Monday, May 16, 2016

Eight Things Warriors Need to do to Win Eight More and Repeat

By Nick Miller
Mon, May 16, 2016 at 10:04 AM

click to enlarge gsw_vs_utah.jpg
I'm from Sacramento. I'm a Kings fan. And I'm unaccustomed to thinking about what a team needs to do to win an NBA championship — let alone repeat. (And, If I did make a need-to-do-to-win list, I'd only include one item: Break Robert Horry's fingers.)

Anyway, before I go sit in a dark room and sulk about my choke-dog Kings, I would like to chime in on the Bay's sweet Dubs. I was at Oracle last week, the night they clinched against the Portland Trailblazers. Amazing, to have a player like Steph Curry, who you just know is going to pull out the W for in the clutch.

But it won't be easy street to win eight more games and repeat. Nope. The Oklahoma City Thunder have made stride. They might be the hottest squad in the league. Oh, except for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who haven't lost yet this postseason.

Gulp.

But you got this, Warriors fans. Just follow this recipe of eight ingredients to win eight more games. No problem. Splash!

Defend home court
Obvious, right? But critical: Oklahoma City snatched two games in San Antonio last series. Who saw that happening? That’s double the number of games that the Spurs lost during 41 regular-season home-court appearances. And this after the Spurs torched the Thunder in game one, in San Antonio, by 32 points!
What’s this mean? It means the Warriors foregoing home court could lead to an all-bets-are-off scenario. Bad news for a team that lost only nine games all season.
Absolutely positively must defend home court.

Protect the arc
Who wasn’t having nightmares about Allen Crabbe draining open trays last week?
The Thunder’s unsung guards – mostly Dion Waiters — are going to find their way open, and the Thunder (like the young Blazers) will move the rock and get them shots. Warriors need to step up their perimeter D and converge on three-point shooters.
That’s going to be hard when, like Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and Russell Westrbook will be chucking up shots from farther behind the line than most squads they face during the year. Dame brutalized the Dubs from as far back as 32 feet (a taste of their own medicine) in crunch time. If those shots start going in this series with any regularity, that will be a problem.

Don’t get torched
Warriors gave up on average 104.1 points per game during the regular season. Not incredible. But they held opponents to 43.5 percent from the field, third best in the league. That’s solid.
But, in the playoffs, Golden State has given up more points per game than any remaining postseason team. That’s not saying much, sure. But they allowed a ridiculous 114 points a game versus the Trailblazers. Yikes.
Remember, this is the playoffs: A shootout is not the answer.

Be on the rebound
Remember that game against Oklahoma City when Steph Curry sank the nearly-half-court, 37 footer in overtime? Of course you do. That was the East Bay Web Gem of a lifetime.
But do you remember that the Thunder out-rebounded the Warriors by 35 that game? Thirty-five rebounds.
You don’t win in the playoffs if you don’t crash the boards. Period.

Make Russ cough it up
Russell Westbrook is like Russell Wilson on the one-yard line with less than a minute to go in the Super Bowl. He likes to cough it up. So, Warriors need to make sure Westbrook — who averaged 4.3 turnovers a game during the regular season — doubles that number in a few games.
It’s also worth saying this now, right there, since we’re talking about boneheaded play: During the regular season, the Warriors averaged just 9.7 turnovers against the Thunder, the lowest total of any team in the league. (For the record, the Dubs averaged 12 turnovers a game against Cleveland. And, yeah, a second-worse-in-the-league 16 against the Raptors.
My point: Keep it up against the Thunder (and thankfully the Raptors don’t stand a chance).

Keep Klay Thompson hot as ish
This postseason, Thompson is averaging a smidgen better percentage from behind the arc than he is from the field. Baffling. And during the playoffs, what with Curry’s absence, he’s tallied five more points per game than in the regular season. In game five against the Trailblazers, Thompson was vital. He’d racked up 33 points — at the end of the third quarter (he ended up with that total, though, as Curry took over in the final twelve minutes).
Anyway, Thompson is playing out of his mind this postseason — and he’ll likely need to go even more loco for the Dubs to repeat.

Shut down … Steve Adams and Enes Kanter?
Yup. Will Adams average a double-double, as he did against during the final three games against the Spurs? Hope not. And will Kanter defend the rim, swat balls and scoop up defensive rebounds at will? If so, could be a short series for the Dubs. Put these two unsung heroes of the Spurs series in check.

Get lucky
Thunder haven’t been healthy in the playoffs for years. Last time they were, they made it to the finals.
Warriors are somewhat healthy — Curry's knee pain persists, and Andrew Bogut is a question mark. The team’s going to need some good juju. Eat your broccoli.
They’re also going to need some luck from the refs. Warriors don’t want another Scott Foster moment, a la when he tossed Shaun Livingston in the Blazers series.
In the end, with two teams like these, who are playing at such a high level, it’s not really about execution and hitting shots, right?
It’s about hitting lucky shots, and getting those fortunate breaks down the stretch.

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