We could certainly spend time reviewing the Golden State Warriors' first round series against the Houston Rockets, but I actually think Marreese Speights already summed that up with a single tweet.
Mo Speights "A team who's talking trash about guarantee to win on our home court, we made sure we gave them what they wanted, a smack"— Joshua Reese (@MrJoshua) April 28, 2016
So let's move on to discuss what the Warriors have done so far without Stephen Curry against the Portland Trail Blazers, which I want to preface by pulling two pieces from our writing on Golden State of Mind and on Blazer's Edge prior to the series beginning.
First, Apricot wrote the following summary about how the Warriors could win without Curry:
- gritty switching defense (with goalie backup) to keep them in games
- fast break opportunities off stops
- Klay shooting streaks to get separation
- making simple plays to reduce turnovers
- post up smaller defenders to pass to cutters (and score)
- motion offense to pick on weak defenders without ISOs
And second, I made the following points in my Q&A with Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge:
- Shaun Livingston's ability to post up is more significant than his inability to shoot the three.
- The Warriors slowed pace without Curry makes Bogut's role more significant in the series.
- Green's efficiency as a ball handler is significant to the success of the team.
- The Warriors are a pretty good 3-point shooting team even without Curry on the floor.
So why do I bring these up now? To say "I told you so"? Or to suggest that you really should read Golden State of Mind more often to get insight on the team? Not quite, though both are reasonably true. I'm actually highlighting these thoughts from us before the series because both Apricot and I individually made a point that very few have highlighted during the series: the Warriors have a significant size advantage over the Blazers and they've exploited it to great effect.
Golden State starters:— Gene Hack-a-Shaq (@ThomasAwful) April 27, 2016
PG: Shaun Livingston
SG: The Rancor
SF: Alien Queen
C: King Ghidorah
Charles Barkley: "Too small."
ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz was one of the more prominent writers to highlight this after Game 1, when the Warriors just bullied their way to a comfortably boring win.
Old-school bully-ball also showcased Portland's undersized guards, whether it was Green backing in McCollum or Henderson, or Livingston driving his shoulder into Lillard's chest. Golden State's wings plus Green ran 10 post-ups (Bogut and Marreese Speights had zero), and the Warriors generated three buckets (including one and-1), four fouls and one turnover, per Synergy Sports...Meanwhile, Thompson has four inches on McCollum and the choreography of the Warriors' half-court offense finds him all the space he needs. McCollum made specific mention of Golden State's guard-to-guard screens on pin-down sets that release Thompson for shots.
And the thing is, it's not just about their ability to score on those post ups, but the way the very threat of those post ups changes how the Blazers have to approach the game defensively. Draymond Green's alley oop to Festus Ezeli in the fourth quarter was a great example — just look at how Portland's defenders are responding to Shaun Livingston when he starts to turn the corner on McCollum.
Draymond to Festus for the Alley-oop! https://t.co/5nTMhzrmEJ— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 4, 2016
Rather than continually get backed down or shot over, McCollum forces Livingston into the help. But not only does Ed Davis come over to help but also Maurice Harkless who leaves Green open at the 3-point line. This put the Blazers in an awful position to scramble to recover — you can't just leave Green open beyond the arc but you can't leave Ezeli unguarded at the rim, where Allen Crabbe has no hope of guarding him. Once Harkless flies by Green, Davis is stuck choosing and Ezeli has the easy bucket. But that whole thing started by running three guys at Livingston.
You can see a number of examples of this throughout Games 1 and 2 and it figures to be the thing that becomes the undoing of the Blazers regardless of Curry's presence: they're being forced to overcompensate for the Warriors' size advantages and it puts them in awkward positions. It's not the same dilemma opponents face with Curry on the floor, but it's a similar one in that the Warriors are beautifully forcing teams to pick their poison.
Klay's getting any shot he wants with Lillard guarding him the last few possessions.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) May 1, 2016
I could go on about that fourth quarter but I recommend you read Adam Lauridsen's account of things at Fast Break. Though his analysis of the quarter was great, his summation about what Game 2 represented about the team was also perfect:
What I love most about this team isn’t their endless, breathtaking talent. It’s their self-awareness of that talent, and their all-consuming desire not to waste it...It’s not just this team’s unselfishness that makes them so rare, but also their comfort and trust in high-pressure situations. No one played hot-potato, afraid to be left with the ball at a crucial moment. No one dominated the ball, unwilling to give up his moment to shine. The offense simply hummed along as the Warriors patiently worked their way into good shots. In the game’s most frantic moments, the Warriors seemed most at ease.
Rather than just falling apart without Curry as far too many people expected, the Warriors have adapted and simply found new options in their offense to beat people while playing at a slower pace, as noted by Ian Levy in FanSided's Rotation.
