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Archive for the tag “Andrew Bogut”

Answers To The Early Season Struggles Of Klay Thompson

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The Golden State Warriors came into this season hungry. They won the title last season, but they felt they were disrespected by the talk in the media heading into this season. There was the usage of the word “luck” with them and they took exception to it. Some of the comments were potentially taken out of context by them because, as ESPN NBA analyst says “You have to be lucky to win a title.” But some of the comments were aimed at not giving the credit they felt they deserved. And with a tough Western Conference, they are not the team that everyone is picking to win the title again this year. Beginning the season, it looked like they picked up where they left off. Steph Curry was being a wizard with the basketball and Draymond Green is being his usual self on the court. And even with center Andrew Bogut missing some time with a concussion, backup big man Festus Ezeli has stepped in and held his own. With the rate they are putting up points, some might say they are ripe for another title. The play on both ends despite their head coach missing (Steve Kerr is still recovering from offseason back surgery) has been engulfing each and every opponent. But while the record indicates they are at the top of the league, they still have one issue that has come up to start the year. The issue is not with the team as a whole, but with one player that seems to not have found his rhythm.

Klay Thompson is an extremely talented player. He came into the NBA back in 2011 with the reputation of just being a shooter. And over time, he has developed his game to where he can do a multitude of different things on the court along with defending his position. Some consider him the best shooting guard in the NBA. And last season, he had the best year of his career. He shot career-highs in three-point percentage and shooting percentage overall on his way to averaging a career-high 21.7 points per game. The shooting of Thompson combined with Steph Curry made the Splash Brothers, as they are nicknamed, the best backcourt in the NBA. This season, many wondered what they could do for an encore. Well, Steph has definitely came out on fire to start the year. He has already put up a 50 point game and we aren’t even a month into the season. But if you take a look at Klay Thompson, he seems to be having some issues getting going this year. He is shooting a career-low 36% from the three-point line and is shooting the worst he has in his entire career. And to match that, he is turning the ball over the most he has over his career. His average has dropped 7 points to 14.5 points per game so far.

One thing that could be hindering Thompson’s shot is his shot selection. When watching a few of his games, he is shooting some shots that are highly contested. In the offense that Golden State runs, he does not have to shoot those type of shots at all. Steph Curry could easily create a wide-open shot for him. But instead, he goes out and takes some shots that are seemingly ill-advised or not the best option. Because of that, he misses the shot. Last season, he was hitting those types of shots, but that does not mean those were good shots to take. And this year those shots are biting him. But other than the shot selection, it seems like Thompson is a little off-balance when shooting. Of course some of his shots are fadeaways, but the ones that aren’t have to be concerning. When he goes up to shoot the basketball, it just seems like he has a lean one way or the other. As a result, the trajectory of the basketball is thrown off and his shot is not the perfect, smooth shot it was last season. Both things mentioned are things that can be correctable with focus and repetition. But as of right now, those things are causing some issues.

As far as his turnovers this year, it seems like Thompson is trying a little too much when it comes to being a complete player. He has not been horrible with the ball, but he can try to do too much at times. And as a result, that can get him into trouble. For Thompson to get that in order, he may want to slow down and process the court just a little bit better. Golden State likes to move fast on offense, but it defeats the purpose of doing so if he is turning the ball over. But other than slowing down, he may want to realize that he does not have to be one of the main playmakers on this team. Just looking at the team, the playmakers they have are Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. To a lesser extent, you can say that Andrew Bogut is a playmaker with his passing ability. Listing all these playmakers for the Warriors lets you know the Warriors don’t need Thompson to be a playmaker on this team. If he just hones in on the things that he can do, then his game will come along this season.

Thompson has plenty of time to get things straightened out. It is still early in the season and he has a talented cast of players surrounding him that can give him time to get it done. But for the Warriors to repeat like they want to do, he will have to get it together on the court.

