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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blazers at Warriors: Shots Fall in Oakland

Portland was playing its second game of a back-to-back after a big win over the Grizzlies. Golden State had a day off to think about their one point loss to the Grizzlies, one in which they had a third quarter lead of 20 points before blowing it with 1:25 left in the fourth. The Warriors wouldn't have as much trouble closing out this game.

The Blazers team the Warriors were playing was one with a new identity. They are playing one of the fastest tempos in the game as opposed to the plodding offenses of old in Portland.  Combining this with a top 10 defense and the 2nd best turnover rate, the Blazers are looking for more than a first round exit in the playoffs. The Warriors under Mark Jackson have looked like a slightly different unit as well. They've calmed down the frenetic pace that used to get them into shootouts. Instead they are trying to move the ball better and get good looks as evidenced by their 9th place assist rate and true shooting percentage. While rebounding has remained a key weakness, the Warriors have hung around in a lot of games despite being just 6-11.

Last night the Warriors did their damage by absolutely scorching the nets. They shot 52 percent from the floor and 55 percent from three. Steph Curry and David Lee combined to go 24-40 from the field including Steph's 6-8 from behind the arc. Brandon Rush added to the hot shooting night by hitting all 3 three point attempts. From 16-23 feet, the Warriors as a team shot 55.6 percent. This performance wasn't fluky, either. The Warriors are one of the better shooting teams on long 2's and the looks were brought about by good ball movement. Much of this was due to Monta Ellis' 12 assists which he totaled by getting good penetration but looking to pass instead of score (not to mention an Ekpe Udo pass off the backboard to Jeremy Tyler). In addition, they converted many Blazer turnovers into easy fast break points.

Portland stuck around for a while, mainly due to a 43-30 rebounding edge which included 12 offensive boards. However, LaMarcus Aldridge shot 7-17 and was frustrated from the beginning as the lengthy Andris Biedrins was assigned to guard him. Aldridge missed his first 4 shots including an easy hook that caught air only. Jamal Crawford also had a rough night shooting 5-14 with 6 turnovers. And Raymond Felton's 2-10 night was more akin to his Charlotte days than his recent play. Felton and Crawford also were at the receiving end of Curry's 32 point performance.

While holistically the Warriors defense might not look that much better (they rank 25th in defensive efficiency), there seems to be some noticeable improvements. Udoh particularly looked effective with 2 blocks and 2 steals while moving his feet well to stay in front of Aldridge when given that assignment. Curry as well looked more dialed in when it came to cutting off drives by Felton and Crawford. And when they went zone, something Mark Jackson has allowed the Warriors to do more frequently this season, they forced a quick turnover. They're not the Celtics or anything, but they are on track to be more effective than the disastrous Warriors' defenses past.

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