Two days after tying a season-high with 126 points in a win over Philadelphia, the Orlando Magic return home to host the Golden State Warriors, the first team against which they scored 126. Injuries have beset the Warriors' season and have forced coach Don Nelson to use 35 different starting lineups so far this season, with an astonishing 23 different combinations used just one time. He'll only have 8 players available tonight. Star guard Monta Ellis and forward Corey Maggette are two of the higher profile names to sit, but there's also center Andris Biedrins, who is one of the league's best rebounders, shot-blockers, and finishers when fully healthy. And they're coming off a tough loss in Miami last night, in which Ronny Turiaf couldn't handle Stephen Curry's pass which would have led to a game-tying dunk with less than 10 seconds to play. Though Golden State is among the league's worst teams, and though it sports the league's second-worst road record--only the New Jersey Nets have fared worse away from home--the Warriors still play with some spirit. A 6-man squad downed the Dallas Mavericks earlier this year, and an 7-man unit stunned the Utah Jazz late last season.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|March 3rd, 2010|
|Sun Sports / NBA TV|
|C.J. Watson||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Stephen Curry||SG||Vince Carter|
|Anthony Morrow||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Anthony Tolliver||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Ronny Turiaf||C||Dwight Howard|
|December 28th: Magic 126, Warriors 118|
|Tommy Nuñez Jr.|
Golden State is a pretty extreme team and would be more fun to watch if it weren't so obvious that Nelson has just about given up. In any case, the Warriors play at the league's fastest pace and are 9th in effective field goal shooting. What troubles them is their inability to grab a rebound: no team snags a lesser percentage of its own misses than the Warriors. Add to that a tendency to turn the ball over and you've got a team that's just 17th in efficiency despite all those weapons.
And yes, Golden State is as bad as advertised defensively: 24th in efficiency, with the league's highest rate of forced turnovers unable to offset the Warriors' inability to contest shots, rebound, or keep opponents off the foul line. Turiaf plays hard and seems to take pride in his defense, but the Warriors don't really defend as much as they just wait to get the ball back.
To win, Orlando has to attack Turiaf at the rim. He and D-League call-up Chris Hunter are Golden State's only healthy shot-blockers. Further, the Magic can exploit the Warriors with the pick-and-roll because, though Turiaf has decent speed and can cover it okay, that team sure as heck isn't rotating to wall Dwight Howard out of the lane. Jameer Nelson shouldn't have much trouble completing alley-oops to Howard tonight.
The pick-and-roll between Nelson and Vince Carter should work especially well tonight also. Neither Stephen Curry nor C.J. Watson can cover Carter in the post, so there's really no way the Warriors can defend it without sending extra defenders from somewhere.
The three-point shot can help Golden State hang with Orlando. Curry, Watson, and Anthony Morrow are brilliant shooters who can catch fire in a hurry; that Morrow missed 8 of his 10 treys against Miami gives me pause, because he's due for a corrective outing, as a career 45.2% marksman from long range. It should be comforting, though, that Ellis and Anthony Randolph were the two players who most troubled the Magic in the first meeting between these teams, and that neither will participate tonight.
It would appear that the odds are stacked in the Magic's favor tonight. They're the better team, the healthier team, at home, on one day of rest, holding court against an undermanned squad that played last night. The Warriors have won some stunning victories in similar situations before, though, which is why I'm more than a little uneasy.