...they have slowed the pace fairly dramatically. During the regular season the average offensive possessions for Golden State lasted 13.5 seconds, per Inpredictable, the fastest in the league by a healthy margin. In the playoff games in which Curry did not play, Golden State’s average possession length has been 14.8 seconds. That would have been roughly league average for the regular season, essentially the same offensive pace as the Los Angeles Clippers....The fact that they’re doing it with such enormous success should emphasize that what has made Golden State so special is not just Curry, but the marriage of Curry, a terrific supporting cast, and a fluid offensive system.
And all that means is that we still might not have seen this team reach its peak.
Draymond Green: Winner
Draymond Green has obviously been a huge part of the Warriors' success without Curry, not only as the emotional leader but as a ball handler. Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group described that nicely, including one of my favorite quotes of the week from Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
"Draymond is always emotionally invested, but I think what's happened is he's turned the corner in terms of his decision-making," coach Steve Kerr said. "Without Steph, our margin for error is smaller, and we cannot turn the ball over and get away with it."
It should be noted that when the Warriors suffered their worst loss of the season on Feb. 19 at Portland, Green nearly had a triple-double -- 14 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists -- but he also had nine turnovers. In Golden State's four victories against the Blazers, he has committed only seven combined.
I don't really want to get into the discussion about whether Green is a superstar because I think people are missing a major aspect of what makes superstars: it's not only about the enormity of their talent within a domain, but also the power of their personality or persona to transcend that domain and reach people who are only casual or indifferent observers of what they do. That's why Blake Griffin is a superstar and Draymond Green isn't; that's why Kendall Jenner is a superstar despite Barack Obama not even knowing what she does (yo Barry — I'm with you).
Superstardom is totally arbitrary because it's not directly tied to the ability that put that person in the spotlight to begin with (hip-hop happens to be an excellent example of talent-light superstars).
Nonetheless, I've found the story interesting because I'm all for giving Green additional motivation and there have been quite a few good pieces about Green's value, including Ben Golliver's at SI that included five reasons why Green is the league's best all-around player.
Green’s ability to mix-and-match with various players at multiple positions and produce positive results is, frankly, LeBron-esque. That’s just one more reason why Green deserves to be included in this best "All-Around Player" conversation...As a final note, Green’s best argument might come when this year’s All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams are revealed. He has a very real chance of being selected to both the All-NBA First Team and the All-Defensive First Team, joining Leonard, James and possibly Paul on the short list of players who are qualified for both.
I think this is a compelling point about Green's value — and even his argument for league MVP — that takes the simple fact of his versatility to new heights. And here's something else: it almost makes him an intriguing answer to the question of who you'd want to start a franchise with.
There's an argument to be made to take Dray over any other player and find a slightly worse version of the prototypical "superstar" later— Green Curry (@georgezchen) May 2, 2016
How Draymond Green's dunk looks as a screensaver. pic.twitter.com/RaRXEVwgf0— Carl Steward (@stewardsfolly) May 4, 2016
FanPost of the Week: When should we bring back Curry?
The FanPost of the Week — and arguably 2016, if the number of recs are any indication — was certainly JLF03's post about how Steph Curry touched his family's life. The poll below is courtesy of Parvenu's FanPost asking when the Warriors should bring back Curry. As I described before Game 2, I'm with Warriors GM Bob Myers: whenever the doctors say he's 100%, I'm good. But Matt Moore of CBS Sports also made a helpful point: apparently there's little risk of Curry suffering further injury due to a premature return.
Luke Walton's fate with the Lakers
There has been a landslide of nuclear-infused hot takes about Luke Walton heading to the Lakers, but Bill Reiter's article at CBS Sports was like the fire hose that put a damper on all the noise and cut to a core issue that nobody is talking about: how much do we really know about Luke Walton's ability to coach a team like the Lakers?
Last November, Kobe Bryant said the following of Luke Walton one day being a head coach: https://t.co/M6hnqQUa35 pic.twitter.com/sh95MvUv0n— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) April 30, 2016
And since I love a little L.A. hate as much as the next Bay Area guy, this part was particularly noteworthy to me:
Short of any real, binding resume — and short of the kind of experience Steve Kerr amassed as a front-office executive — there's one real source we must turn to trust that Walton can work out: Those that hired him...Since Phil Jackson left in 2011, Buss and Kupchak have hired the following people to be the team's full-time head coaches: Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni and Byron Scott...But the sure-thing nature of his hire, the reports that no one else was interviewed, the idea he was leaps and bounds ahead of every other possible candidate on earth — it's all a head scratcher.
I for one certainly wish Walton the best of luck — he will be missed here in the Bay Area.
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.