What to Watch For – Game #4

Golden State has a great opportunity tonight. To go 3-1 on a homestand that features three playoff teams from last season is the kind of start coach Mark Jackson needed. It didn’t look possible after that opening-night stinker against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors get a break in the schedule. Philly is concluding a back-to-back, losing a close one last night in Utah. Not only that, the Sixers haven’t been home yet. This is their fourth game on a five-game road trip to start the season. Not to say they will, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Golden State gets a sluggish Philadelphia squad prone for succumbing to a late run.

Here are some other things to watch for tonight:


Duh! The starting backcourt: I get the feeling Monta will not play. He’s in family mode. It’s too tough to get back here on time, unless Lacob lends the charter. But I see Monta saying it’s one game and leaving it to the others to hold the fort. The dude has “Family First” tattooed on his body for a reason. I see him staying and celebrating/mourning with his family.

I do think Stephen Curry is going to play. Obviously, that means he would have little to no problems during pregame workouts. If Curry goes, will he be tentative? Will he settle for jumpers? Avoid hard cuts? Alter his shot to compensate for the ankle?

Or will the Warriors get the floor general they saw against Chicago?


Klay Thompson’s performance: The pressure has to be thickening for the rookie. The play of Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire has seen his minutes chopped.

Jackson said he hasn’t lost confidence in Thompson. He said the rookie out of Washington State will have every opportunity to earn minutes. Still,Jacksonseems to pull the leash tighter and tighter on Thompson, which means Thompson will have to avoid mistakes and produce when he’s in the game. Knowing that may work against him.

If I were Jackson, not only would I be rich, but I would start Thompson. And not just because I want to experience hearing my name called during an NBA introduction. But because I really, really, really like how Rush is playing off the bench. I think there is a risk in ruining that rhythm for him. What happens if Rush starts and struggles against the first unit (before he can get a rhythm against a second unit)? I think it is more important to preserve the integrity of the bench unit (who do you go to for offense off the bench if Rush is starting?).

As a bonus, maybe Klay Thompson takes advantage of the confidence boost and plays well. Knowing he’s going to get more than six minutes per game (unless he’s so awful Jackson has to yank him immediately) might bring the comfort he needs to let the game come to him.


Dorell Wright’s outside shot: The 76ers are pretty good defensively. They have the athleticism and length that can bother the Warriors. Nothing negates that quickness and opens up lanes like good shooting. Especially if Monta Ellis is out,GoldenState will need someone knocking down shots.

This may be the perfect game to plop Wright in the corner and let him fire away. Wright – who has made 3-of-14 from deep – said he knows said he knows his shot will come around eventually. It would really open things up for whoever the starting backcourt is if it came around tonight.


Ish Smith’s impact on the game: If he starts, he’ll be going up against another guy who is quick and a solid defender in Jrue Holliday. Will Smith still be able to get into the lane, create looks for himself and others?

If Curry plays and Smith comes off the bench, does he keep the same aggressiveness on offense? That would be a nice threat if he can push the tempo and create offense with the second unit. Certainly, Jackson will need Smith to make some things happen with that second unit if Monta doesn’t play and Rush starts.


How Mark Jackson use his bigs to defend Philly frontline: Elton Brand has owned the Warriors in the past. His strength and savvy low-post play usually overwhelms whichever PF the Warriors put on him. Now, the Warriors have two options: Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown.

Jackson has been leaving David Lee on the opposing PF despite the expected defensive challenges. But Philly may be the perfect opportunity to have Lee defend the center. Spencer Hawes is much more of a high-post center. His strength are his passing and his midrange game. It might be the right move to put someone on Hawes who you don’t mind being pulled away from the basket.

Biedrins, ideally, could defend out to 15 feet, 17 feet. So it is reasonable ifJacksonstarts with Lee on Brand and Biedrins on Hawes. But if Brand starts going to work, that’s when the adjustments begin.

Golden State may need Kwame and his post-defense prowess on Brand. That would put Lee or Ekpe Udoh on Hawes. If Jackson goes with Udoh on Brand, when Kwame comes in, Hawes will be able to pull him from the basket. I don’t like that.

Marcus Thompson

  • Tom

    “Will Smith still be able to get into the lane, create looks for himself and others?”

    Real clever pun.

  • Tom

    Also, not sure when you started doing these previews, but please keep it up. Always a great read.

  • Sleepy Freud


  • Please do one of these columns for every game. Intelligent writing and it makes the games more fun to watch.