Golden State Warriors vs. Indiana Pacers: Keys to a Warriors' Victory
In just a matter of hours, the NBA season will resume and the Golden State Warriors will make their final push for the 2012 NBA playoffs. To start it all off, the Warriors will travel to play the 21-12 Indiana Pacers. This is their second and final meeting of the 2012 season.
The first time around, the Warriors lost a heart breaker at home. The game ended at 94-91, as George Hill made a key defensive play on Monta Ellis.
In this next game, however, new blood will be drawn. Brandon Rush is now a Warrior, not a Pacer, so ulterior motives could certainly be a factor.
Expect a battle, as that's what it always is when these teams square off. I'll tell you how the Warriors can emerge victorious.
5. Will Stephen Curry Play?
As reported by Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, Stephen Curry could miss the Warriors' first game after the All-Star break. Due to a foot injury, Curry was forced to skip the Skills Challenge last weekend, a title he was set to defend after winning it in 2011. While Curry insists he's OK, head coach Mark Jackson would rather steer on the side of caution.
According to Jackson: "He's the type of kid who will say, 'I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm ready to play,' ... We're going to make sure that there's no further damage. We're going to wait until he's 100 percent."
4. Bench Production
One of the major strengths for the Indiana Pacers is their depth. With players such as George HIll and Tyler Hansbrough coming off of the bench, it's important that the Warriors' second unit is able to keep up the pace.
All eyes should rest on the Warriors' Christmas Eve signing, Nate Robinson.
The three-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner has played well, posting 10.0 points per game on a solid 17.65 player efficiency rating. He seemed to have found his stroke as the Warriors approached the All-Star break, breaking out with 21 and 14 points against Portland and Phoenix, respectively. Unfortunately, he averaged just 5.0 points per game in the three games between those performances.
Along with Robinson, rookie Klay Thompson and wing-man Brandon Rush must show up on both ends of the floor. Thompson will get a great opportunity to gauge his progress as he squares off against fellow youngster Paul George. Rush, on the other hand, is faced with one of his toughest defensive match-ups yet: Danny Granger.
3. Ekpe Udoh vs. Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert is coming off of the first All-Star appearance of his career, while Ekpe Udoh is coming off of a hot start on the defensive end of the floor. While neither have a renowned focus on their offensive game, Hibbert is a very talented player in the post who could put up 15 to 20 points on any given night. It's up to Udoh to make sure that night isn't tonight.
The second-year player out of Baylor has averaged 1.7 blocks per game, despite playing an average of just 20.1 minutes. Against the Pacers, who make a living out of drawing fouls on opposing big men, it's very likely that Udoh will find himself with plenty of opportunities to play.
If Udoh can build on his breakout performance against the Clippers, where he posted 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, the Warriors could pull this victory out.
2. Which Monta Ellis Will We See?
In the final three games before the All-Star break, Ellis averaged 30.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the floor. In the three games prior to that, Ellis averaged just 13.0 points on 29 percent shooting from the field. The Warriors went 1-2 in the bad-scoring games and 2-1 in the good-scoring ones. It's not hard to see which Ellis they need.
Ellis has had relatively consistent success against the Pacers over the past three seasons. Ellis is averaging 27.0 points per game with 36 and 45 point outbursts along the way. Eyes are on Paul George and Lance Stephenson to see if they can contain the All-Star snub.
1. David Lee vs. David West
Say what you want about David West's performance over the first half of the season, the guy has flat out dominated the Warriors for years.
Earlier this year, West posted 18 points and seven rebounds en route to a three-point Pacers victory. In 2011, West averaged 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds against Golden State. Go back further and the results aren't much different.
While David Lee has never been a great defender, he has always been a force on the offensive end of the floor. When Lee faced West and the Pacers earlier this season, however, he was nowhere to be found.
Lee shot just 4-of-15 from the floor, scoring 10 points in the Warriors' three-point defeat. If he can score more efficiently and dominate the Pacers as he has the rest of the NBA, Golden State's chances go up dramatically.