Golden State Warriors

Warriors shouldn’t rush Steph Curry back after Game 3 loss in Portland

The Warriors are probably 10 steps ahead of me on this, but I feel the need to voice it anyway. Despite losing 120-108 in Portland and dropping their second game to the same team for the first time this season, they shouldn’t give in to temptation … or Steph Curry’s requests.

If Curry isn’t healthy enough to run, cut and jump like he can normally, without the kind of pain that sticks in an athlete’s subconscious regardless of the brace worn or the drugs administered, don’t risk it. And if he isn’t fully ready by Wednesday, keep him on the bench for Game 5.

The Warriors can win two of the next four games without him, and they will, because there is no way they’ll play the way they did tonight in Games 4 or 5.

“I was awful defensively.”

Despite a nice first quarter effort, one which should have put Golden State out in front by more than the six-point advantage they had going into the second quarter, they looked disjointed throughout Game 3. Yes, the Blazers shot amazingly well from distance, led by Damian Lillard (who scored 40 points) and Al-Farouq Aminu (who scored 23 points on 9 shot attempts). As Mark Jackson would say, “Give them credit.”

But the Warriors never put a complete set of possessions together on both sides. It started with that first quarter, when Golden State’s defense was strong, and the offense was Klay Thompson and not much else. Thompson scored 18 points in the quarter, but the Warriors’ normally glorious ball movement was infrequently seen.

From the second quarter on, we saw a team that looked very much unlike what we saw throughout most of the season and these playoffs. The depth wasn’t there — Andre Iguodala played perhaps his worst playoff game as a Warrior and scoring from players not named Thompson or Draymond Green was rarely seen. But offense wasn’t the most cumbersome problem. Golden State went 14-of-29 on 3-pointers and scored 34 points in the third quarter as they tried to mount a comeback.

The Blazers scored 35 in the same quarter.

If the Warriors would’ve played some defense in the last 36 minutes, they could’ve scored more than 2(!) fast break points, kept Portland from making even more 3-pointers (17-of-30), and taken a 3-0 series lead.

That sounds absolutely insane coming from someone who had just made 8-of-12 threes and scored a career-high 37 points, but Green’s defensive impact has rarely been less noticeable than it was tonight. He was beaten off the dribble on numerous occasions by wings like Gerald Henderson.

This isn’t to say the Warriors couldn’t use Curry. It’s hard to score 30+ and do everything defensively, and that’s what they needed from Thompson and Green this evening on a night when the other three starters combined for 18 points. We’ve seen what happens when Curry and Lillard go at it — except for that one bizarro blowout after the All-Star Break, the Warriors out-gun the Blazers with relative ease.

Also, Curry is the best player in the world and the Warriors are 1-3 on the road without him for a reason. Role players like Ian Clark and Mo Speights, who’ve both had their moments during this postseason, are going to do their damage at Oracle. That’s just NBA life.

And maybe Curry is fine. He was shown on the ABC telecast playing 2-on-2 with some coaches, draining a couple threes. But if he isn’t … if that knee is even slightly tender … don’t force him back because of some silliness like “momentum.” The Blazers are light years ahead of the Rockets from a character standpoint, and their best player is one of the best offensive players in the league, but they aren’t the Spurs. The Warriors can win two of the last three games in this series without Curry, and that probably won’t be necessary anyway.

Well, I meant they could win two out of three if the Blazers tie the series, simply because the Warriors have home court. But if Green feels that strongly, who are we to doubt him?

Dub Steps

— We should expect Iguodala to bounce back, because he’s a money player. As for Harrison Barnes, the one who stands to make the most money after this season, who knows? He provided nothing positive of note until midway through the fourth quarter, when he made a three, grabbed two rebounds and made a layup to help cut Portland’s lead from 18 to 11. But what about the rest of the game? What about Aminu driving baseline, with Barnes on him the entire way, until Aminu laid it in?

Andrew Bogut — who grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots but played only 11 minutes due to foul trouble — recently stuck up for Barnes in an interview with Tim Kawakami.

People are idiots. People that look at stats every game, pick up the stat sheet and say you played bad because of X, Y, Z on the stat sheet, they’re idiots.

I mean, Klay’s a prime example. He can go 2 for 20 and still have a huge game for us. Especially on the defensive end.

Harrison’s the same. Harrison does a lot of great things. He’s starting to rebound much better.

Everyone looks at it, oh, he only scored four points, he played bad. No, not necessarily. His defense has gotten a lot better; he’s starting to make the right play for us, with the hockey assist, which we haven’t seen early in his career.

So people that just look at stats and fantasy guys are idiots. I’ll take that with a grain of salt. There’s so many guys that do things without stats that affect teams, and we’ve got three or four of those guys on this team.

I’m not sure about the defense, although Bogut knows everyone’s assignments and a couple busted one-on-one moments don’t necessarily make a guy a bad defender. Barnes’ rebounding has gone up a couple ticks, and he’s been known to pitch in with a key three or midrange jumper during fourth quarter rallies. While he will never be as good as Curry, Thompson or Green, one could say the same about 96% of active NBA players. However, when the Warriors struggle to stay in a playoff game without Curry, and Barnes starts out 0-for-5, he becomes an easy target.

— Terry Stotts isn’t a bad coach. Nope, not a bad coach at all. The Warriors made an adjustment midway through Game 2, bringing in Festus Ezeli to blitz the Blazers’ pick-and-roll. Portland responded with a very Warriors-like strategy: ball-movement to shooters located all by themselves around the perimeter. It’ll be quite interesting to see how the Warriors respond. Will they give Curry the green light and try to outscore Portland, like they did in their three regular season wins against the Blazers when they scored 128, 128 and 136 points? Or will they trust the entire team to make their rotations, and Thompson and Green to focus equally on both ends, and the role players to show up on the road without Curry?

— I write all this knowing Curry will probably force his way back onto the court after hearing this nonsense from Jeff Van Gundy:

“I don’t say this dismissively,” said Van Gundy. “But if you traded him and Curry, how much difference would we see?”

Oh, I don’t know. Curry shot 50.4% from the floor and 45.2% on threes. Lillard made 37.5% of his threes and shot 41.9% overall. Curry led the league in steals and points, more than doubling Lillard’s steal numbers and averaging 5 more points per game while playing a minute and a half less per contest. Curry is the biggest non-soccer sports star in the world at the moment, pushing the boundaries of long-distance shooting to areas we never thought possible, and that’s without mentioning that his handle might be the best in the NBA and he’s one of the most creative passers in the league.

Curry is totally coming back for Game 4, just to put an early end to this series and show Van Gundy that he’s been listening to Jackson for too long. It seems fairly obvious now. Hopefully for Curry, and the Warriors, his knee is as ready as his mind for the challenge.

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