Pistons to get glimpse of 'championship pedigree' in clash with Warriors
Detroit — It’s tough to keep a good team down for very long.
After making five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors fell on hard times with injuries and the departure of Kevin Durant. The Warriors won just 15 games in the 2020 season and although they bounced back with 39 wins last season, it’s not the level of success that their fan base — and the league — had become accustomed to.
They lost Klay Thompson to injuries in those two down years and last year, their second-overall pick, James Wiseman, played in just 39 games before his season ended. The Warriors still made the playoffs, but all eyes looked forward to this season when they might have a whole healthy roster.
The Warriors (12-2) are there quicker than expected. They have been riding high on Steph Curry’s MVP-caliber season, but they’ve developed depth beyond Curry and Draymond Green, with a surge from Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins and the return of Andre Iguodala.
Before their two key pieces return, they’re already in place to not only be one of the surprises this season, but to be a legitimate title contender. It’s a little earlier than some projected, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Their pedigree says that they should be where they are. Their championship pedigree and those guys are still playing at a high level, still in their prime,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The experience that the young players got last year is paying huge dividends. Jordan Poole and (Damion) Lee, all those guys have really grown last year going through the season they had last year, and here they are. Then, you bring back an experienced player like Iguodala. You don't lose that championship pedigree.”
While much of the attention was focused on the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, the Warriors just continued doing what they do and flew under the radar a bit.
Those days are gone now.
All eyes are on Curry and his ridiculous numbers: 28.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists and shooting 41% on 3-pointers. Curry has been nursing a hip injury and the Warriors will be on the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Cleveland on Thursday.
He’ll provide another difficult matchup for Friday’s matchup against the Pistons — that is, if he plays.
“There are 29 other teams that are not excited about going against him because he's having a career year,” Casey said. “Watching some of the shots he's taking, the more pressure you put on him, the further out he goes — and he makes those shots — and it's not like anyone's surprised now that they go in.
“He really spaces the floor, so your transition defense, your pickup point has to be almost as soon as he touches the ball.”
The Warriors’ success isn’t just about Curry, though. The mix of veterans with championship experience and the young players who got valuable playing time last season makes for an interesting squad that could make another long run in the postseason.
Focusing on fundamentals is the key to their success, and a lot of that is ingrained in their team culture.
“They're such a well-oiled machine that they know where each other is going to be, their spacing is perfect, their passing is perfect and they have a group of guys who are not only good shooters, but they're excellent passers,” Casey said. “The way the game is played today, along with shooting, that aspect of the game is so important — the guy being able to make a play for his teammate.”
Playing hot hand
Killian Hayes played just 20 minutes in Wednesday’s win over the Indiana Pacers. That’s partly due to foul trouble, but also to re-injuring his left wrist. The other factor was the good play of backup Cory Joseph, who finished out the game and helped the Pistons seal the win with his 18 points and five rebounds.
Casey said they considered bringing Hayes back into the game, but they decided to ride the hot hand with Joseph, who hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch that kept the Pistons’ momentum going.
“(Hayes) banged it again and it hit the floor last night. He could have played, but it was one of those situations where Cory was having a great game,” Casey said, “and right before Cory hit that shot, we had talked about it as a staff, to get Killian back in, and it happened to Cory the other game.
“It's one of those things that I like to go with the group that's rolling, and he did bang it a little bit, but he seemed to be OK in practice (on Thursday).”
Warriors at Pistons
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► Outlook: The Warriors entered Thursday having won eight of their previous nine games, led by Steph Curry (28.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists). Curry is an early favorite for the MVP award, and Golden State, though shorthanded, has the best record in the league.