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What to Watch For – Game #2

Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Clippers left lots of questions heading into Game 2 tonight.

Needless to say, this one is vital. Golden State needs to take advantage of having a four-game home stand to start the season. Going 1-3, or even 2-2, heading into a three-game road trip (Suns, Spurs, Lakers) would be really bad.

Here are a few things to look out for tonight.

Stephen Curry’s response: Both Mark Jackson and Stephen Curry dismissed the idea that his sprained ankle was the cause of his poor performance. (I think it’s safe to throw CSNBA’s Matt Steinmetz
in that category.

I, on the other hand, thought it was pretty obvious his ankle was a factor. If for nothing else, you could see him thinking about it. 

When he shot, he landed noticeably on his left foot, which for such a technical shooter shows a slight alteration of his balance. 

He didn’t show any signs of pain when he cut (especially when he suddenly split the defenders coming off a pick-and-roll).  But he ran noticeably wide on curls, instead of tight and sharp, and he only showed any real bursts when going right (going left he has to push off that right ankle).

I think he could have and should have played better despite his ankle. (Like Jackson said, it didn’t cause those turnovers. That was just a product of poor decision making while forcing the issue.) But with his limitation, he needs to play smarter. It will be interesting to see how his game adapts, if Jackson switches up some things to help (such as get him in some catch-and-shoot situations) and how Curry responds if things don’t go early.

One thing is almost certain, Monta Ellis will be defending Derrick Rose. 

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The Return of Dorell Wright’s Shot: He did have nine rebounds and helped hold Caron Butler to 11 points. But offensively, which is where he earned his money last year, Wright has been a tad listless (including the two preseason games).

Last night, Wright was 1-for-6 (all 3s) shooting with 8 points (him getting to the line five times, and making all five, was good thing). He missed a couple momentum 3-pointers.

He is 4-for-16 from 3-point range, including the two preseason games.

Difference between now and last year: Golden State has other options. Rookie Klay Thompson, recently acquired Brandon Rush, and Dominic McGuire are all options at SF, which explains why Wright played just 30 minutes.

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CJ Watson The Return of C.J. Watson: Why? Because he is one my all-time favorites.

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Where the Warriors turn for offense: Chris Paul highlighted a continued glaring weakness for the Warriors. They have no where to turn for consistent, high-percentage offense late in games. 

Golden State players and coaches always talk about how “we know we score.” Granted, they have some offensive talents. But Sunday, just like in years past, they showed that when the game is on the line, when the opposing defense is buckling down and the pressure is on, Golden State is left relying on outside shooting.

With no qualified low-post option, with no one really savvy at drawing fouls, and a limited number of creators, the Warriors are left with low-percentage options.

Judging by last night, I’m not even sure they have a money play to go to when they need a basket. That play you go to when you really, really need a basket.

That’s on Mark Jackson to figure. Facing one of the better defensive teams in the league, that task won’t be easier tonight.

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How the rotation plays out: In a bit of a surprise, recently acquired swingman Brandon Rush logged the most minutes of any reserve. In fact, his 28:33 of playing time was almost 10 minutes more than rookie Klay Thompson.

Ekpe Udoh, who Jackson said would play a lot of minutes, logged just under 13 minutes. The rest played just spot minutes, which means Jackson’s regular rotation is currently 8 deep. I am assuming he will try more match-ups. But if Sunday was an example of who he trusts, I expect those eight to be the guys on the road, where the rotation is usually tighter.

Another surprising  development: Ish Smith moved ahead of Charles Jenkins on the depth chart.

Jackson had praised the fellow New Yorker throughout camp. But Sunday, Jenkins didn’t play. Instead, Smith was the third back-up (Monta Ellis was the back-up PG). 

Certainly, Smith – who played one preseason game after being claimed off waivers by the Warriors – showed why he got the nod. Smith had seven points in five minutes. His one miss was a blocked layup that perhaps only an elite shot-blocker such as DeAndre Jordan would have gotten. Smith can certainly get to the rim.

Marcus Thompson