Warriors vs. Bucks Preview | Hot vs. not as Golden State looks to make it 10 straight

USA TODAY Sports

While the Bucks continue to cement their status atop the lottery rankings, Stephen Curry and the Warriors are finally making their move up the playoff standings in the West.

13/14 NBA Preseason
Mil_medium
(7-26, 3-12 home)
vs.
Gsw
(23-13, 12-9 road)
January 7, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Stephen Curry
Luke Ridnour SG Klay Thompson
Giannis Antetokounmpo SF Andre Iguodala
Ersan Ilyasova PF David Lee
Larry Sanders C Andrew Bogut
2012/13 Advanced Stats
91.4 (26th) Pace 97.0 (3rd)
98.8 (30th) ORtg 105.9 (12th)
107.1 (21st) DRtg 101.0 (4th)

On the Warriors: Golden State of Mind | Warrior World | Bucks Game Notes

Fighting words. Call it a game of contrasts. The Warriors arrive at the Bradley Center on Tuesday night owning a league-best nine-game winning streak. The Bucks? Yeah, not so much. Through 33 games Milwaukee has yet to even string two wins together, with their latest lackluster performance on Saturday punctuated by a locker room dustup between Larry Sanders and Gary Neal. It's the latest indication of things getting uglier and uglier for a team that doesn't look any more cohesive or energetic than it did two months ago.

Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman reports:

"It is just something to get past," Sanders said. "Guys are going to get into it. It's a part of it. It's a passionate game and everybody wants to win. It was an emotional day, I think an emotional day for everybody.

"You want positive comments. You want healthy, positive things coming from the team. I've been around teams and sometimes when negative things linger, it can hold a team back and have us going in the wrong direction. My message was we need to speak encouraging things and stay on the positive side of things despite what is happening. We're all in this together."

It's no secret last year's Bucks team had chemistry issues that may have hampered the team's play, something Sanders saw firsthand.

"And that plagues," Sanders said. "That plagues the team. I've been around teams guys have had things to say and it lasts all year, breaking the team down. I'm just trying to nip things in the bud."

I'm not sure I buy Larry's positive spin of the whole incident, but should we be surprised that the worst team in the league is not happy about their situation? No, certainly not. But it'd be nice if Sanders wasn't constantly popping up as the lightning rod for team discord, too.

Giannis blogs. On the plus side: Larry's taking care of his rookie, as Giannis' latest blog includes among many other interesting tidbits the fact that Sanders "spoiled" him with a pair of Gucci shoes for Christmas.

Henson waits. Charles Gardner reports that John Henson (ankle) could be ready to return this weekend against either the Bulls (Friday) or Thunder (Saturday). Henson had his walking boot removed on Sunday and did some limited work at practice Monday. The more interesting question: once he's back to full health, how will Drew dole out minutes between Henson, Sanders and Ilyasova?

Defensive Warriors. Golden State's long been perceived as a run-and-gun team, and an explosive offense led by three-point gunners Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson isn't likely to change that. But the Warriors are winning in large part because of the other end of the court. While Andrew Bogut may be a shell of his former self offensively, he has anchored Golden State's 4th-ranked defense and helped the Warriors lead the league in defensive rebound percentage while conceding the fourth-best eFG% in basketball.

Offensively they're hurt by the highest turnover rate in the league and they don't get to the line (26th in FTR), but when you have shooters like Steph and Klay--currently combining for a ridiculous 6.3 triples per game--you tend to get your points anyway. Though he turns it over a ton (4.2 per game!), Curry has once again been a dominant scorer (career-best 23.0 ppg on 58% true shooting) while boosting his assists from 6.9 to 9.6 apg and adding 2.0 spg for good measure. Meanwhile, Thompson is adding 19.5 ppg on virtually the same shooting efficiency (57.7% true shooting).

Iggy's pop. Many wondered what the Warriors would do with Thompson and fellow youngster Harrison Barnes after the team signed Andre Iguodala to a massive free agent deal over the summer, but so far the decision has been easy. Iguodala's versatility has been the perfect foil to the shooting prowess of Thompson and Curry thus far, with the Warriors' starting lineup outscoring opponents by a whopping 20 pts/100 possessions in 395 minutes to date.

It's been a much different story when the Warriors have run Barnes with the same group, as they've played at a 6.4 pts/100 deficit in over 260 minutes--their second most-used lineup. Barnes' efficiency metrics remain below average for a second straight season (11.1 PER, 0.088 WS/48, 51.4% true shooting), putting a major damper on the excitement that came with a couple big games in the playoffs last year. While Barnes scores more (11.8 ppg vs. 10.3), Iguodala has been the far superior player overall with 63.6% true shooting, 46% shooting from deep and 5.0 assists per game.

All of that has led many to wonder if Barnes' best use is as a small-ball PF, a role he seemed to excel in at times during the playoffs. Early returns this season have been promising, but only in small doses thus far. The Warriors are +3.5 pts/100 in 76 minutes with Barnes replacing David Lee at PF, and +27.7 pts/100 in 37 minutes of small-ball lineup with Lee shifting to center.

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