering from his appendectomy. Baron seems to be dragging that left knee a bit after giving the team some serious minutes throughout the year. Monte has kept this team in the hunt with his stellar play throughout February and Webber seems to be playing better. He rarely logs more than 20 minutes a game, but his floor time has been improving. He defended well against Kevin Garnett and is starting to get on the same page with the offense. Biedrins could be out another week or more and we know the Warriors are not the same without Jack in the game. He was just starting to heat up as he notched a season high 41 Feb. 11. Brandon Wright will be called upon pick up for Biedrins and Pietrus will have to contribute for the W's to stay alive during this rough period.

Before the All-Star break, it was a tight race between three teams for the 7th and 8th spots in the Western Conference, but Houston has just won its 12th straight tonight and are looking like they could beat anyone in the West. They have finally got all of their weapons healthy, as in Tracy McGrady. They also got deeper at the point by adding Bobby Jackson, who has playoff experience with Sacramento, who was coached by Rick Adelman, who is the current Rocket coach.

As February comes to a close, March will bring some critical games directly affecting the playoff campaign. These are four games coach Nelson has circled in red ink. Mar. 2 versus Portland at home. The Blazers won the first two out four total meetings, both up in Portland. The W's will be anxious to even the score and stop the Blazers from sneaking up from behind. The second meeting is also at Oracle on Mar. 27. Also critical home game comes on Mar. 21 when the W's host Houston for the fourth and final meeting of the season series. Houston crushed the W's in the first half of the last meeting in Houston, but the W's made a valiant comeback effort in a loss. The fourth critical game will be on the road in Denver Mar. 29. It looks like the Nuggets are the closest competition for the W's unless the Rockets cool off considerably or Portland gets back on track. Taking three out of four from the Nuggets would make life much easier. Oh yeah, and they need to weather meetings with Phoenix, Dallas, and back to back with the Lakers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Captain Jack Carries Warriors

Lets face it. The Warriros should not have won last night. The Wizzards got some incredible contributions from serveral unlikely sources. Like Roger Mason going for a team high 32 points. Mason was 5 of 7 from three point range. Nick Young provided a surge off the bench late in the game as the Wizzards' starting line-up began to tire. The And the starters played incredible, it seemed that everything was falling.

The Warriors didn't play particularly poor on defense, however; followed the recent trend of sloppy defense in the first quarter, alloing 37 points. The Wizzards tried to keep up at the Warriors lightning pace, but their injury riddled roster showed as a fatigued DeShean Stevenson fell victim to the Warriors' ball pressure in the last minute of the game.

Stephen Jackson finished with 41 points, one point off his career high. Monta Ellis and Harrington both contibuted 22 and 21 points, respectively. Baron Davis had 19, but it seems that Baron has been struggling in the last few games, at least to his high standard. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well against Chicago and he got into foul trouble against Sacramento. After losing to Chicago, the Warriors rebounded to win a scrappy game against the Kings that could have gone either way. The same goes for the thriller against the Wizzards. The Warriors are most deadly at home in the fourth quarter if they can keep the score close enough to get the Oracle fans on their feet. The Warriors take in that energy and translate it into suffocating defensive pressure and more often than not can steal close wins.

Tonight the Suns come into town, but Shaq will most likely not play. I would rather have Shaq play so the Warriors could take advantage of the adjustment period that Shaq will have in his first few games. Either way, the Suns are going to try and run away with this game early, so it is critical for the Warriors to stop the lackidazical first quarter defense.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Warriors Look Deflated After Five Day Break

The Warriors came into Thursday's game against the Bulls with five days rest after blowing out the Bobcats last Friday Feb. 1. The momentum seemed to be strongly in the Warriors' favor as they were set to take on a Chicago Bulls team playing without Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Kirk Heinrich.

Any momentum that existed last week had evaporated over the course of that five day rest. Quite frankly, the Warriors looked apathetic and played lazy on both sides of the court. Webber can't be blamed for most of the things that went wrong. It will take some time for him to feel his way around and find ways to be effective. Webber botched a layup on a break away on the first play of the game, but had a better moment when he received an entry pass coming off a screen, then fed Biedrins down low for a lay in. That was the first time all year I've witnessed a high-low, half court bucket.

Webber is 34, so it will take longer to adjust to the lightning speed of the NBA, than if he were five years younger. Webber is not to blame for the Warriors inability to stop dribble penetration of Chris Duhon. Duhon is a very capable player, but he is no Deron Williams. He is not Tony Parker. He is not Devin Harris. And he is far from Steve Nash. To let Chris Duhon step into Oracle and rack up 34 points is inexcusable for a team that has playoff aspirations in the West.
The 27 points from Joe Smith, an old time Warrior malcontent slash underachieving first round pick, hurts the most.

The Bulls played with an eight player rotation, but Coach Nelson chose to do the same and not exploit an undermanned team playing its second game in as many nights. The Warriors shot for a terrible 43 percent, and would have been much lower if not for Monta Ellis going 11 of 12 and scoring 25. Baron and Jack shot a combined 14 for 43! That's 33 percent from the field. Biedrins continued his much needed post work, notching another game with double figures scoring 12 points and snatching18 rebounds.

The Western Conference is just too good to have nights like this, where the team simply does not play with the desire of a playoff squad. Thursday night makes that bellowing windbag, Charles Barkley, look like Bill Walton. (Or someone who actually analyzes basketball) On Apr. 16, when the season is over, the Warriors will look back to this loss to th Bulls. They will look back to the loss on Jan. 21 to Minnesota. The W's must remember they started off 0-6 and as Coach Nelson said, losing as many as five in a row could cost a playoff appearance. The West has beefed up since that statement, adding Shaq to the Suns and Pau Gasol to the contending Lakers. Losing 3 or four in a row could mean a playoff snubbing. Let's hope Webber doesn't take much longer to adapt and let's hope the W's can find enough heart to play defense with urgency. The road only gets more narrow from here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Webber a Starter

Only two more days until the W's take the court against the Bulls and more important we get to see what Chris Webber's got. There's no telling what kind of minutes Webber will see, but according to Coach Nelson, he will be in the starting line up for the rest of the season. ( Janny Hu, SF Chronicle, Feb. 5, 2008) Nelson is looking forward establishing Al Harrington as his sixth man and provide instant scoring.
The Warriors will be as deep as they have been in years, but it will be critical as there will be at least 10 teams contending for eight playoff positions. The Bulls will be looking to get even with the Warriors for dealing them a tough loss where Baron Davis scored 40 points. It will be a difficult task as the W's confidence is sky high after stomping out the Bobcats. The momentum is coming back and growing with every win, much like last year.