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Gut Check Time Brings Out The Best Of The Golden State Warriors In Game Four

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

The Golden State Warriors were in a familiar spot. They were down 2-1 like they were versus the Memphis Grizzlies. At that point and time, it was the Western Conference Semifinals and plenty though the Grizzlies had enough in the tank to beat the Warriors in a series. The questions began to rise as to if the Warriors had enough to win when the game got physical. Well, the Warriors answered that challenge emphatically when they took the rest of the series from the Grizzlies, winning in six games. The play of the inside guys was solid and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were they usual selves, hitting shot after shot and making plays happen. The Warriors entered game 4 in Cleveland with the same sort of challenge ahead of them. The Cavaliers had won two straight in the NBA Finals after losing the first game out in Oakland to the Warriors. The feeling that many had about the series is that the Cavs would take Game 4 and put the Warriors in the ultimate distress. But someone may have forgot to tell the Golden State Warriors that they were supposed to lose in Game 4. With their backs against the wall, the Warriors made a lineup change that struck most as peculiar. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decided to take starting center Andrew Bogut out of the starting lineup and replace him with swingman Andre Iguodala. The adjustment looked to be a failing one to start the game, as the Cavs raced out to the early lead while Tristian Thompson was getting loose on the boards. But as the game went on, the change took affect and the Warriors won the game going away 103-82. Kerr won the chess match of this game and potentially could have changed the outlook of this series, but it was more than just a lineup change that made it happen.

The adjustment by Kerr was big, but he also made some subtle adjustments to go along with the lineup change. The thing the smaller lineup did to the Warriors is made the Cavs overthink offensively. The Cavs all series long have been posting LeBron James and running their offense through him. All series long he has been guarded by Harrison Barnes to start the game and then Andre Iguodala would come in and guard him. Well in this game, the Cavs decided they would go away from that when they saw the size advantage that Mozgov had in the paint. Of course Mozgov had a career night with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but he is not the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs. By going through him and other players at the beginning of the game, the Cavs effectively through their rhythm off and played right into the hands of the Warriors. LeBron was not the same dominant guy he was for the entire game. Some of that can be attributed to just being worn out from being on the floor almost all game every game. But almost all of that can be attributed to the strategy the Warriors put out there. And to the Warriors’ credit, they played gritty defense and besides a few offensive rebounds at the start of the game, they were solid on their boxouts and actually were outrebounding the Cavaliers for much of the game. For the Warriors, the Cavaliers took the bait and played right into their hands.

The Warriors not only made a lineup change but a tempo change. The Golden State Warriors were allowing the Cavaliers to dictate the pace of this series from the beginning. The pace was slow, deliberate and had limited fast-break opportunities. And because of the big man, Andrew Bogut, it wasn’t like the Warriors could pick up the pace any. If they did, it would have be 5 on 4 because Bogut would have still been trying to catch up to the action. With him out of the lineup, the Warriors pushed the tempo more than they have the entire series. With Iggy, Green and Curry out there, there were three guys that could take the rebound and push the tempo. Add backup guard Shawn Livingston to the mix and then there is another guy that can force tempo during the game. The Warriors, who would usually walk the ball up the court on makes or misses, were pushing the basketball right at Cleveland. The result was a lot more easy setups for the Warriors for easy baskets and cross matches that the Warriors exploited in this game. The tempo for the game also lulled the Cavs into pushing the tempo as well. The Cavs were shooting some early shots and that is the one thing they did not want to do. As a result, the depth of the Warriors took effect. The Cavs have been playing shorthanded for a while now and the weariness was evident. The Warriors, meanwhile, were fresh and ready to close the game out with ease. And in the end, the fast-paced start of the Warriors had LeBron James looking gassed and ready to call it a game.

