The Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets handily in a playoff game without Stephen Curry, which should end any suspense that existed about the outcome of this series (if there even was anyone confused enough to be unsure).
So there's really no need to throw shade at the Rockets at this point — the facts in evidence speak for themselves.
The only real question now is whether and when Stephen Curry should return to this series.
The Warriors announced yesterday afternoon that Curry had a MRI and it "did not reveal anything of concern", which is obviously a positive outcome. Yet, as written perfectly by Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, "Because of Curry's harrowing health history, all those ankle injuries that nearly derailed what has fast become such an incredible career, the Warriors and their fans are naturally more prone to reach for the panic button. As it stands, however, it appears there will be no need."
This is good news. And after watching Game 2, it's really difficult to disagree with Draymond Green's position on the matter, as described in his playoff diary for ESPN: "I know he doesn't want to miss two games. But at the end of the day, there is no reason for him to be out there. We have to continue to pick him up. We plan on playing until June. To try to force him back out there now is not really the best idea. I think he will be out there, from my conversations with him. But we just got to play it by ear and continue to see his progress over the next couple of days."
As for Green's suggestion that Curry is saying he'll play, Vic Tafur of the S.F. Chronicle reported that Curry doesn't "see any scenario where I am not playing." Fair enough. But Curry also said in Amick's article that, "I thought I was good (to play Monday), so my word is not very good on that front."
So...here we are at "questionable".
Spoke w head performance therapist Chelsea Lane & she said Steph Curry already has daily ankle care routine & will continue as usual w/ it.— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) April 19, 2016
Curry has strength & balance work infused in weight training, stretch band training & pregame dynamic warmup. Knows his ankle security well— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) April 19, 2016
Nevertheless, the equation seems pretty simple when taking the long view: sit Curry for Game 3 on Thursday. If the Warriors win, you sit him again for Game 4, knowing that the Warriors are capable of sweeping without him or definitely ending the series on Sunday. If the Warriors lose Game 3, you give him a couple extra days of rest before Game 4 and then end this thing in Game 5. But the bottom line is that the Warriors are not at all in a position where they must play Curry to win — they can "continue to pick him up" and allow him to get to a less painful place.
This is why you play the regular season for the top seed: to get first round opponents like the Rockets.
The illegal screen debate
In case you haven't heard, people who don't have the heart to blame a dumpster fire for its own first round fate have turned to harping on the Warriors' moving screens because, indeed, the Warriors do in fact set a lot of illegal screens. Apricot explained this concisely yesterday so I don't have to: "Everyone in the league sets illegal screens. It's like holding in football, or the catcher in baseball framing a strike by fooling the umpire. It's just a part of the game. The Warriors, however, SET more screens than the rest of the league, and because of their prominence, they get more attention for their illegal screens."
Arithmetic. It's fun and often makes perfect sense.
When you combine that with the point Andrew Lynch of Fox Sports made on Monday afternoon, you suddenly have a non-issue on your hands:
They're committed to finding every bit of grey area in the way the rule is written. Frankly, that's commendable. With championships on the line, you should be doing everything you can (within the rules) to get the win.
And by the letter of the rules, a player may move along with a defender while setting a screen. Golden State knows it, and they take advantage of the rule It's that simple.
So now we've moved to the purest of haterade, that which is not entirely grounded in fact. But I also loved Green's point about this matter, which he told media on Monday (h/t UnRec'able for the FanShot): "Everybody else in the NBA sets the same screens we set. They just don't got the shooters we got. Ain't my fault. I can't shoot like Klay and Steph either. Am I supposed to cry about it? Nah, you do what you can do. Ain't our fault they can't get their shot off as quick as Klay and Steph can. So big deal. Go find somebody that can shoot that quick. I don't care."
It's the exact same point former NBA Head of Officials Ronnie Nunn made in his conversation with Coach Nick of BBallBreakdown earlier this season and it's absolutely right: everyone sets illegal screens and the Warriors set more screens than anyone else, but they have otherworldly shooters that make those illegal (or gray area) screens far more consequential than anyone else.
Draymond Green vs. Kawhi Leonard for DPoY
On that same day that Green was sounding off about this illegal screens thing, he also commented on finishing second to Kawhi Leonard in 2016 NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting for the second year in a row. In short, Leonard is certainly deserving, Green's not mad about it, and really they do such different things that it's like comparing apples and oranges.
