Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Curry Outplays CP3, Again

After watching Monday nights game vs. the Clippers, and seeing Steph Curry just destroy Chris Paul and help lead the Warriors to victory, I got a nostalgic 2006 feeling all over again. That year the Warriors just kept winning big game after big game, and this year, that trend has started again.

The Dubs improved to 25-15 with the victory and have now made it through 1/2 of the '12/13 season with a firm grasp on 2nd place and stranglehold on one of the 8 playoff spots in the Western Conference. Most people looked at their start as a fluke that would even out by December, or January at the latest, but here we are, approaching the All-Star break, and the Warriors have the best record they've had in 2 decades. We saw the major reason why on Monday night too, and that being Step Curry. I know I've gushed about Curry as well as the roles David Lee and Klay Thompson have played in the Warriors terrific half, but the clear-cut team MVP is Steph Curry, and it's the significance of the games he's stepping up in that has me in awe. He's had Chris Paul's number all year, and I know CP wasn't quite 100% for this game, but seeing Curry lead this team like that against the top seeded team in the West for the third time in a row gave me a sense of reassurance that this team will be ready to answer the bell come playoff time. And that's with or without Andrew Bogut.

It was a perfect way to close out the first 40 games of the season, and hopefully will set the tone for the back half of their schedule. As good as they've looked in these big games, there is still room for improvement with this squad. First and foremost, of course, is Andrew Bogut. Mark Jackson has said that he's not counting on anything from anyone who's not with the team right now, whether it's a potential trade, or the return of Bogut, he's only counting on the guys he's got in uniform right now.  That said, Bogut has made strides toward a possible return over the last few weeks, as he's started sprinting and some on-court activities. He's still a ways away from practicing, but whispers of a return following the All-Star break are at least encouraging. Even if Bogut is only able to come back and contribute 20-25 minutes a game, it would be a welcome addition. The Warriors have done a tremendous job covering that vacancy, but they could use another big, useful body down in the paint that can guard other centers and give them a touch of low-post scoring. It's been incredible the Warriors have done this well without a consistent post-presence, but doing it in a best-of-7 series against a premiere team is a different story.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Curry, Lee Should Be All-Star Locks

Although their first half success without Andrew Bogut can be attributed to many factors, the Warriors aren't sitting at 22-10 at this point had it not been for Steph Curry and David Lee. One, if not both of those players should bring the Warriors all-star drought to an end.

The Warriors getting a player into the all-star game has been about as rare as them sneaking into the playoffs the last two decades, but this year they've got an excellent opportunity to do both. In one of the most impressive victories of the season to date, the Warriors took care of the first place LA Clippers at the Oracle, and made it look quite easy. Steph Curry outplayed Chris Paul, putting up a 31/6/8 line to Paul's 23/4/6. Meanwhile, David Lee went up against Blake Griffin and absolutely dominated the youngster. Lee pitched in 24 points, 13 boards and 7 assists while Griffin managed a pedestrian 10 points and 6 boards as Lee held him to just 2-11 shooting. One could make an argument for both Paul and Griffin to each be starters in the upcoming All-Star game this February, but if that's the case, where does that put Lee and Curry? Those two helped pace the Dubs throughout the night and lead them to a 115-94 beat down on their SoCal rivals and the hottest team in the league. It's a shame the Warriors still aren't being noticed on a national level and so far Curry and Lee have gotten no love in fan voting.

Now, next up, the 'Dubs get a rematch with the Clippers as they head down to the Staples Center for what I'm expecting to be a much cleaner game played by Los Angeles. I don't expect this one to be a 20-point blowout either way, and I'm expecting a rebound performance out of Blake Griffin. This is going to be a good test for the Dubs though, as they'll be getting the same, clear-cut playoff team in back-to-back games. Good teams like the Clippers will make adjustments and aren't going to be nearly as easy to beat the second time around. What the Warriors have to do is just keep up their tight defense and continue to let their offense come out build off that. That's what's made this team so special this season, the complete 180 turn they've taken on defense, despite being without their premiere defending center, thanks in large part to the play of rookie Festus Ezeli. He's not giving much offense, but he's allowed this team to keep it's defensive mentality strong in the middle without Bogut, the guy they were building their defense around. Ezeli had a nice defensive night against DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin Thursday, and if he can do it again Saturday, the W's will be in good shape.