The Warriors are underdogs in their season-opener Tuesday at Brooklyn, and not only because they’re on the road. They’re widely considered a team with a chance to make the playoffs, while the Nets are viewed as an NBA Finals contender.
Both are valid opinions inasmuch as the Warriors open with Stephen Curry as their only available All-Star, and the Nets are benefiting from the healthy return of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Warriors, however, see the 4 p.m. tipoff as their first opportunity to tap the shoulders of doubters.
We thereby submit three keys to a Warriors victory:
Steph is super
Curry must have to perform at MVP level for the Warriors to make any relevant noise, and there should be an opportunity on Tuesday.
Irving is not much of a defender, and he’s likely to be assigned to Curry, who already tends to summon an extra level of motivation when facing a marquee player. Curry-Irving duels are particularly compelling, partly because they’ve done so in the NBA Finals.
Game 1 is not The Finals, but Curry understands the importance of his production. He needs to outplay his counterpart. If he goes beyond 30 points and at least approaches 40, the Warriors the upset is within reach.
Wiseman is wonderful
James Wiseman played a total of 69 minutes of college basketball and didn’t play a second in the preseason. His absence presents an element of mystery in his NBA debut.
Wiseman reportedly will get the start, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr is playing it coy until game time.
Wiseman will have to be a difference-maker. This is particularly true on defense, which happens to be the area most expect he can contribute immediately.
Never mind scoring, though he’ll need to find a few buckets. But if Wiseman’s combined rebounds/blocks total creeps into double digits, that suggests he’s a factor in the paint. That’s essential to a reasonable chance to win.
Add another advantage
Even if Curry is able to more than offset whatever Irving brings, that won’t be enough. The Warriors will need to win at least one more matchup, and it’s unfair to think anyone is going to outplay Durant.
That leaves small forward Joe Harris, the Spencer Dinwiddie/Caris LeVert shooting guard combo, and the Jarrett Allen/DeAndre Jordan center combo. The Warriors should be able to hold their own at shooting guard and center, so the most vulnerable is Harris, a terrific shooter that offers little else.
It’s a win for the Warriors if Andrew Wiggins, who likely will defend both Harris and Durant, clearly outplays Harris – not only gets an edge in the scoring column but also defends well and contributes across the stat sheet.