But most importantly, the biggest adjustment made this series is finally putting David Lee back in the rotation. Lee had been a star for the Warriors leading up to this season. He was a very good offensive player for him and the symmetry he had with Steph Curry was a great thing to watch in 2013-2014. But this season did not go as Lee wanted due to injuries early and the emergence of Draymond Green. Plenty were wanting Lee to start in place of Draymond Green for Game 4. But instead, he took the place of veteran center Andrew Bogut in the rotation and produced very well. He had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 18 impactful minutes on the floor. The one thing he brings that Bogut and Festus Ezeli do not is offensive skill. The Warriors get a guy that can finish at the rim with ease, has soft hands and makes their offense flow versus the Cavs in Lee and he surely picked up where he left off versus the Cavaliers in this game. He may not have played many minutes, but the combination of Green and Lee at center gave the Cavs fits on the offensive end and made the Warriors a difficult matchup offensively. And one thing that having five offensive weapons on the floor also did is make Timofey Mozgov a guy that was a fish out of water. He essentially could not guard anyone on the court, especially with Green getting his rhythm offensively this game.

The Warriors came out loose and played their best game of the series. And with the adjustments by Kerr, we now have a brand new series. The Warriors have given the Cavaliers a lot to think about as they head back West to Oakland for Game 5 Sunday. After Game 1, it seemed like Kerr was the one that needed to make adjustments to what Cavaliers coach David Blatt was doing. But now the ball is in Blatt’s court as Kerr flipped the script on him this game. It will be interesting to see what he does in Game 5. But after Game 4, Kerr made it happen and the Warriors came out to play.

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The Fourth Quarter Of Game Three Was Exactly What The Golden State Warriors Needed

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

The Golden State Warriors were the team riding momentum heading into Game 2 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were up 1-0 and playing at home. They were trending in the right direction. And to add to everything, the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving to a season and series-ending knee injury. They had the Cavs right where they wanted them. But a certain number 23 and his crew of merry men decided that they would not lose Game 2. LeBron James took over in Golden State in Game 2 and he got his teammates involved, leading to their clutch win in Oakland. The pressure had then switched from Cleveland to Golden State and it was going to be interesting to see if the Warriors could respond like they did against the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, the Warriors not only did not respond, but they actually did not show up for most of the game in Game 3 in Cleveland. The Warriors looked to be lacking energy for most of the game and the Cavaliers were making everything happen as they entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point lead. But in the fourth, it looked like the Warriors found some rhythm and made things interesting. While the Warriors were playing with confidence in the last quarter while trying to make a mad dash back in the game, the Cavs were grasping for air while trying to close out the game. The Cavs eventually did enough as a team to close out the game and win it 96-91, but it was not easy at the end. And because of that big finish by the Warriors, there are a few of glimmers of hope the Warriors can take from this one.

David Lee was a forgotten man on the Warriors bench. He has been sitting over there collecting dust on the Warriors bench for most of the playoffs and the entire NBA Finals series. And in Game 3, it seemed that Lee was going to sit the entire game as well. But with Draymond Green struggling, Bogut disappearing and Festus Ezeli struggling as well, Warriors coach Steve Kerr finally went to Lee and the results were excellent. The biggest thing that was hurting the Warriors all game long was their lack of weapons at the post position. The aforementioned Green has been struggling to shoot the basketball all series long and Bogut and Ezeli are not really offensive weapons. Lee, although he can struggle on defense, can make it happen on the offensive end. And because of his presence, he puts pressure on the Cavaliers big men. He almost scored as many points tonight as he scored in the entire playoffs with his finishes around the rim and his active body. Going into the next game, the Warriors bring in Lee ahead of Festus Ezeli off the bench. In fact, if Draymond Green is struggling again as the starting power forward, then Kerr should bring him in for Green as well. Of course the defense will suffer, but the Warriors need offense and the Cavs have been mucking it up for them for the last two games.