But I really love what ESPN's Zach Lowe said about the DPoY debate last Tuesday (emphasis mine):
I lean toward Green because of his versatility...Green can play up a position for entire games if need be, and that is the launch code to basketball's nuclear bomb: the Death Lineup, with Green as a sneering, rampaging, fast-breaking center, and shooters raining death around him.
The fully engaged Warriors are a perfectly coordinated swarm. They switch and re-switch without cracking open even the teeniest lanes. They help in one spot, bend away from another and return there before the offense even realizes anyone was open. They are active with such synchronization; you barely notice the activity. Green is the yapping nervous system of that defense.
Leonard might be an even better one-on-one defender, though, and he could toggle between positions more often if Gregg Popovich demanded it.
Calling Green the nervous system of the defense is so perfect that I wanted to come up with a movie analogy to help visualize this but couldn't come up with one that adequately acknowledged Leonard's accomplishments — I leave that to you in the comments. But I'm pretty sure this is what a defensive nervous system looks like:
Draymond Green's defensive shot chart is spectacular given the massive volume of possessions he faced for a forward. pic.twitter.com/3cT7wdjlOc— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) April 18, 2016
But I do think that's the core of the argument for Green: his presence makes helps to coordinate all the other parts of the defense and allows the team to dynamically adjust to the opponent. I'm not quite sure we've even seen a defensive player quite like this before.
I'd say the best case for Draymond Green is that the most potent lineup in basketball -- the death lineup -- works because he can play C— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 18, 2016
An interesting discussion topic from Parvenu, given that Green is already the nervous system for a 73-win team.
Andre Iguodala's Sixth Man of the Year failed candidacy
While Green might not have been a huge snub because Leonard was a deserving candidate, Andre Iguodala might have been a bit more of a snub for Sixth Man of the Year considering that former Warriors gunner Jamal Crawford won the award.
I know it's but one stat, but Jamal Crawford finished 46th overall in total win shares this year for bench players https://t.co/y6oMSH9OpD— Pro Hoops History (@ProHoopsHistory) April 19, 2016
Michael Pina of Fox Sports listed five (or really six) players who deserved the award over Crawford, including Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Derek Lynch of NumberFire concisely summarized why those others might have been a better choice in writing, "No matter how you look at it, Crawford did not fare well compared to his competitors when measuring raw stats, and his team was worse with him on the court in nearly every metric."
Yes, Iguodala was arguably snubbed; no, Sixth Man of the Year is not better than Finals MVP.
Luke Walton is a hot coaching commodity
ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Warriors have officially allowed top assistant Luke Walton to speak with other teams (h/t BornInDaEB for the FanShot). It's no surprise that teams are interested, but let's take a look at the list of teams that are currently interested.
- Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn interviewed Walton, but he pulled his name from consideration before they made their hire, according to multiple reports.
- L.A. Lakers: Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll nicely summarized the Lakers situation, which obviously hinges entirely upon whether the Lakers actually part ways with current head coach Byron Scott.
- New York Knicks: Frank Isola of the New York Daily News tweeted that Walton is apparently not interested in the Knicks. But Chris Herring's article in the Wall Street Journal about the situation Phil Jackson has created is an interesting nonetheless.
- Sacramento Kings: Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee reports that Walton is on Vlade Divac's short list of candidates, which would make for a short move for Walton.
To summarize, Walton unofficially has a 39-4 record as a head coach while standing in for Steve Kerr for about half of this season; neither the Kings, Knicks, Lakers, nor Nets reached 34 wins this season, which is the number of wins Kerr coached this season.
As Nate Scott of For the Win alluded to, Walton would be wise to consult former colleague Alvin Gentry about this crucial decision.
There are certainly other links, tweets, vines, and videos that I have missed, so feel free to drop links from this morning in the comments, create a FanShot with links that we can share on our social channels, or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to share with the community. There has almost been so much great content in the community sidebars and I've been trying to just refer you there during rather than making these posts any longer with them — please rec the ones you really like so we can promote the best ones to the front page.
And since Kurt Rambis has reminded us all that people other can actually view your "likes" on Twitter, feel free to check up on what I've been keeping track of during the week by following me at @NateP_SBN and letting me know what I've missed.