Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets - Game One

With David Lee out, Stephen Curry becomes even more important in Game 2


The playoffs are all about adjustments, but even though the Warriors find themselves down 1-0 to the Nuggets they really don’t have to change too much heading into this all important game two.

Missing David Lee certainly hurts. When looking at the match ups in this series, he was one player who clearly had an advantage for the Warriors. His ability to space the floor as a shooter, score from the low post, and act as a facilitator have been staples of the Warriors’ offense all season. Replacing those things won’t come easy and several players will need to find a way to chip in a bit extra to make it happen.

First on that list is Stephen Curry. His 7-20 shooting from game one simply wasn’t good enough, even though he did find a way to sort out some of his issues in the 2nd half. The Warriors need a more efficient scoring effort to go with the playmaking Curry flashed in game one. Getting him into spots on the floor where he can get better looks — be it through isolation or working off picks — should be a high priority for head coach Mark Jackson and I expect him to have some wrinkles in place to do just that.

Another player who needs to raise his game is Carl Landry. Landry will need to find a way to be effective from the post and as a mid-range threat, providing some of the balance Lee has offered the Warriors’ offense all season. Landry will never be the passer that Lee is, but if he can hit the open jumpers he’ll get out of the pick and roll while doing some damage from the low block in isolation, the Warriors will take it.

Landry’s bench mate, Jarrett Jack, will also need to be better than he was in game one. Jack was badly outplayed by Andre Miller and if the Warriors are to be competitive in this series they’ll need that match up to be much more even (or even won by Jack) in the coming games.

If the Warriors can get those contributions from those players and combine them with the solid defense they flashed in the first contest, they should be able play another close game. The, key, however is to not get overwhelmed early by a Nuggets team who surely gained some confidence after getting a win when they clearly weren’t at their best either.

This may prove difficult with Kenneth Faried likely returning, the Nuggets’ role players (at least ones not named Andre Miller) likely to shoot better than they did in game one, and the home crowd spurring them on. They’ll be energetic and will attack relentlessly. It’s what they always do.

But if the Warriors simply keep their heads about them, find a way to maximize Curry’s touches, and do as good a job of getting back in transition and they did in game one, they should be right there. Of course all those things are easier said than done, but that’s the task at hand.

They’re the underdogs for a reason, right?

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.

Byron Scott doesn’t see reason D’Angelo Russell should play more in fourth


The Lakers’ clear top priority for this season should be simple: develop their young stars.

Julius Randle is a beast with the ball in his hands, but a one-handed beast who needs to work on his right hand. D'Angelo Russell has shown flashes but is trying to adapt to the speed and style of the NBA game. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. can be pieces on a good team, eventually. The Lakers need to build that foundation.

Which is why coach Byron Scott sitting Russell in the fourth quarter of games, even blowouts, is perplexing. As were his responses when asked about it after the Lakers’ lastest blowout loss, Tuesday night to the Golden state Warriors. So Scott, is there value in playing Russell in blowouts to get him more time on the court? Mark Medina of the LA Daily News had the answer.

“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”

That would be 32-year-old Marcelo Huertas, who played the fourth quarter Tuesday while Russell sat.

This is not Gregg Popovich resting his stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs here. We are talking about a 19-year-old rookie point guard whose game is based on court vision, anticipation, and angles, a guy who has to learn how to apply those in a league where everybody is long and fast. He needs time on the court to adapt. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. That’s what rookies do. If you coach them up, they learn from those mistakes and make fewer each time out. It’s a sometimes painful process, but it’s how rookies learn.

Except in Byron Scott’s world where they get benched. Because that will teach them. Meanwhile Kobe can do whatever he wants, because he was once great and that gives him carte blanche.