Fast Forward: W's must take advantage of mismatch vs. Magic

Fast Forward: W's must take advantage of mismatch vs. Magic
March 18, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Look for Pac-12 products Klay Thompson and Arron Afflalo to match up a lot Tuesday in Oakland. (USATSI)

1) Swing it. The Magic is notoriously bad on defense, so ball movement will create open shots.
2) Run, don't walk. The Warriors should own the glass, leading to fast break opportunities.
3) Feel the noise. Get the Oracle crowd into the game early and keep them engaged until the game no longer is in doubt.

Programming note: Warriors-Magic coverage starts at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

OAKLAND – With the Warriors headed for the playoffs and the Magic bound for the lottery, their meeting Tuesday night at Oracle Arena is, on paper and by roster, an absolute mismatch.

But the Warriors have learned the hard way that a mismatch can bite them, even on their own floor; they were most recently victimized by the Cavaliers, who dominated the final three quarters last Friday at Oracle Arena.

So resounding was the defeat that the Warriors gathered afterward to analyze their play and reinforce their commitment. It was yet another wakeup call.

Yet with 14 games to play, and the postseason looming, incentive should not be a problem for the Warriors – no matter the opponent.

[POOLE: Coach's dream Green understands role, embraces it]

“It shouldn't be,” point guard Stephen Curry said at Tuesday morning's shootaround. “Honestly, at this point of the season if you overlook any team then something's wrong. That's a test of our maturity and mental toughness.”

Maturity and mental toughness are the last hurdles for a team on the rise, required elements to avoid giving away victories in meaningful games. The Warriors (42-26) have to look at the Magic (19-48) and every other team as serious threats, even if their records suggest otherwise.

“We've already seen that teams can come in and get hot and make plays,” Curry said. “They're all talented, (but) we feel like at home we should win this game. But we have to go out and play like it and not just expect it to happen. Or else, we're having the same postgame powwow, where we're frustrated with the outcome.”

Orlando owns the league's worst road record (4-30) and third worst record overall. The Magic has not beaten a Western Conference teams on the road all season, going 0-11 and allowing an average of 106.8 points.

This should be a get-well home game for the Warriors, who bounced back from the Cleveland debacle with a remarkable comeback win in Portland.

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Still, the number of home games lost to sub-mediocre opponents has been alarming.

“It's important for us to try to put a check mark in the W column, closing out the season, when we're supposed to,” coach Mark Jackson said. “It's going to be important for us. We understand it.

“That doesn't mean we're going to go undefeated. But we're going to hold each other accountable and we're going to keep on working – and try to keep me off the hot seat.”

Jackson grinned, only slightly, as he is acutely aware of the grumbling within the fan base that follows every puzzling loss to a sub-mediocre team, particularly at Oracle.

The only way to quiet such noise is by winning those games, by taking out an opponent like Orlando.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Klay Thompson vs. Arron Afflalo. The two Pac-12 products are among the league's most complete big guards. Each is a factor at both ends. It's tough for Orlando to have success without a big night from Affalo.

Curry vs. Jameer Nelson. Nelson is the clear leader of this team, but there isn't much to lead these days. He still has plenty of pride, though, so Curry will have to make him work on the defensive end. He's easily capable of that.

INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) is out.

For the Magic, no injuries reported.

LAST 10: Warriors 7-3, Magic 2-8.

SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors won the previous meeting this season, 94-81, on Dec. 31 in Orlando, but have lost eight of the last 10 against the Magic. The Warriors have swept the Magic only twice in franchise history, the last coming in 1991-92.

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