Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Warriors sweep California in first three games, have chance for a huge start with soft upcoming schedule

The Golden State Warriors held off the Sacramento Kings, 119-107, on Sunday to improve to 3-0 on the season. With wins over the Lakers and Clippers in the first week, Golden State has swept the California teams out of the gate and has a chance to get out to a huge start with an inviting upcoming schedule. 

Over the next three-plus weeks, the Warriors will play 11 of their next 14 games against non-playoff teams from a year ago. Two of their next three are against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are basically already in tank mode, and eight of their next nine are at home. 

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There are some improved non-playoff teams from a year ago in that mix. Golden State will play the Charlotte Hornets twice and the Chicago Bulls over this stretch. Both those teams have gotten out to 3-0 starts in their own right. 

Still, as schedule stretches go in the NBA, this is a clear opportunity for the Warriors to bank a significant amount of wins, which would come in handy as they try to maintain their spot in the upper half of the Western Conference playoff race until Klay Thompson makes his season debut, which might not happen until after Christmas. 

The really good news for the Warriors is they’re winning these games despite Stephen Curry having an outright bad shooting night in two of the first three. Against the Lakers and Kings, Curry shot 14 for 44 from the field and 6 for 23 from 3. He managed to throw in a 45-point performance against the Clippers, of course, but overall Golden State is getting contributions all the way down the roster. 

On Sunday, Curry scored 27 points on 9-of-23 shooting including just 4 of 15 from 3, but Golden State was able to keep its turnovers in check, which threatened to derail its wins against both the L.A. teams. 

Curry’s much anticipated matchup with Kings defensive rookie sensation Davion Mitchell, frankly, went in Mitchell’s favor. Curry got Mitchell once on the move you’ll see below, but that was the only bucket Curry got while being directly defended by Mitchell, who is nicknamed “off night” because that what you’re in for when he’s guarding you. 

Curry called for a ball screen almost every time Mitchell was defending him (though that’s a standard part of Golden State’s offense), and tried to do most of his work taking Mitchell through a maze of screens. Curry lost Mitchell once for a 3, but for the most part the rookie was about as glued to Curry as a defender can be. Give the kid his props. He is absolutely the real deal. 

But this is where this Warriors team is different from a year ago. Curry isn’t the only hope. This is a deep, experienced team with Jordan Poole the only truly young player getting real minutes right now; Gary Payton II made the most of his opportunity with Andre Iguodala out on Sunday, scoring 10 points and hitting both his 3-pointers while playing his usual terrific defense. Payton is Golden State’s 15th man, and even he’s a legit contributor when called upon. 

The Warriors couldn’t have asked for a better start to their season, and if they take care of business next three weeks, they will be sitting in a prime spot in the West when things start to get tough in late November. 

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