Showtime: 7:30 p.m. PT
Plot: The Los Angeles Lakers should be well rested after a four-day layoff following a victory over the Detroit Pistons. Gifts like that from the fine folks who make the schedule need not be questioned. In all fairness, the Lakers opened the season with a heavy schedule and, despite four days of nothing, teams are barely reaching the 12 game mark they've been sitting at all week.
So, in come the Warriors. When the teams last met Golden State absolutely thrashed the Lakers who were on the road in the second half of a back-to-back. It happens.
Thing is, these Warriors are quietly becoming one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They've minimally regressed on offense from last season, averaging .6 points per 100 possessions less, but have taken a giant leap in defensive efficiency. Their 105.5 defensive rating has dropped to 98.8, holding opponents to 6.7 points per possession less than last season. That's fourth-overall in the NBA, according to Basketball-Reference.
Steph Curry is doing Steph Curry things, Klay Thompson is shooting an astounding 48 percent from behind the arc and Andrew Bogut is healthy. But the story, for now, is how Andre Iguodala is improving the team. It's not rocket science to conclude shedding millions of dollars in dead weight contracts to clear room to sign one of the NBA's most versatile win players is going to immediately improve teams, but this isn't a minor bump for Golden State.
Just take a look at his +/- numbers. The Warriors are +13.2 while he's on the court and -16.7 when he's off, according to the NBA's media-only stats website. That's a 29.9 swing while he's playing, the widest margin on the team. Way to go, Jerry West and company.
Curry missed the Warriors' previous outing on Wednesday -- an 88-81 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies -- due to concussion symptoms. He is officially listed as day-to-day, though the team stated he was only suffering from a headache. No updates on if he will be available for tonight's game but he did participate in non-contact drills on Thursday.
Of course it's worth mentioning the world is now in full-on Kobe watch mode and there's no official word on when "the return" will happen. He recently told media he could see himself playing this month. There are five games left in Novemeber, three of which are away games. You do the math. He's practiced a total of three times with the team since receiving full medical clearance last weekend, participating in five-on-five scrimmages.
Kobe missed practice Thursday with some soreness. No updates past that, but expect an answer on his status a few hours before the game.
Even with a fully rested squad the Warriors are going to be a tough outing for Los Angeles. Bogut is a monster under the rim and will alter shots. Iguodala is an elite defender who will check any Laker who starts to heat up. Klay is generally revered for his shooting, but he's also developing into a pretty good defender himself. Harrison Barnes is available for Golden State now and is yet another wing player to throw at Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jodie Meeks.
Keep an eye on Jordan Hill, who is going up against one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league. Hill continues to break into new ground, setting career-high numbers twice this season, and clearly belongs in the starting lineup. He's still raw around the edges on offense, but he's pick-and-rolling his way into a pretty nice contract in all likelihood.
No, really. He's averaging 1.16 points per possession as a roll man, finishing 17 of his 23 attempts on the season, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That's good for sixth-overall in the league and it's clear to anyone watching that he's still pretty tentative when he dives and gathers. More time with the starting lineup, more repetition and more confidence from the coach can go a long way in his continued development.
- Be sure to check out Golden State of Mind for the latest on the Dubs