Objectively, the Golden State Warriors are a worse overall basketball team without Stephen Curry.
Subjectively, when games start to matter and they realize the now overused phrase of "margin of error" slips to that of a normal professional hoops team, the level of defense goes up ten notches and they not only cover for Curry's absence but discover themselves in ways otherwise unimaginable.
When Steve Kerr tells us there are not many players in the league that can score 37 points and chase Damian Lillard around for 37 minutes, we start to understand the extra level we never knew existed even during last year's championship run. When Andrew Bogut sits up on the podium after the game, wincing and scowling, tells us that Draymond Green is the best "all-around player in the league at this point" with Klay Thompson strolling in late nodding in the background, we start to realize just how much this team has evolved. And in the middle of the gush-fest and self-aggrandization (is that a word?), Thompson deflected all praise from himself and proclaimed the Bogut-Green frontcourt the best defensive one in the league.
What's it called when you make an analogy then twist to the inverse of that? Losing Stephen Curry for the Golden State Warriors and then realizing just how great the rest of the team is crystallizing in front of you is some type of skewed "you don't know what you have until it is gone" thing.
As the postseason stretches on, the Warriors start to both blossom and sharpen their skillset in a manner unbefitting of the regular season. Even though the regular season showed off 73 wins in its greatest of all time, there would remain large swaths of the schedule where the Warriors played sloppy, tired, nonchalantly, and without much care.
Now that it truly matters, the stage nearly at its apex, the Portland Trail Blazers could barely breathe. In a 118-106 score that was much worse than it appeared, Damian Lillard and the rest of his compadres felt the true of wrath of a team that without their best player, is starting to play their best basketball all year.
With Maurice Harkless and Al Farouq Aminu on the floor, the Blazers couldn't stretch the floor enough or punish the Warriors at all when given open shots. With Plumlee operating as the Draymond Green release valve down the middle, the right decisions made last series turned into a stuffed dunk at the rim by Bogut and Lillard and CJ McCollum into a revolving door of trees on defense.
There were a couple of signature plays and Draymond Green was highlighted in both. Before the Blazers went small and opened up the floor with Allen Crabbe, Plumlee tried to post up Green as many have done and failed. In one motion. Green grounded him to the floor and ripped the ball from him in one arm and one motion. From that point on, Plumlee would turn the ball over in transition after veering away from Green in a potential one-on-one at the rim. On the second play. Green got the ball in the post and did his patented one, shoulder-in, rip-through post move he has for an and-one. Too strong and suffocating, are the Golden State Warriors.
When asked about what he said to the team before the game, "It really sets the tempo of the game. You not gonna come in here and get layups. You not gonna come in here and get anything easy."
The Warriors as a team reiterate after every game without Steph that the margin of error without him is very slim. There is no bailout option on offense. There is no 30 points per game coming. There is no flash, no 20-2 run that is just around the corner to end any and all games. And yet, the Golden State Warriors are playing together better than ever, look scarier in the postseason even more so than last season. It's the opponent, no doubt, and any team without Curry is a team much worse.
But Klay Thompson is now showing himself off as the capable top scorer he could have become. Draymond Green blossoming into the playmaker Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston thrive at off the bench. And the defense led by a rested Andrew Bogut is significantly unstoppable without a single point of weakness at any point.
The Golden State Warriors are worse without Stephen Curry but they're now evolving into a team that will become an even better version of themselves when he returns.