Golden State Warriors: 5 Things to Watch for Against the Indiana Pacers
The good news? Indiana is in the United States—thus, a passport is not required. The bad news? The Pacers own the league’s best record, 46-13.
How will these two defensive-minded teams match up? Will the Warriors bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday? Can the Dubs take down the Pacers at home, where the hosts are a dominant 29-3 this season?
Despite a season’s worth of injuries, slumps, general listlessness and an occasional passport issue, the Dubs head into Indianapolis a respectable 12 games over .500. Since the All-Star break, Golden State has moved up to the sixth spot in the Western Conference, just a half-game ahead of both the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks.
Golden State has managed to go 5-2 since the All-Star Game, despite some major lineup shuffling as a result of injuries to #fullsquad members Andrew Bogut and David Lee over the past few weeks. Additionally, the roster has experienced adjustments due to trades, miscellaneous signings and the aforementioned misplacement of Jermaine O’Neal’s travel documentation.
Through all the tribulations, the Warriors continue to hunker down and remain focused on regaining their team identity in the season’s second half. Since the break, they have tallied three road wins and home victories against both the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, which boast winning percentages over .600.
Can the Dubs add another notch to their belts? Will they be able to keep up with the Pacers?
Here are five things to look for during their upcoming contest against the Indiana.
If anybody is looking for some high-scoring output during Tuesday's contest, the Bankers Life Fieldhouse is not the place where it will happen. This game features two of the NBA’s stingiest defenses: Indiana ranks first in fewest points allowed per game (91.2), while Golden State ranks ninth (98.8). Better, the Pacers and Warriors are first and third, respectively, in team defensive rating.
Needless to say, buckets will be hard to come by in this grudge match. Opponents are only shooting 41.5 percent against the Pacers and just 43.3 percent against the Warriors.
In particular, expect scoring in the paint to be a tough task, with two combative and physical frontcourts duking it out. The block party will extend the entire length of the court, as the Pacers rank fourth with 5.7 blocks per game and the Dubs rank ninth at 5.2.
With center Andrew Bogut back in the starting lineup again and the return of backup Jermaine O’Neal, it should be more difficult for the Pacers to score inside.
Expect a difficult, inefficient game—one that sees both teams struggle to shoot 40 percent. To be sure, it will be an ugly contest, but maybe the team that makes just one good-looking basket will be the one that comes out on top.
Hibbert vs. Bogut and O’Neal
At the center of this tough-nosed battle will be the centers—Indiana's Roy Hibbert and Golden State’s Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal. The outcome of this game will come down to which team’s big men will play better.
Returning to the team after weeks of injuries—and a lost passport—O’Neal has hopped into his DeLorean to the way back when. Thrust into the starting lineup with either Bogut or David Lee ailing, he has not only clocked some huge minutes, but he’s also putting up vital offensive numbers.
He has bailed the Warriors out along the way. In his previous four games, O’Neal has averaged 15.8 points while shooting 76.5 percent from the field. That is what made his absence in Sunday’s contest against the Raptors so frustrating—his presence could have been a deciding factor in Golden State’s six-point defeat.
Nevertheless, the Warriors will focus on the present instead of the past, and the problem now is the Pacers’ Hibbert. The sixth-year center was an All-Star last month. He is averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 boards per game, but his domination rests in his defensive prowess. He ranks fourth in the NBA in block at 2.46 per game.
The focus of this battle of the bigs will be on the glass. For all the aggressiveness down low, this is a Pacers team that struggles to rebound on the offensive end, ranking 17th in the league in offensive rebound percentage. Thankfully for Indiana, it shoots a high percentage from the field (45.4 percent).
The onus will be on Bogut and O’Neal to keep the Pacers off the boards and control the inside game, particularly keying in on Hibbert. In Indiana’s 13 losses, he has averaged only 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Being generous in basketball is not necessarily a key to victory. That is, being generous toward your opponent by turning the ball over is not a recipe that teams want to follow.
The Warriors have been somewhat beneficent this season, turning the ball over 15.4 times per game, which is the third-worst mark in the NBA.
Sunday’s outcome against the Raptors was directly affected by Golden State’s mishandles, as the Warriors fumbled the ball on multiple possessions during the game’s final three minutes, essentially sealing their fate and costing them a road victory against the team with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
This has become an unsightly trend for the Dubs: When he is playing poorly—specifically, turning the ball over frequently—the Warriors lose. In Golden State’s 21 losses, he is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game, a nearly 50 percent increase from Warriors victories.
Such is the double-edged sword for a team that relies so heavily on his playmaking and shot-making. If the game is close and the Warriors are behind, he takes it upon himself to run the show, along the way becoming vulnerable to bad passes and poor decisions.
Isn’t this where the newly acquired Steve Blake was supposed to step in? Wasn’t he intended to help manage the offense, bring the ball up and make the appropriate decisions?
Coach Mark Jackson needs to take advantage of Blake’s veteran presence by allowing him to facilitate and distribute during crunch time. Blake has only three turnovers in six games with the Warriors.
If the game against Indiana is close, look for him to take on more responsibility down the stretch. If he isn’t in the game when it matters, and the balance of the game is in Curry’s ball-handling, the Warriors will be in trouble.
Healthy, Competitive Lee
After missing five of 10 games from January 31 to February 24 due to various maladies, David Lee returned to the Warriors lineup last Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. It appears he is still regaining his strength and timing, but he did manage to tally 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Raptors on Sunday.
Is he at 100 percent? Can he be a meaningful contribution if he’s not?
Despite what some people think, he is a vital cog to the full squad. He is the only starter who can provide a consistent inside threat by being able to score in the post on both sides of the block. He cleans up the boards with skill and prudence over physicality, and he is a solid distributor to slashers and outside shooters.
The problem is that the Warriors’ penchant is to play outside-inside as opposed to inside-out. In other words, Golden State relies on Curry to find his own shot first before figuring out a scoring opportunity for someone else as the second alternative.
Infrequently, Lee is the primary scoring option during the stretch, despite his high shooting percentage and flexibility in both scoring and passing.
Because of the Pacers’ slower, physical style of play, the Warriors will be forced to depend on their half-court offense. That’s where Lee can do most of his damage. If he is back to full strength, the full squad will keep the Pacers’ hands full and have a chance of eking out a surprise victory on the road.
Who Will Stop Paul George?
You can only hope to contain him, really.
Paul George is having a dynamite season for the Pacers. And he will be the focal point of the game against Golden State on Tuesday. The swingman is averaging 22.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season and ranks eighth in the league with 1.83 steals per contest.
Even more attention could be placed on him by the Dubs, especially if Pacers point guard George Hill is out again. He is listed as day-to-day after suffering a shoulder injury in last Thursday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He has missed the past two games, with C.J. Watson starting in his stead.
George is poised to lead the way if Hill misses Tuesday’s game. This will be a true test for him in going up against Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, who will no doubt be the primary defender on the All-Star.
The versatility and length of Iguodala will no doubt give George fits; however, George did score 23 points, including 14 in the first quarter, during Indiana’s 102-94 victory against Golden State in Oakland this past January.
Can Iguodala and the Dubs contain the Pacers star on Tuesday? George has been slightly less efficient at home, scoring 20.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Golden State must stifle his productivity on Tuesday in order to keep the game close, forcing Indiana to rely on its role players to come away with the victory. Should the Warriors successfully bottle him up, they will have a chance to dominate with their backcourt play.
No pressure, Iggy.
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