If the sky around the Golden State Warriors is falling, head coach Steve Kerr didn’t get the memo.
Instead, he figuratively crumpled up the notion that the Warriors’ title hopes are in danger after Stephen Curry’s MCL sprain and knocked the shot down in his trashcan.
“There’s no reason why we can’t go out and get on a hot streak and go into the playoffs in a good frame of mind and win games and win series,and hopefully get Steph back somewhere along the way and do everything we set out to do,” Kerr told reporters before the Warriors faced the Utah Jazz Sunday, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.
In Monday’s press availability, Kerr doubled down on his confidence in his team.
“Frankly I don't need solace, “ Kerr told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, “ I watched this team two years ago without Kevin win playoff games without Steph. “We beat Houston in the first round and Steph missed four games. Played part of game 1 and part of game 4. Missed most of the series and we won by five.
“Then we played Portland in the next round and we won the first two games without him. So we know—and that team was different than now, but we didn’t have Kevin Durant. So, we’re perfectly capable of beating anybody—regular season or playoffs, we can beat anybody without Steph.”
It isn’t like Kerr is foolishly betting the house money here. Curry may be down for 3-6 weeks, the Warriors are close to having Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green back into the lineup.
Assuming if the three all-stars are relatively healthy during the final stretch of the regular season, and they are not rusty, the Warriors can win without Curry over the next 5 weeks.
With that being said, the Warriors will obviously have tighten up on defense like they did when Curry went down with a right ankle sprain in New Orleans. During the month of December, the Warriors defense had a 97.7 rating which was best in the NBA during that stretch. The offense is expected to run through Durant. Expect him to resume a high usage role.
However, here are other ways the Warriors can survive this stretch without Curry.
Durant in a point-forward role
Granted the offense will run through Durant. What I’m wanting to see is HOW the offense will run though Durant. Here’s the thing. At times when Curry is not on the floor, the ball movement dries up and the rest of the players are standing idly while KD goes into pure ISO mode. When that happens, either the Warriors win by a slim margin or lose. Case in point, the Warriors’ two games in Portland. Durant scored 90 points combined and they still lost those two games. Why? because everyone else was out of rhythm and would not move without the ball. The ball barely moved.
Durant recorded a triple double in the Warriors 101-87 demolition of the Charlotte Hornets. He made sure to move the ball and got everyone involved. He and Draymond Green could split playmaking duties and make sure the offense can still be effective and efficient due to them creating shots for themselves and others.
Nightmare defensive lineup?
Among the most used lineups during December was the line up of Durant, Green, Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell. That lineup sported a defensive rating of 52.4 on the court.
This lineup has the length, quickness and versatility to defend and switch. Granted the lineup was seldom used during the month, but while it was out there on the floor, they were impressive. Don’t be surprised to see more of this lineup.
Quinn’s gotta Quinn
Quinn Cook has been very impressive in his few games as a starter. He can flat out score and continues to prove that he is the type of player that the Warriors need to back up Curry. However Cook’s stretch was supposed to be temporary. Now, the pressure is a more intense since Curry will be out for an extended stretch of time.
In order for the Warriors to get through these weeks, Cook must play his game. He shouldn’t feel the need to emulate what Curry does. He shouldn’t feel the need to score 30 points. That would be great but not really necessary. All the Warriors will ask of Cook is to play his game like he’s doing already—aggressive in the open lane and hitting some threes when they are available And they will be because defenses will force Cook to beat them when they guard Durant, Thompson and Green.