Lets face it, if Warriors coach Mark Jackson followsthrough on his promise to demand that his players defend, then it stands toreason forward Lou Amundson could benefit.Amundson is one of the few players on the Warriors with adefensive mindset, and his ability to be physical, block some shots, reboundand take a hard foul may very well lead to him having more of a role with thisyears Warriors than last years Warriors.Going into this knowing the emphasis hes going to put ondefense, thats something I really believe in, Amundson said Friday, from theWarriors practice facility. Being on that Phoenix team and kind of witnessingand being a part of the transformation we made from a mediocre defensive teamto a rather good defensive team, as players its what we need to make happen.It gets me excited to bring that here.It wasnt an overly dramatic defensive improvement for theSuns from 2008-09 to 2009-10, but it was effective. They went from giving up107.5 points per game to giving up 105.3 points per game but that helped themto an eight-game improvement, from 46 wins to 54 wins.That kind of nudge-up for the Warriors would put them in theplayoff mix in the Western Conference.Amundson played only 46 games a year ago, a victim of injuryand former coach Keith Smarts rotation. He averaged only four points and 4.3rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from the field well below his 55 and 54percent from the field in the previous two seasons.But Amundsons intent is have a bounce-back year, and hecould be on his way. He has worked out and played basketball all offseason andhe was the first Warrior player back to the Bay Area now that the lockout hasended.If the Warriors are going to make good on Jacksons otherpromise to make the playoffs theyre going to need contributions from lotsof players, not the least of which is Amundson.If you have a good second unit, that can change the game,Amundson said. Obviously, you put a lot of expectations on the first unit todo the job at the start of games and in crunch time. But a lot of times gamesare won and lost in that middle time at the end of the first quarter or endof the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
Having destroyed three highly regarded opponents in their toughest week of the season, the Warriors on Sunday face an altogether different kind of challenge.
This time, it’s simply waking up.
The Warriors will pursue their seventh consecutive win, facing the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 a.m Pacific., the earliest game of the season for the Warriors.
The last time the Warriors (37-6) played such an early game in the Eastern Time Zone was March 26, 1995, also in Orlando.
The Magic (18-27) will want to be on alert for Warriors star Stephen Curry, who torched Orlando for 51 points last Feb. 25, his last visit to Amway Center.
Warriors by 12.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Kevin Durant vs. Aaron Gordon: It’s the most efficient high-producer on offense (Durant) vs. one of the top five athletes in the league (Gordon). Durant is taking apart all defenders, and Gordon isn’t known for his D. No, the South Bay native is most known for his ability to fly. Durant’s task will be to minimize lob attempts while keeping him off the offensive glass for easy put backs.
Warriors: F/C David West (L thumb fracture) is listed as out. G Shaun Livingston (rest) is listed as out.
Magic: G Evan Fournier (R foot soreness) is listed as questionable. G Jodie Meeks (R thumb sprain) and G C. J. Wilcox (L Achilles tendinitis) are listed as out.
Warriors: 9-1. Magic: 3-7.
The Warriors have swept the Magic in each of the past three seasons, compiling a six-game win streak during which they’ve won by an average of 10.8 points per game.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
EARLY FOCUS: After such astonishing success in a grueling week, with three emotional games, the Warriors may be susceptible to a letdown against inferior competition. Will they be able to summon the intensity from the start?
THE BIG MEN: Zaza Pachulia will have his hands full with Nikola Vucevic, the USC product who is one of the league’s more skilled scorers in the paint. Vucevic is not much of a defender, though, so Pachulia may find a few opportunities via the back cut or the pick-and-roll.
INSIDE D: If ever there were an offensive team begging to be defended by a zone, it is the Magic, who are 25th in field-goal percentage and, even worse, 28th in 3-point shooting percentage. The Warriors should be in good shape if they limit penetration.
Late in the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Thunder, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia made hard contact with Russell Westbrook, sending the Oklahoma City star sprawling to the ground.
The referees reviewed the play and gave Pachulia a flagrant foul.
Replays show Pachulia appearing to stand over Westbrook and none of his Thunder teammates coming to his defense.
Raja Bell, a 12-year NBA veteran who was briefly a Warrior during the 2009-10 season, was not happy with the reaction of the Thunder players.
"You are supposed to come flying across the court. You don't have to punch him, because that's a lot of money. But he should catch a forearm across his shoulder, a shove in the back, you ain't gonna knock down Russell Westbrook, the everything to the team I'm playing on, who feeds me, who makes me better, you ain't gonna do that and just stand over him and ice grill him. Not a chance," Bell said on Thursday during the NBA Crossover show on CBS Sports.
The incident started a war of words between Westbrook a Pachulia following the game.
"I don't know. He hit me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said when asked about what happened on the play.
He was then asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him.
"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.
Pachulia responded to Westbrook's comments moments later.
"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments.
"That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.