Bench + Defense = Warriors Victory?

Over the past few years, I have gone to so many Warriors games that I’ve memorized the layout of the entire arena. This year, despite new ownership, new players and new hope, I didn’t go to my first game until a few weeks ago, against the Indiana Pacers.

While I had watched every single game on T.V., I had forgotten what kind of place Oracle Arena can become no matter what day it is or who the Warriors are playing. Of course this game went down to the wire with Monta Ellis hitting the game winning shot with 0.6 seconds.

I was sucked back in.

Despite all the heartbreaking losses I’ve experienced in person, the energy in the building takes on a life of it’s own and keeps you wanting more.

Last night, I went to my 3rd game of the year against the New Orleans Hornets. I’m a big Chris Paul fan so being able to see him in person again was a bonus.

I can’t even count how many Warriors games I’ve been to, but this was the first game I’d seen the Warriors win a game with defense.

Yeah, I can’t believe I just wrote that either. Marcus Thompson was just as surprised as I was.

The first quarter started off terribly. The Warriors got down double-digits and it looked like it was going to be a repeat of the last time the Hornets came to visit. At the end of the first, the Warriors were down by 10.

The second quarter, Keith Smart sent out a lineup that I had 1) never seen before and 2) thought would be a total disaster. On the floor were Jeremy Lin, Charlie Bell, Dorell Wright, Vladimir Radmanovic and Ekpe Udoh. However, what I thought would be a total disaster completely changed the feel of the game. This bench unit (and Wright) brought some energy, hustle and defense that was completely missing from the starters.

It started on a great defensive play by Bell, which lead to a 2-on-1 fast break with Lin finishing with a layup. From there, the Warriors took control with Radmanovic providing some much needed scoring with 13 points in the quarter. The Warriors went into the half leading by 5, 58-53.

The second half proved to be very much like the second quarter with the Warriors dominating every facet of the game. The starters picked up where the bench left off and the Warriors never looked back.

The defense is what really took me by surprise. Watching Charlie Bell be physical with Chris Paul and Udoh protecting the paint was a breath of fresh air. We’ve heard countless interviews with Keith Smart saying he’s been preaching defense more and more but so far, we haven’t quite seen the results on the court. There’s been much criticism of Smart and his lack of an identity for this team. While I somewhat agree (and think the Warriors need to run A LOT more than they do now), I think he deserves some credit for getting his team to give effort on the defensive end. That could not be said last year with Nellie at the helm. Are the Warriors a defensive team like the Spurs? Not even close, but I do believe they are headed in the right direction.

There were a few highlights from the game that need to be mentioned. In the 3rd quarter Steph Curry demonstrated some of his terrific passing. I know what you’re thinking: “Highlight and passing?” Yes. Curry delivered two beautiful passes on back-to-back possessions that had me out of my seat. The first was a one-handed pass to Dorell Wright on a fast break that was just out of the reach of the Hornets’ Jason Smith. The next was a full court pass to Monta who had snuck behind the defense after the Hornets had scored. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out it here on YouTube (start at about the 5:40 mark).

The Warriors have come off back-to-back wins against two good teams. Does this make them a playoff team? Probably not. They’re clearly still missing a legit big man (what else is new) to pair with David Lee and a backup point guard (Acie Law is okay, but your backup point guard needs to be able to hit a jumper). However, the team has clearly improved from last season. With their next win, they’ll match their win total for all of last season.

I know Warriors fans say this almost every year, but the future is looking good.

Random Thoughts:

Pitchers and catchers have reported. I’m a huge Giants fan and all, but is it wrong that I don’t care about how these guys are training and getting into shape? Call me when they start playing.

I wish I had Albert Pujols’ problem. Not being offered $300 million over 10 years. He’ll probably have to settle for a little less than that. Hope he can survive.

The Miami Heat are incredibly fun to watch. Hate them all you want, but they’re entertaining. Anyone see that full court alley-oop that Wade tossed LeBron last night? Unreal.

Side note: I’ll be writing a weekly sports article for Sans Magzine so be sure to check out the site. It’s a magazine/site started up by one of my old friends in Canada. The writing isn’t very PG, so just be weary of that. Thanks!

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