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This season has been moving so fast that it has been hard to keep up with some of the better bloggers covering teams in the NBA. Luckily, with a big game tonight against Golden State facing the team, the guys at 3 Shades of Blue were able to catch up with Jordan Ramirez of Warriors World to get some perspective on tonight’s game.

3SOB: How have the Warriors progressed this year compared to local expectations?
Jordan Ramirez: 
They are a better team, with an upgraded small forward, a healthy Bogut and the NBA’s freshest superstar in Stephen Curry. But, given their low seeding, this team is seen as a disappointment locally compared to lofty expectations raised by their owner and coach. 17 games over .500 is usually a sign of a great team, and while the Warriors have the ability to beat anyone in a given series, their seeding is very much indicative of a historically good Western Conference.

The latest hoopla has been tied to Mark Jackson, who has been the subject of much criticism — most deserving — given his talent in the starting lineup and lack of any innovations on the offensive end. Fans love points and fancy highlights, and while the Warriors produced the latter on numerous occasions, their offense is often stalled and isolation-heavy. Curry isolation, Lee post-up or Thompson catch-and-shoot is your usual array of Warriors plays. Not nearly enough variance to utilize the talent present.
The constant with the Warriors this season has been their defense, which ranks Top-5 in the NBA. This is odd for Warriors fans, who are used to maximum pace and points on the offensive end with little resistance on the other end of the floor. This has been the biggest improvement under Jackson to date, but keep in mind the talent has also been drastically improved since he’s arrived.
The Warriors are who we thought they were: a fringe contender with a fantastic backcourt and vastly improved defense that can compete with anybody. But, will this be enough to satisfy expectations and for Jackson to keep his job?
3SOB: The Warriors are the prototypical perimeter offensive team. How do you believe they stack up against the other playoff teams in the West this season?
JR: They’re seeding and record are actually incredibly accurate to how they rank in the Western Conference. All five teams above them — with the slight exception of Portland — are better than them, but at the time can be beaten if the Warriors play their best basketball for a long series. The Warriors should want to avoid Houston at all costs and would be better off playing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Warriors have the ability to beat any team in the NBA over a long series, but their inconsistency on the offensive end and their outrageous dependency on their backcourt is what will ultimately be their doom. Now, over the long grind of the playoffs, if the Warriors find a way to mix up their offensive repertoire, rotations and creativity, this argument can be thrown out the window. Their defense is elite, but can their offense keep up? Their seeding says otherwise.
3SOB: Memphis throws interior power and stifling interior defense as teams. Golden State is a perimeter shooting, finesse team that wants uptempo games. Do you consider this game a matchup of an immovable force against the unstoppable attack?
JR: I do, and the immovable force has gotten the best of the unstoppable attack up to this point. The Warriors still can’t find a way to limit the Randolph-Gasol duo, and Mike Conley has proven to give whoever is guarding him fits. He’s too quick for Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry expends too much energy on the offensive end to hold with Conley an entire game. Zach Randolph owns Lee, and Marc Gasol can stretch the floor enough to lead Bogut outside the paint. It’s just a bad matchup for the Warriors in every way.
3SOB: David Lee is questionable for the game. Golden State’s improbable playoff success last season occurred after Lee was lost to injury. Is Golden State better without Lee than with him?
JR: This has been one of the hottest debates in #DubNation since last season. When Lee was out, Harrison Barnes thrived, in large part due to Mark Jackson’s 4-out starting lineup, allowing Barnes to stretch the floor and slash to the basket. As the entire basketball world has noticed, Barnes hasn’t been the same player this season, struggling mightily since being inserted to the bench and playing in much more traditional lineups.

When the Warriors backcourt struggles, the need for a consistent third scorer is evident. While Andre Iguodala used to be a dynamic scorer, he’s opted to play the facilitator role for much of the season, leaving his once premier offensive skill-set to the side. Lee is needed as that third scorer in the lineup, and it’s a matter of how he gets his points that has fans wondering if he’s the right fit for this team.
Lee has bogged down the offense at times, forcing isolations in the post and thus limiting ball movement and the effectiveness of the Curry and Thompson. Last season, Lee thrived off the Curry pick-and-roll, knocking down the elbow jumper and driving when he could. That hasn’t been seen as much this season, mostly due to Lee’s suddenly ineffective jumper. When Lee is posting and hitting, he’s a premier player in the post. When he’s facing larger frontcourts, he struggles because his quick, nifty moves around the rim are met with force.
His defense will always be an issue, but it’s lessened with traditional 4′s due to the presence of Andrew Bogut. When Lee is facing 4′s that can stretch the floor, he’s exposed out on the perimeter and gets lost out on rotations. He’ll never a premier defender, but the Warriors have enough defensive pieces surrounding Lee to limit the damage. The Warriors need Lee, but they also aren’t entirely dependent on him to succeed either.
3SOB: Brian Scalabrine was reassigned to the D-League this week. What was his role on the team and why do you believe he was demoted?
JR: He was an assistant coach on Mark Jackson’s staff, hired specifically to work with the big men. He was Andrew Bogut’s assigned coach and worked with him on his offensive moves throughout the season. Sources told me on Wednesday that Scalabrine and assistant coach Pete Myers got into a verbal altercation after the Spurs game last Saturday, likely leading to his demotion.
3SOB: The Warriors are top 10 in the league in points per game and points allowed. Why hasn’t that translated into a better record overall?
JR: The Western Conference has been ridiculously good. Also, when has 17 games over .500 not been respectable? While Joe Lacob may think this team should be Top-4 in the West, that was a lofty goal and one that now seems unrealistic. They had some bad losses at home earlier this year (Denver, Minnesota, Washington, Charlotte) but those tend to happen even to great teams during the length of a seasons. Their position is based on the talent consumed by the Western Conference than by any disappointment or underperformance from the team itself.
3SOB: Portland, Golden State, Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix. Who is going to miss the playoffs and will a team miss the playoffs in the West who would have had home court advantage in the East?
JR: A team who misses the playoffs in the West wouldn’t have home court advantage in the East, but with that said, the Dallas Mavericks won’t make the playoffs. While some may want Dirk Nowitzki in the playoffs, the exciting Suns would be incredible to watch, especially against the San Antonio Spurs.
We really appreciate Jordan taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions. Make sure to check out his blog, Warriors World
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