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Preview: Curry cleared to play, but Warriors have more to fix
Can the old dogs pull off one of their old tricks?
The Golden State Warriors slogan has always been a bit tongue in cheek. It’s not that the Warriors don’t find Strength in Numbers, just more so that that numerical strength loses almost all value if the core players aren’t delivering. The NBA Finals have been a back and forth affair, with the Warriors looking dominant for long stretches, but all offset by some timely dominance from the Boston Celtics.
The most recent memory carved into the collective consciousness of Dub Nation was troubling. The series has largely been defined by the mainstays in Golden State crumbling, and getting thoroughly outplayed by their Boston counterparts. Klay Thompson has been streaky to the point of being a detriment. Draymond Green has looked old and busted; physically overmatched against a younger, bigger Celtics lineup. Tertiary players, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins haven’t been able to put their fingerprints on the Finals like they were doing earlier in the playoffs.
The bright spark, Stephen Curry suffered an injury late in game three, another instance of a Celtics player rolling over onto Curry’s leg during a scramble for a loose ball. The team took it easy yesterday, and the stakes being what they are, Curry will definitely give it a go tonight.
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics
WHEN: Friday, June 10 // 6pm
Warriors trail series, 1-2
Do it again - Warriors old heads need to conjure their old magic
Warriors in six is still on the table, but it’s going to take a concerted effort from the team’s best players to make it happen. They have to summon the memories of Mark Jackson and “do bettah.” That these veterans have it in them is beyond question, but making it happen on the court has proven to be a little more elusive. For the first time in my memory, the Warriors have a worse team defensive rating with Draymond Green on the court. With Green on, the Celtics are scoring a 113.6 points per 100 possessions. Without him, that number drops by 8.5 points to a stingy 105.1 points.
This is the opposite of the rest of the playoffs, where Green’s presence improves the defense by a similar margin (they’ve been 8.2 points per 100 possessions better with Green). Also flipped, Green’s shooting. After helping put the Memphis Grizzlies away with an aggressive scoring punch and some words for the haters after the game, Green’s gone worse than cold in the Finals.
Now, Green doesn’t need to score for the Warriors to win, but when he goes in like this on both offense and defense? Historically, Green has always played best when it matters, and both he and Klay Thompson referenced being down 2-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers for their first championship but time is quickly running out to turn it around.
Boston has proven to be a worthy adversary, and the Warriors wouldn’t be struggling like this if the Celtics weren’t making life difficult.
The adjustment late in game three was brutal, but subtle. By stretching the court out, they’ve force fed an aging Golden State team some of their same medicine. It’s part of a longer thread, but pay particular attention to the setup on all these plays.
The Celtics have a dual-pronged advantage. No one can stop Jason Tatum one-on-one, and because of that, they’re getting exposed on impossible defensive rotations where the secondary players are making Golden State pay.
On the Warriors’ side, there’s not really any one player behind Curry that has stepped up big - not reliably.
The final gripe is rebounding. What had been a strength throughout the postseason turned into a major area of concern in game three. Via Cleaning the Glass, witness the utter domination on the offensive glass (far right, Boston grabbed 40.9% of available missed shots, a 97th percentile rate):
Can they do it? Can the Warriors turn it around? Yes, absolutely.
They are down just one game and will be heading back home after tonight. They’ve endured these types of challenges and are resilient. Green fouled out of game three with 2 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, so the bar is pretty low to do better.
Curry is beyond reproach. He’s giving 31.3 points per game on 22.7 shot attempts per game, is second on the team with 3.7 assists, and leads both teams with 2.7 steals per game. That’s always been the big punch, and it’s there. All the Warriors need to figure out are the little details around the edges.
Other than Thompson and Green, the list of likely helpers is full of guys that feel like they could show up to dominate a random game.
If it was easy, everyone would be able to do it.
Golden State needs to play better in some very specific ways (like rebounding), and also dig deep for more constructive hustle. They’ve done it before, it’s time to go back to that well and do it again!
The Warriors respond like Champions. Win today and it becomes a three game series — two of which will be at home.
Keep Green on Brown, play Looney more and tell him to control the boards, hypnotize Klay to convince him it’s game six, and think good thoughts about Curry’s ankle.
Also, I want Payton to show up big.
I’m in southern California right now, a place that I have very mixed emotions about. I can’t remember who it was exactly - someone in DNHQ - but thanks a million for the advice to steer clear of the main taco shops in Chula Vista, I found a gem at De Cabeza. Tacos, man… life changing when you find an elite one.
Anyways, being down here reminds me of one of my favorite ska songs. Happy Friday everyone!