The playoff spot is all but wrapped up at this point. It's a technicality in all senses of the word. The most fundamental, technical of technicalities.
All the Golden State Warriors have to do is beat the Utah Jazz on Sunday. If they don't they'll have five other games to get the job done. The only thing that they're playing for at this point is to hold onto the sixth seed, perhaps playing to match up against a Danilo Gallinari-less Denver Nuggets (more on that later).
And the Warriors came out a little slow and lackadaisical against, as they did against the New Orleans Hornets, the Phoenix Suns and trailed by as many as 18 points before rallying back behind the excellent shooting performances of David Lee and Klay Thompson.
I'm not going to worry so much about slow starts in two games against two below-average teams. It isn't like the Dubs are the Miami Heat or the San Antonio Spurs where the system allows them to bench key players and still pull off the win. The Warriors need good-to-great nights from their key players every night in order to beat any team, much less a game on the road.
The Warriors got a terrible defensive game from everyone—more on that Monday—but took advantage of the parting Black Sea that was the Phoenix Suns "defense". They got whatever they wanted off pick-and-rolls, transition buckets and even isolation drives from Klay Thompson.
What they weren't able to do was defend Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal and Goran Dragic. I fully expected to see Chris Hunter, Acie Law and Reggie Williams to come out at halftime to finish the game. That was how bad they looked defending guys that were either past their prime or total busts. Even with Andrew Bogut's presence, the Warriors were unable to contain the Suns.
But I'll chalk up some of it to hot shooting as Beasley and Dragic made numerous long twos while O'Neal turned back the clock to 1962 and looked light on his feet spinning into the lane play after play.
On a side note: imagine if the Suns medical staff ran the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. Why wouldn't they be in the running for the sixth seed along with the Warriors? Early sleeper team for 2014, everyone.
Lee, Thompson and Jack were efficient in their play—with the standard clutch shot from Jack to put the team up 5 at the end of the game—but Curry made it all happen when the team was down double-digits in the first half.
His steal, fall, slip-n-slide, pull-up three was Stephen Curry in a nutshell. He reached recklessly, as he is wont to do all season, stole the ball, fell down and raised the heartbeat of every Warriors fan with that ankle in a precarious position, sprang to his feet after fumbling with the ball, looked off several defenders and without glancing at the basket until the last possible moment, snapped his wrist as the net did the same a split second later.
1. More Stephen Curry. Curry had 15 assists last night and each one was more impressive than the next. He went out of his way on several possessions to get Klay involved. Thompson's struggles are well-known here, partly because of me, but Curry on several occasions had Klay cut to the basket in transition and fed him the ball. On one noteworthy play, he dribbled down to the right wing saw Thompson do his usual spacing at the three-point line but waited for him to cut to the basket and found him on a bounce pass. Thompson was fouled.
Curry also found Landry on several one-handed pass down the lane off pick-and-rolls. The Suns defense wasn't good but Curry showcased his play-making abilities for the critics that deem him not a "real point guard". Whatever that means.
2. Andrew Bogut was noticeably absent in this game, playing only 19 minutes. Cue the response:
"WHICH ANKLE IS HURT? IS IT THE BACK? WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? IF HEALTHY. MAYBE NEXT YEAR WHEN BRANDON RUSH IS BACK. HE'S WALKING AGAIN! BASEBALL IS BACK, RIGHT? NNAMDI ASOMUGHA IS GOOD!"
Ya know, just your standard thoughts. But turns out that Bogut is okay, according to Mark Jackson. He just felt that Bogut wasn't able to compete against the smaller lineups and had him sit out the majority of the comeback.
This could potentially be bad news when and if the Warriors play against an up-tempo team like the Denver Nuggets who employ every single quirky lineup known to man. But we'll have to see more of this to become realistically worried. Bogut does too many good things on defense to warrant his absence from the lineup.
3. Jermaine O'Neal's fake free throw at the end was akin to that of a balk in baseball. His smirk essentially gave away what he was trying to do. He duped Thompson into a lane violation at the end of the game with a hitch after he raised the ball above his head. While it didn't matter—he missed the third attempt—it'd be cool to see other players try it. Ahem, Dwight Howard.
4. There wasn't too much to take away from this game that will change the landscape of how we view this team for the playoffs, but there is a train of thought that insinuates that a Danilo Gallinari injury improves the Warriors chances of beating the Nuggets in a seven-game series.
I don't neccesarily agree with that notion simply because the Nuggets are extremely deep and Gallo's play isn't irreplaceable the way that Andre Iguodala or Ty Lawson's play is. Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer and even Evan Fournier are more than adequate replacements and will present the Warriors with troubles on their own.
The Warriors will have more trouble handling the penetration of Lawson, Iguodala's collapsing defense and Kenneth Faried's energy than anything else. So bring on the Nuggets, if you want.
Just know that the Gallo injury doesn't change the prospects of a Warriors series win more than you willingly wearing the same underwear the day after a playoff win.