But Lee is not the only weapon that could make it happen off their bench. Leandro Barbosa was a forgotten man in Game 2. He played less than ten minutes and did not have the effect that was desired. In Game 3, Kerr again went to his bench and brought in Barbosa to play alongside Curry and Thompson. The result was a pickup of tempo. We all remember the Brazilian Blur and the things he did in Phoenix over his career. Well, he isn’t quite as fast as he was back then, but he still does push the tempo and his stroke is pretty good from three-point range. If Harrison Barnes is going to disappear again like he did in Game 3, then Kerr has the option of bringing in Barbosa alongside Iguodala off his bench or leaving him in with Curry and Thompson to put more pressure on the offense. And with the added shooting and ball-handling, Barbosa can free up Curry to run off screens and can also allow more pressure to be taken off Curry to be the ballhandler and scorer for the Warriors.

Another positive sign from the Warriors in the fourth quarter was the play of Steph Curry. For most of the game, Curry was getting outplayed by Matthew Dellavedova, a backup point guard that has had to step in for an injured Kyrie Irving. Delly, as they call him in Cleveland, was making it happen and had outscored Curry for most of the game. But when the fourth quarter came around and the Warriors made their changes, it seemed like Curry played with the looseness that he played with in Game 1. The results were Steph hitting those high-difficulty shots that he was hitting all season long. And with each shot he hit, you could see his confidence growing more and more. Steph ended the game with 27 points and 7 three-pointers made. Sure, the Warriors still lost the game, but Curry gained back some of that magic he had been missing since the first game of the series. Going into Game 4, look for Steph to play with the same bounce that he played with previously enroute to the MVP. And if he is hitting these types of shots with regularity, then he will have the Cavaliers on their heels and the Warriors will have taken back momentum. And grabbing back all the momentum they lost in two games in Game 4 would be huge for them. Green has not played well, but if they can get Curry going then the team could pickup behind his momentum. Like it or not, he is the MVP and the team is following his lead. Klay Thompson has been playing well, but they get nowhere without Curry being the electrifying player that he can be at all times. In fact, there should be no way Dellavedova could guard him. But the combination of hard-nosed defense and passive offense from Curry has allowed Delly to grow in confidence.

The Warriors may be down, but they are definitely not out of this series. After all, they are down only one game this series. Momentum can change addresses with lightning speed, just like it did from Game 1 to Game 2 of this series. The main thing the Warriors have to do is take what they did in the fourth quarter and duplicate it over four quarters. Pushing tempo will definitely be the key to all that happening. We shall see if they do so or if they continue to let the Cavaliers muck up the basketball game.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Golden State Versus Cleveland: Strength In Numbers Meets Believeland

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of www.cleveland.com)

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com)

The NBA Finals are finally upon us. From the Eastern Conference, we have the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by NBA superstar LeBron James. And from the Western Conference, we have the Golden State Warriors, who won 67 games this year and were the class of the NBA this season. Both teams have had some things happen to them along the way that have made them stronger teams. But only one team will be at full strength coming into the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs are playing without power forward Kevin Love and have a gimpy Kyrie Irving scheduled to play in Game 1. But with that being said, the Cavs have found a way to make it happen and persevere. The Warriors, in the meantime, had a couple bumps and bruises to their Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Both looked to have concussions but only Klay was determined to have one as a result of an inadvertent knee to the head from Rockets guard Trevor Ariza in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The series starts on Thursday and there will be plenty things to talk about, but what it may ultimately come down to is a couple different things for each team.

We all know that LeBron James is the best player on the planet right now. But we also know that it is almost impossible to stop him from get where he wants to go on the court. With that being said, the only thing the Warriors can hope to do is slow him down. In doing that, the Warriors have an advantage because of their depth. LeBron will probably get his numbers, but if the Warriors want to win, they have to take advantage of their depth and wear on LeBron. A rotation of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and possibly Andre Iguodala will more than likely be the main competition guarding James. Draymond Green has his hands full in keeping Tristian Thompson off the boards and that could limit the time he has to guard LeBron. But as for Thompson and Iguodala, they have the size to deal with LeBron along with the defensive prowess. Both of these two along with Green could make it harder on LeBron to get to the basket and put pressure on defensives. And when the defense collapses, that is when LeBron is even more dangerous. At that point, LeBron will then starting picking through the defense to make pinpoint passes to his teammates. And when the supporting cast is contributing and hitting shots that could be serious trouble. The best bet of the Warriors would be to force James to make perimeter shots and offer just a little bit of a show regarding defensive help. The more he has to score and go at it with his teammates less involved, the more he will have to feel he has got to win the game by himself.

