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Warriors still hunting for success, but need to get back on track against tanking Rockets
One hell of a month of April, two different meanings. Now it's the homestretch and time for unified excellence
Another day, another execrable loss. It seems like as much as the unexpected victories lift us up, it’s been more than offset this season by the unexpected losses that slam expectations back to the ground.
But zip up your flight suit, because the Warriors are now facing the easiest stretch of the season. Tonight’s opponent is the tanking Houston Rockets, owners of the NBA’s very worst overall record.
Of course, as the saying goes “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” The Warriors are dealing with some injuries of their own. Of the two, it sounds like Draymond Green is the more likely to play - but we’ll know more later this afternoon.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (31-32) at Houston Rockets (16-47)
WHEN: Saturday, May 1, 2021 // 4:30 pm PST <—early
WATCH: NBCSBA; ESPN
One hell of a month - two very different meanings
For those with the tenacity to watch, Stephen Curry just delivered a beautiful month of basketball to your eyeballs. For a player already holding so many accolades, any time Curry reaches some of his previously attained heights, it means something. He set new records for consecutive scoring streaks, most threes made in a single month - all while scoring at an elite 50-40-90 efficiency.
So yes, Curry’s month of April was one for the ages.
Unfortunately, as strong as his performance was, Curry was unable to lift a Warriors team that will end with an 8-8 record for the month of April.
It’s that last bullet point that I’d like to talk about though. Because as easy as it is to see the Warriors surge as something related perhaps missing James Wiseman (who hasn’t played since April 10th), the heavy riding of Curry was the primary reason for the teams success. It’s nuts that for as good as Curry is - and as many elite scorers there have been in the NBA - that last month was the first time Curry, or anyone else ever, put up that many points at that efficiency.
As easy as it is to point towards missing a developing player like rookie James Wiseman, the fact that Curry has on such a tear was just as strongly correlated with the win streak as it was with the team’s shortened rotations.
Which brings up the other sort of “hell” that the month of April has been. Wiseman is gone, Eric Paschall is reportedly inching closer to a return but hasn’t appeared in a game since April second - one of only two games played for one of the Warriors’ best players last season since mid-March. Oubre is questionable for tonight, due to the same wrist injury that held him out of six games in April… it’s a lot. Especially so against the backdrop of the players that are missing the entire season.
And then on top of that, the team also had to contend with Corona rearing up and putting a couple of the Warriors most important bench players on the shelf. One week for Kent Bazemore due to contract tracing, and something closer to a two-week anticipated absence for Damion Lee.
After today’s game, the Warriors have just eight remaining in the regular season - the final six of which will be at home.
But if this team can’t get healthy, it’s going to be hard to beat even the bad teams. At times, it looked like the Timberwolves had just as much talent (if not more) on the court than Golden State. When your team is already playing with an injury-shortened roster, nibbling the active roster down to 8 or 9 because some of your key rotation is missing, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who is on the opposite side of the court.
Hell of a month.
Could the Rockets actually beat the Warriors
Sure. Of course, that’s why they play the games, as the saying goes. Any team can beat any other team on a random night. We just watched the Minnesota Timberwolves light us up on 50% shooting from beyond the arch as a team!
A similar sort of lightning strike statistic helped the Houston Rockets blast the Milwaukee Bucks out of the water in their last game. And like we just saw with the Timberwolves, even teams below the Warriors in the standings aren’t totally bereft of talent.
So yeah, the Rockets could beat the Warriors tonight if the stars align properly.
That said, this Houston team is bad. And they’ve spent most of the season being bad. You cannot end up with the worst record in the entire NBA without earning it, and the Rockets have absolutely earned their place in the cellar.
Take a look at the visual bar graph showing the Rockets’ record - the Warriors should be able to handle this. So yes, the Rockets beat the Bucks in their last game, but this is a Houston team that has done a whole lot more losing than winning.
If the Warriors get Green today, then it’s a comfortable win. But if Green sits out, along with Oubre, it shortens an already deeply trimmed rotation. The Warriors played only eight players in the last game (handing out two DNP - coach’s decision to Smiley and Mannion), and this is an extremely compressed schedule.
No excuses though. Warriors win. With Green: by double digits. Without Green… also by double digits.