It won’t be easy for Mark Jackson‘s Warriors team, as they have lost 28 (yes 28) straight games in San Antonio. It’s a pathetic number for a once-pathetic team, but they aren’t the same losers that they once were. For the second time in two decades, the Warriors are going to make the playoffs. The franchise is finally on the rise.
A win in San Antonio snapping that horrendous streak would only add another great feat to what has already been a season to remember for Golden State. But it can only happen if they continue to play their solid defense that has finally resurged to what it was during the first half.
It starts up front with Golden State’s big men. Andrew Bogut has finally started playing like the center that they had hoped for when trading for him. He has changed the way teams play against them, challenging and blocking shots, and forcing smaller players to settle for tougher jump shots. Over the past five games, Bogut has averaged nine rebounds and nearly three blocks per game.
Bogut’s presence has helped his fellow big men David Lee, Carl Landry and rookie Festus Ezeli as well. Lee, who isn’t known to be the best defender, now has the luxury of having a true shot blocker behind him and no longer has the task of having to defend much bigger players. The same can be said for Landry.
As for Ezeli, he has been able to learn from Bogut and can play much more pressure-free, now that he has been reduced to a role player. But best of all, since Bogut’s return, Andris Biedrins‘ minutes have been reduced to nearly nothing. That is a victory in itself for all Warriors fans.
It is going to be a challenge to stop San Antonio’s bigs, especially Hall of Famer Tim Duncan who is having another outstanding season, but the Warriors bigs are up for the challenge. If Golden State matches San Antonio’s intensity and limits their offensive rebounds and second-chance points, then they will be in a good position to win.
As for the backcourt play, the Warriors need to take advantage of the absence of Tony Parker. Without the All-Star, Gregg Popovich has been starting Cory Josesph and relying on Gary Neal, Patty Mills, and shooting guards Danny Green and Manu Ginobli to take more control of the point guard position. While they are all capable, none are Parker, who was arguably having the best season of his career before he went down with an ankle injury.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jarrett Jack need to put both offensive and defensive pressure on the Spurs backcourt as much as they can. They will have the ability to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line offensively and force bad shots turnovers defensively. A big part of the Warriors’ game is creating fast breaks and getting out in transition. They should have a good opportunity to do just that on Wednesday.
Golden State must also exploit Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson at the small forward position by giving Harrison Barnes more minutes. Barnes is far more athletic than both Leonard and Jackson and should easily be able to get to the basket to finish and/or draw a foul. It’s time for Mark Jackson to start utilizing his most explosive player.
Warriors second-year sharpshooter Klay Thompson will have the size advantage playing shooting guard, but when Jack comes off of the bench and he slides over to the small forward position, he will be overwhelmed by the much more physical Leonard who has at least 20 pounds on him. It will be interesting to see if Jackson finally goes with Barnes deep in the game.
With just 13 games left for Golden State, only four are on the road, and of those only two (Spurs, Lakers) are against playoff teams. Picking up road wins against the two teams that have owned the Western Conference over the past two decades would be a great way to end the regular season and head into the playoffs.
You can follow Rich Peters @Tricky_Roma.