With another loss on Sunday in Toronto, the sixth seed Golden State Warriors failed to separate themselves from the fringe playoff teams yet again. With just over a month remaining in the regular season, one can’t help but to wonder, are they a fringe playoff team? They can’t seem to prove otherwise, yet they can go into Miami and pull off a convincing win and they have knocked off every Western Conference foe with exception of the San Antonio Spurs in which they have lost both meetings by just two points. Most teams by this point are definable, but the Warriors continue to be the NBA’s mystery team.
All-Star guard Stephen Curry is having a career year and has absolutely carried the Warriors often invisible offense on his back. He has logged the sixth most minutes per game in the league at 37.2 and has only missed three games all season, which all lead to Warriors losses. Curry simply cannot keep this up if the Warriors want to make a deep playoff run, yet coach Mark Jackson is left with no choice.
The additions of guards Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford have definitely helped, but it’s the overall lack of shooting, even by the starters, that has put so much pressure on Curry. If Curry doesn’t play out of his mind, all around MVP basketball every single night, the Warriors simply cannot win. Even sometimes when he does play that well, they still lose. Take Sunday for instance. Curry had 34 points, seven assists and four rebounds in their 104-98 loss to Toronto.
It’s going to take multiple players to step up during the remainder of the season if the Warriors are going to make a rare second consecutive playoff appearance. It has to start with Andre Iguodala. It’s time for him to start playing like the man who GM Bob Myers thought was going to take the Warriors to the next level. While Iguodala is a solid perimeter defender (although he was just torched for 32 points by DeMar DeRozan on Sunday) and does a lot of the little things that go unnoticed, it’s time for him to do something big that actually does get noticed. He has reached the 20 point mark just three times this season and is only averaging 9.4 points a game.
However, the Warriors issues run far deeper than just Iguodala. The Warriors knew they would be giving up offense for defense by bringing him in. What they didn’t know was that the entire team would go cold as ice. Klay Thompson, formerly known as a “Splash Brother,” has seen a tremendous decrease in production as the year has gone on. In fact, Klay’s scoring average has steadily dropped each month from 22 points per game in October/November down to 14 in February. He was just 4-15 from the field and 2-7 from beyond the arc in Sunday’s loss.
The lack of bench production, especially from Harrison Barnes, has been a major issue for the Warriors. It will be interesting to see how the addition of Steve Blake affects their performance over time. Early in the season too much was expected out of Barnes as the Warriors sixth man. He was forced out of the starting lineup and to the bench with the addition of Iguodala and he’s not the creator, at least at this point of his young career, that the Warriors thought he would be. He needs to be set up for open jump shots or slash to the basket to be productive. Blake could be the answer to his problems as well as the rest of the bench’s offensive drought.
Golden State’s big men lack any sort of back to the basket post game so teams are taking advantage of it and closing out on shooters quicker. David Lee is averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds, but he doesn’t dominate under the basket to earn those numbers, he is more of a mid-range and finesse big. Andrew Bogut, at this point in his career, appears to be strictly a defender and facilitator. The ancient Jermaine O’neal has been the only big to be offensively effective under the basket, but at his age they simply cannot rely on him night in and night out. They didn’t sign him for that. If Festus Ezeli ever returns he will definitely give them a youthful boost, but not offensively unless he’s been hanging out with Hakeem Olajuwon.
However the biggest issue surrounding this mysterious Warriors teams has been the turnovers, especially during crunch time. Curry is much to blame for that. He had four of his six turnovers in the 4th quarter alone on Sunday. Golden State averages 15.4 turnovers per game. Only the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers average more. In losses, Golden State averages 17.2 per game. That’s dead last in the entire league and a tough stat to overcome, especially on the road.
Overall, the Warriors are just a streaky shooting team that relies on one player to shoot the lights out and they beat themselves with sloppy turnovers and too many settled jumpshots. However they are choosing to be that team. Their offensive success starts on the defensive end of the floor. They need to defend as a team, rebound as a team, get back out into transition and start making the extra passes that they were making during their 10-game winning streak. Teams are sending two and three guys at a time in Curry’s direction because they know that shutting him down shuts down the entire Warriors offense. That means that somebody has to be open. However the Warriors aren’t finding the open man anymore.
Opponents simply aren’t letting the Warriors fire away threes at will anymore. They are closing out and trying to get the ball out of Curry’s hands. It’s time for Golden State to adjust their game plan, then the open threes and easy buckets will come. Until then, it’s going to be a disappointing final month of the season and a long, uneasy summer. Maybe the Warriors actually aren’t a team of mystery. Maybe the real problem is that everyone has figured them out.
Opinion by Rich Peters
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