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MOAR CURRY! Warriors toe line between leaning on their best, and crushing him with lack of support
Late mistakes, and a delayed 4th quarter arrival of the savior doom Golden State once again
Stephen Curry is averaging 42 points per game over the course of the Golden State Warriors’ last three losses. Last night, the perennial basketball wonder pitched in 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, and it still wasn’t enough. While corners of the internet debated the wisdom of only playing Curry a total of 36 minutes, the supporting cast’s deficiencies played a major role in last night’s 100-105 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Against the backdrop of the Warriors chase towards relevance this season, it’s all too tempting to just slap a healthy dose of Curry on top of the team’s cornucopia of problems like he’s the human embodiment of Flex Tape. And, to be fair, he does really solve a lot of problems.
The short-handed Warriors will get another crack at the Spurs tonight, but the undercurrents pulling this team down out of playoff contention aren’t going away.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (12-12) at San Antonio Spurs (14-10)
WHEN: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 // 5:30 pm PST
Anatomy of a disaster
The inherent appeal of wishing for more Curry is that he is an in-house solution that resolves a lot of the issues plaguing the team. By wishing for Curry to get treated like he was James Harden on the Rockets, we get to conveniently gloss over the fact that this is a team locked into some massive contracts, playing without a Splash Brother all season, and is currently down three of their primary center rotation players.
And with a player like Curry, the question of how much more you can expect is moot. He’s getting it done (again), and could probably do more damage with more time on the court.
There’s a lot going sideways for Golden State right now. If you’re looking for some of the more obvious causes: turning the ball over 20 times (to the Spurs 10 turnovers) - which the Spurs turned into 17 points - doesn’t help. Over the course of the game, the Spurs took 10 additional shot attempts, and it just all stacks up. Golden State now has 36 turnovers in their last two games, both of which came down to final possessions; both of which ended in a loss.
Of course only playing Curry five minutes in the deciding 4th quarter is attracting attention, but Draymond Green was 0-3 in the 4th, as was Wiggins (who played the entire quarter), and Oubre went 0-1 with a turnover. According to Anthony Slater, The Warriors won Curry’s 36 minutes by three points, but lost the 12 minutes he rested by eight points.
Curry scored 14 of the team’s 20 total points in the final frame. So yes, it’s a fair question to ask.
Again, this is what’s left of a roster that has Klay Thompson and Marquese Chriss out for the entire season, and is currently missing the two centers at the top of the depth chart. Problems galore! So sure, go ahead and tinker with Curry’s minutes a bit, but playing Curry 40 minutes a night in a Hardenesque isolation scorer role is unlikely to be the answer here.
The Draymond Green “I accidentally pressed the shoot button on my controller” fling was just the cherry on top of a sundae of mediocrity.
Curry’s 33.8 minutes per game puts him at the 33rd in the NBA. The Warriors are being cautious, but does it cross into miserly territory? Depends on who you ask.
Coach Steve Kerr dropped an interesting answer last night when asked about the lack of minutes. Here’s the full answer, via Slater’s recap, but I’ll follow with some context the author offered as well. First though, here’s Kerr on if he is tempted to give Curry more minutes:
“Not for me,” Kerr said. “I’m into the long game. We’re counting on Steph to be here for a long time — many, many years. I’m not interested in grinding through this season, which is already a difficult season with all the COVID regulations and the nature of the games themselves in these eerie, empty stadiums. This is, for me, for our organization, we’re not throwing Steph out there for 40 minutes to chase wins. We got another game tomorrow. We want Steph to be playing at a high level for many years. So we’re going to stay disciplined and try to keep him at that 34-, 35-minute mark.”
Curry, when asked a similar question, elucidated his desire to play more, while also honoring the broader reality that he can’t be the entire solution for everything:
“We know there are certain situations where we can press the issue a little bit, and I’m always ready to go. But good teams find a way to stick to a game plan, execute on a nightly basis, so you’re not in that position. And, uh, we’re not there.”
Part of the problem last night was that after Kerr called for Curry to get subbed in, there was no break in the action for over two additional minutes. During that time that Curry sat, the Spurs opened with 12-0 run, and were up +9 points during Curry’s hiatus.
I don’t have the answer here. But if I had to guess, I’d propose that the solution is somewhere in between the “fire Kerr” and the “the season’s lost anyways” crowds. Because of the delay in subbing Curry back in last night, and the actual game stoppage that brought him to the floor, there’s the two minutes of wiggle that I think everyone could agree on.
The best part is, the team gets another crack at getting it right this afternoon!
What to fix, and what to adjust in the second Spurs game
Now that we’ve thoroughly covered Curry and the turnovers, what else can we take away from the first half of this road series against the Spurs?
The Warriors don’t have anyone over 6’7” on their roster. Jakob Poeltl racked up 14 points, 4 blocks, and 11 rebounds.. but the Warriors won the rebounding battle! The point here is that with every limitation, every lineup imbalance, comes an opportunity. The Warriors got the “fast and loose” thing down, but will need to dial back the “loose” part of the equation.
Dejounte Murray had 27 points, DeMar DeRozan had 21 - both on good efficiency. If the Warriors have a strength outside of Curry being awesome, it’s their wing defense. Golden State has to channel Mark Jackson and simply do better here.
Warriors won’t drop two of these in a row. Even with all the things going wrong, Golden State was in both of these last two losses.
Curry is playing as well as ever, and he knows it. Look for Curry to come back with some extra hunger tonight.
There’s plenty of film to look at for the Warriors. I don’t know that they have time set aside for a film session today, but take out the turnovers and we got ourselves a win.