Game Thread: Warriors host Thunder - no shame in being excited for the play-in tournament
Sure, it's not peak dynasty, but let's have some fun with a Warriors team fighting for their playoff lives every night
Pull up a chair if you’re new around here, because I’m about to tell you about the days of yore. Back when the Golden State Warriors spent my formative decades as a bad team that was hoping to maybe, just barely, make the playoffs. Heck, I remember Stephen Curry’s first triple double, back when it was a big deal if Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette couldn’t play.
Sure, they’ve fallen from great heights, but it’s still ok to root for whatever little success they can carve out of this mostly lost season - yes, even if you're mad that the front office didn't give this team more immediate help.
It comes to me now that there’s no shame in my excitement for this iteration of the Warriors fighting for what ultimately may be a short-lived shot at the postseason.
The Warriors might not have an especially deep team, nor are they going to climb much higher in the standings. But what they do have should excite every red-blooded Warriors fan floating on this little blue speck of life in the cold darkness of space: Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green. Two fired-up veterans playing about as well as they ever have, and with nothing to lose. No matter which path they take to get to their final destination, it’s going to be riveting to watch.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (33-33) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-45)
WHEN: Thursday, May 6th, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST
WATCH: NBCBA, NBA League Pass
So, about those empty roster spots
Anthony Slater of The Athletic asked coach Steve Kerr, and Stephen Curry about the open roster spots that the team is currently carrying, and while the answers aren’t especially illuminating, the responses to cast a light on the tricky balancing act the Warriors have tried to carry out this season.
…you couldn’t help but ponder whether the Warriors would’ve won the game had they had a few extra bodies with fresher legs and varying skill sets in those two vacant roster spots.
“We gotta rejuvenate and overcome this short rotation for Thursday,” Curry said. “Because it’s going to be the same thing.”
Oubre is unlikely to return this season. Paschall and Lee probably will return on this upcoming homestand. That lengthens Kerr’s options.
After playing out their recent four game road trip using only eight players, fatigue, injuries, and wear and tear all become growing concerns.
Would another player like the recently released Gary Payton help? Though it would have cost the team around a million dollars to re-sign him right away, that’s not big money in the NBA.
Expect to hear more about this, because it’s emblematic of the Warriors’ “compete now but also build for the future” dichotomy this season. As the final six home games help define the playoff picture, this shortened rotation is going to put a lot cumulative weight on the handful of players that the team trusts.
And remember, the playoffs are condensed too. Whatever team comes out of the play-in tournament is going to step right back into action. The season ends on May 16th, the play-in goes from the 18th-21st, and then round one of the playoffs start on May 22nd.
The Steph Curry, Draymond Green duo means the Warriors are a playoff threat
Stephen Curry said that he liked “the vibe we have now.” Draymond Green is on record reminding the curious media (multiple times) that no team wants to run into Stephen Curry in the playoffs. They’re both right.
This will come as no surprise to anyone watching the recent history in Golden State, but the pair doing what they’ve been doing this season, without a superstar supporting cast, is hopefully serving as a reminder to the league just how inherently elite a team is going to be when they run out those two guys at the same time.
Though the Warriors’ offense has sagged under the pressure of a depleted roster, Curry and Green have continued to contribute to wins at a masterful level. As emphasized all season by coach Kerr, the Warriors defense continues to be the strength of the team - the Warriors have the 6th-best defensive rating.
Offensively, things are less rosy. The Warriors currently rank 23rd in offensive efficiency and an 18th rank in overall (net) rating demonstrates exactly that. But Curry and Green? They are some of the best in the league.
Here’s a screenshot from Cleaning the Glass showing that Curry and Green are in the top one percent when it comes to points per possession, and team shooting (eFG%). It’s like having my dog be my taste tester - everything is good!
No one knows what the future holds, or how the play-in tournament will go, but with Curry and Green as the team’s leaders, the Warriors are in really good shape.
It’s crazy to think that as good as both of these players are, and as good as they’ve been together, there’s something even more special going on between Curry and Green this season.
I wouldn’t want to play them in the play-in tournament either. Now just imagine that Klay Thompson is standing on the perimeter. There's hope - now, and for the future.
The final homestand
The Warriors only have six games left. The next two are both against the Thunder, and though they aren’t a good team, this is still the NBA, and teams have been having problems sweeping these baseball-like series.
After the Thunder (today and then again on Saturday), the Warriors will face two of the toughest teams in the league, before the tanking Rockets, and then closing out against potential play-in tournament opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies (who won last night).
It’s going to be a wild ride across the finish line!
Locked into a battle for the 8-10 position, the Warriors may find themselves wishing they had chased wins more often during the regular season. As it stands now, there’s going to be large portions of the Western Conference playoff bracket that won’t be decided until the last games of the season have been played. It’s kind of fun.
The Warriors are really counting on this Thunder team being easy(ish). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Warriors win both games against OKC, because they need the wins.
Warriors win, Draymond Green gets another triple double, and Curry stays hot: 112-121.