Warriors No Longer Favored To Repeat
By John Ventola
Steph Curry’s slip against Houston Sunday night during game four of the NBA playoffs and the diagnosis of his Grade 1 MCL sprain today reminded me of the admonishment years ago that came with Jaws’ movie trailers. “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water!” For two reasons.
First, did Curry and the Golden State braintrust misjudge his health and foolishly decide
it was “safe” to put the star shooter back into action after he missed game two and three with an ankle sprain? He only scored six points in the first half against the Rockets on two for nine shooting, going an un-Curry like one for seven from three-point range. While moisture around midcourt caused him to lose his balance and awkwardly fall at the close of the half, I have to wonder if he would have fallen if his ankle was 100%,
Secondly, I have always been in awe of the unbelievable athletic talent that NBA players possess, but I also have always cringed at how certain league members and teams can dog games in the second and third quarters. Eighty-two regular season games makes for a long season, but these guys are paid handsomely to run up and down a basketball court. Usually the dog shows occur during the regular season, a big reason I only watch top teams like Golden State and San Antonio.
But, just as I thought it was safe to again become an avid NBA fan (because of the Warriors, Spurs, etc.), the Rockets gave me cause to pause and reel in my professional basketball excitement. The Rockets, tied with the Warriors at halftime, 56-56, playing at home with a chance to even the series at two game apiece, decided to mail it in, lackadaisically going through the motions once the Warriors got on a hot streak early in the third quarter with Curry getting examined in the locker room.
Matador-style defense, poor shot selection, uninspired rebounding, and a complete breakdown in hustle was embarrassing to watch, much less be a part of the sad effort. To use NASA lingo, “Houston, we have a problem.” The Rockets were outscored 41-20
in the third quarter as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and others played like Steph Curry clones.
Spotting up after beating Houston defenders down the floor, Thompson, Green, and Co. tallied 21 three-pointers in the game, tying an NBA playoff record. Keep in mind, Curry only contributed one three-pointer in his half of action.
The unbelievable, productive offensive play of Golden State led them to a new regular season record of 73-9. Sure Curry was unreal, averaging 30.1 points per game, but the Warriors are more than long range bombers from beyond the arc. They averaged 114.9 points per game with their explosive offense.
The only things that could possibly trip them up (pun intended) are Curry’s injury and
prolonged inactivity, and some consecutive cold nights shooting the long shots. After all, Steve Kerr’s crew is not known for defense, the Warriors allow 104.1 points per game, relying on their ability to outscore teams.
Curry has missed five games this year and the Warriors are 3-2 in those games, 1-1 in the two games he missed against Houston. In the full games he has missed the Warriors scored 10.2 points a game less than games with him in the lineup. Those five games show the opposition outscored Golden State by 1.4 points per game. The third quarter explosion against the Rockets was impressive, but the real question will be can they do it against a hustling team going further into the playoffs.
As soon as Curry’s two-week absence was announced, Las Vegas bookmaker’s inserted the San Antonio Spurs as the favorite to win the NBA championship. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will probably be waiting for whatever team comes out of the West (Oklahoma City could be sitting in the shadows). It should be enough to keep my interest, but it would have been so much better with the mouthpiece-chewing Curry putting up his rainbow jumpers.[signoff}