Another big thing for the Warriors versus the Cavs is rebounding. The Cavaliers absolutely killed the Atlanta Hawks on the boards last series and this series they have potentially an advantage with Tristian Thompson on their team. With Thompson, the Cavaliers are posting the third-best offensive rebounding differential in the NBA playoffs (+2.2) along with the best rebounding differential in the playoffs with +6.5. Thompson has been a bull in a china shop with his relentless pursuit of the basketball reminds some of Dennis Rodman and his rebounding wizardry. He, along with Timofey Mozgov, can cause some problems with the Warriors inside. Golden State has depth, but they would rather stay out of foul trouble when it comes to the likes of Thompson and Mozgov. With the Warriors, they must use Draymond Green to match up with Thompson. These two are both versatile players and they are also both barometers for their team’s success beyond the usual suspects. And Green has the great ability to defend taller players no matter what size. And in the case of Mozgov, it will be interesting to see how the matchup between Mozgov and Andrew Bogut swings. Bogut was and still is a great defender after making 2nd team All-Defense, so he will more than likely hold his own down there. And the best thing about Green and Bogut is they don’t have to do it all by themselves. The Warriors also have center Festus Ezeli, power forward David Lee and others that will be there reinforcements to help.

For the Cavaliers, they have to have their team slow down the basketball game. The best way for the Cavs to do that is to slow down the basketball game just a little bit. The Cavs are more of an isolation team at times, so doing this could be a problem. But it also could be a problem if they play a little bit too fast and get hammered by the Warriors in transition. The best way to slow them down and keep them out of transition is to make baskets. Players like Kyrie Irving, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert will need to stay hot when shooting the threes and jump shots. When you shoot well against Golden State, the tempo is right there in your hands and you control the pace of the game. The more your team controls the tempo, the more Golden State has to run halfcourt offense. The Warriors are more than capable of running halfcourt offense, but they are also more prone to turning the ball over because of getting too flashy or just not valuing the basketball. And the other main thing that slowing the game down does for Cleveland is makes it easier for them to set their defense. The Cavaliers have been very good defensively in the playoffs, only giving up 92.6 points per game. The more they are able to get back and defend the Warriors, the better the Cavaliers choices are in defending the Warriors.

Another thing the Cavs must do to win is keep the Warriors out of the paint. You would not think a team that is perceived as a jump-shooting team would need to be kept out of the paint, but the Warriors do it in an unusual way. They use movement and penetration to make things easier to get to the basket. For Cleveland, the trade for Mozgov game them a rim protector and someone that could deter guards from coming inside at times. He will have to be big for the Cavs this entire series for them to win. But not only he will have to be big, but so will the rest of the Cavaliers defense. One guy that could defend Draymond Green this series could be James Jones. The veteran wing player has been playing some power forward this season and he could help deter Green from shooting that three he tends to shoot off penetration and in transition because of his length and his ability to guard on the perimeter. Now he will be at a disadvantage on the block and rebounding, but he will have help there as well in Mozgov and Thompson perhaps as well. And speaking of defending the three, the Cavaliers would like to force the Warriors to shoot them more because they are only giving up the three at a 28.1% clip. That is by far the best of the teams that were in the NBA postseason.

The Cavs and the Warriors is a battle that many wanted to see in this postseason. The case of the former MVP in LeBron James versus the reigning MVP in Steph Curry. Both will have impacts on this series along with the usual players, but in regards to how this series will go, these points along with the depth of the Warriors and lack of depth of the Cavs will have an impact. In the end, the depth of the Warriors will prove too much for the Cavs and LeBron James. The Warriors win this series in six games and will prove there truly is strength in numbers.

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