Fast Forward: Emphasizing defense, Warriors welcome Nets

Fast Forward: Emphasizing defense, Warriors welcome Nets
February 22, 2014, 1:45 pm

The Warriors have won seven of the last eight home games against Brooklyn. (USATSI)

KEYS TO THE GAME:

1. Rebounding and defense, two factors where the Warriors should have an advantage.

2. Avoiding the close game. Johnson, AKA Joe Jesus, has quite the reputation for buzzer-beaters.

3. Run, run and run some more. The Nets might be rested, but they're still elderly.

Programming note: Nets-Warriors coverage tips off tonight with Warriors Pregame Live at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

OAKLAND -- It has been more than six weeks since the Warriors won three consecutive games, a feat last accomplished during a 10-game win streak that ended in Brooklyn.

Guess who shows up at Oracle Arena on Saturday night? Well, of course, the Nets.

The Warriors, this time, are trying to establish themselves as consistent defensively, which is something they justifiably believe would give them a chance to close the season with a rush, improving their playoff position.

The first two games after the All-Star break followed that blueprint. The Warriors (33-22) didn't shoot particularly well while beating the Kings and Rockets but did a nice job of sustaining defensive intensity.

[RECAP: Warriors grind out OT win over Rockets]

Maybe the message being preached by coach Mark Jackson has hit home.

"It's always been there," wing Andre Iguodala said after the Saturday shootaround. "But it definitely amps up a little bit, trying to jockey for position, especially in the tough Western Conference.

"You've got to get that consistency. We always talked about it. We were consistent with it, verbally. But, mentally, it's got to be in the same place."

The Nets (25-27) pose an unusual challenge insofar as they play an irregular starting lineup: two point guards (Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston), two small forwards (Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson) and a power forward (Kevin Garnett) at center.

[RELATED: NBA standings]

The lineup, made possible after Williams returned from injury, has been effective. Since a 9-22 start, the Nets are 16-5 since the calendar flipped to 2014 -- including a 102-98 win that snapped the Warriors win streak.

The Warriors remember that, mostly because they had a 16-point lead and gave it back. It's one more reason to dig in defensively against an aging team that has not played since Wednesday's win at Utah.

"If we can allow our defense to keep us in ballgames and make timely plays on the offensive end -- whether we shoot the ball great all game or not -- we're a good enough team to be able to win all sorts of ways," Stephen Curry said.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Klay Thompson vs. Williams. Thompson usually gets scoring ball-handlers, so he'll see a lot of D-Will, who isn't the player he once was. He's smart, though, and Thompson (and anybody else with this assignment) will have to avoid foul trouble.

Iguodala vs. Paul Pierce/Joe Johnson. An example of the matchup problem that is Brooklyn, as Iguodala also could see time against either player. Pierce, however, is an old rival that Iguodala is capable of containing. Johnson likely will see a lot of Draymond Green.

Jermaine O'Neal vs. Kevin Garnett. This is a classic case of two aging gladiators, still proud as hell, facing each other once more. They can't bring it as they could 10 years ago, but the winner of this battle of NBA seniors will demand attention.

INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, C Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) is doubtful and expected to miss his seventh straight game.

For the Nets, F Pierce (turf toe) is probable and G Marcus Thornton (food poisoning) will be a game-time decision.

LAST 10: Warriors 6-4, Nets 5-5.

SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors, who swept the Nets in three of the past five seasons, will be trying to avoid a sweep this season. The Warriors have won seven of the last eight meetings in Oakland.

 

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