Warriors Look to Embrace Unfamiliar Underdog Role


Intriguing Dual Challenges

The Golden State Warriors’ opening-night matchup will be one of their most anticipated showdowns of the 72-game regular season. Kevin Durant’s first post-Warriors game is also his Brooklyn Nets debut. With a new coach in Steve Nash and a superstar duo to acclimate — combined with the different Warriors look — this matchup raises many questions early in the season.

The majority of the Nets’ roster carried over from last season. Brooklyn made several additions to the bench and re-signed Joe Harris in free agency. However, KD has yet to play a regular-season game in Brooklyn and Kyrie Irving played just 20 games last season. Brooklyn’s star power alone gives them a significant edge, even with the lack of experience together.

Regardless, the way the Warriors deploy their defense makes them an interesting problem for the 7/11 duo. The Dubs are using Kelly Oubre Jr. as the primary point-of-attack defender on opposing point guards. This strategy leaves Steph Curry on off-ball guards, where he can use his strengths as a full-time help defender. Oubre hounds players, and although Kyrie has the quickness and handle to beat Kelly off the dribble consistently, what waits for Irving in the paint isn’t fun either.


Durant Creates Issues

Durant will probably see a lot of Andrew Wiggins on the perimeter, especially if Draymond Green is out with a foot sprain. If Brooklyn follows through with a small-ball five, though, there could be a few minutes of must watch Durant-James Wiseman matchups. Steve Kerr will force Irving and Durant to work hard through aggressive defenders, leaving it to Brooklyn’s secondary playmakers to pick up for their studs.

No Klay Thompson means more wiggle room for Harris and newcomer Landry Shamet on the perimeter. They are two snipers that can make the Warriors pay for their aggressive defense. It’s possible Nash runs Irving and Dinwiddie at the same time to make Steph play on the ball more often and throw off their defensive scheme.

Down low, Jordan and Allen could give the Nets an edge on the glass if Wiseman seems slow, or if Marquese Chriss plays more than 20-25 minutes. Brooklyn has the pieces to break down this Warriors defense and control the pace defensively. It will come down to execution if they want to set the tone for what should be a title-contending season.

Warriors’ Strategies

On the Warriors end, the preseason provided insight into the rotations and strategies with a deeper and more athletic team. Wiggins and Oubre bring a new dimension on the wings around Steph on both sides of the ball. Also, the pressure the Slash Bros create on opposing defenses gives Curry plenty of room to cook. The trio showed well together this preseason without their starting frontcourt of Green and Wiseman.

This strength should make Golden State more potent defensively. The main problem with the starting five is that none of them have been on the floor together in live games. Three of their key pieces in that lineup are 25 or younger, and could struggle to communicate and perform in a rugged defensive scheme. Every player on the roster is a league-average shooter at best aside from Steph, and even the greatest shooter of all time might not be enough to make the Warriors potent from deep.

This Nets team should be excellent in the halfcourt, but how they perform in transition is a big question mark. The Dubs showed they are eager to get out and run, and if they can create enough live-ball turnovers, it could swing the game. Wiseman and Chriss will have to control the glass on both ends to limit Brooklyn’s offensive chances. They should be able capitalize on their lack of rim protection with strong finishes and an aggressive roll game. It’s a good early test of the mettle of this Warriors team, and they should come out fired up to prove doubters wrong.

Ultimately, the Warriors opened as five-point underdogs in KD’s debut, since moving to +5.5 and +190 on the money line. Even though Brooklyn may be a tier above the Warriors, the questions around both rosters beginning the season make it an uncertain matchup. In a road stadium with no fans, it’s hard to count Steph Curry out. The Nets looked excellent in the preseason, but this new Warriors starting five will give Brooklyn trouble.

The Warriors’ new-look bench is more than capable of holding their own against the Nets’ deep second unit. Sprinkling on the Warriors’ money line, while these two teams figure out early-season kinks, is a great opening-night proposition. Still, the Nets could easily cover the moderate spread if the Dubs’ shots aren’t falling.

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About Charlie Cummings

Warriors writer born and raised in the Bay Area. University of Denver graduate currently living in Denver

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