Warriors season opener
Tonight, 7:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area
Opponent: Houston Rockets
Points scored: 87
Points allowed: 96
Probable starting lineup
PG-Aaron Brooks (19 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals)
SG-Trevor Ariza (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)
SF-Shane Battier (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals)
PF-Luis Scola (3 points, 4 rebounds)
C-Chuck Hayes (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals)
Key bench players: F Carl Landry (9 points, 5 rebounds), G Kyle Lowry (12 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds), F/C David Andersen (11 points, 5 rebounds)
Here’s a look at what a rival scout reported about the Rockets in Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview (that entire issue is a must read if you love the NBA):
They go into the season without [an injured] Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, who is out for the year, and Ron Artest, who left for the Lakers. But I don’t see them dropping all the way to the top of the lottery. They’ve got a good coach in Rick Adelman, and they run a good system, plus they’re not devoid of talent–though they’ll have to be really committed defensively to make up for their offensive weakness. … No question Luis Scola is their best and most important player while Yao and Tracy are out. You can tell how much he enjoys the game because he plays with a smile on his face … Kyle Lowry is not big, but he can defend the ball against a bigger guard like Deron Williams without it being a complete mismatch, and offensively he doesn’t force a lot of the plays the way Aaron Brooks does. … David Anderson is a skilled big guy who has proved himself at the highest level in Europe. The offense is a good fit for him. … They were smart to give [forward] Chase Budinger a two-year deal as a second-round pick. I think more highly of him after watching him in summer league. He has a good feel, he can put people on their heels by driving, and he shoots it well enough.
I watched the Rockets play their season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers last night and, to be frank, this team looks like a team in disarray. I agree with the scout in SI, the Rockets have a good coach, and so I think they’ll figure some things out and will probably play better than their talent level would indicate this season. But for now, this early in the season, the Warriors are catching a team that is still trying to figure itself out, especially on offense. Combine that with this game being played at Oracle Arena, and this should be a win to start the season for Golden State.
Don’t forget, for as poor a season as the Warriors had in 2008-09, their record at home was better than .500 at 21-20. I expect Golden State to play well at home and beat a Rockets team that is coming off a tough road back-to-back.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Establish some defensive intensity: Last night, against Portland’s big shot-blocking lineup, the Rockets really struggled to get anything going offensively. Portland blocked 12 shots and held Houston to 37 percent shooting. The Warriors can throw a big lineup out there, too, and they need to prove that the preseason talk of defense wasn’t just talk. Golden State needs to be the aggressors on defense and keep the lane clogged with Biedrins, Randolph and Turiaf.
Help the guards on defense: This will probably be a theme all season, but the Warriors will be giving up some size on their guard line. It will be very interesting to watch the matchup between Rockets PG Aaron Brooks and either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry, because they all play similar, exciting games and have speed to match. But whichever guard doesn’t draw Brooks as a defensive assignment will be matched up with either Trevor Ariza or Shane Battier. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rockets try to post up Ariza or Battier early and often. The Warriors need to send help defense from a forward when that happens to keep the Rockets from exploiting that mismatch.
Get out and run: The interesting thing is that the Rockets want to play an up-tempo offense with Yao, McGrady and Artest gone. They believe that gives them their best chance to win. So, I suggest that the Warriors ramp up their own high-octane offense and force-feed the Rockets some of their own medicine. The Rockets may want to run, but they’re not as good at it as the Warriors and they’re not accustomed to sustaining that kind of pace for an entire game. So many teams and players always say they want to run, but they don’t always want to do what is necessary to make that kind of offense work. The Warriors get it. The Rockets are novices at the concept. So run the ball down their throat.
This isn’t a must-win, obviously, since it’s the season opener. But it would be really nice if the Warriors could open the season with a win at home against an inferior opponent.
Prediction: Warriors 118, Rockets 103