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Mailbag: Road woes, bench play, and momentum

Answering your Warriors questions before Game 5.

Draymond Green answering questions at the press conference table Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The most important game of the season is just around the corner for the Golden State Warriors: Game 5 of the playoffs, on the road, against the Sacramento Kings. This is a big one, folks.

So let’s answer your questions ahead of the game. Thanks to everyone for the great questions!

I do think there’s some mental hurdle, but I also think they’ve potentially overcome it. Sacramento was a loud and hostile environment, and the Warriors got two good looks to win Game 1. In Game 2, it was anyone’s game until the final minute. They’re running out of opportunities to prove they can win on the road, but the first two games of the series they looked like a team that lost to another good team, and not a team that is useless on the road.

Perhaps that will have provided them with the confidence they need to nab a road win in Game 5.

But if we’re being truthful, the most likely scenario feels like the Warriors losing Game 5, winning Game 6, and then winning Game 7. Arrogance has been a theme of their seasoning, and nothing would be more arrogant than waiting until Game 7 to prove that they can win a playoff game.

Let’s hope they just handle business on Wednesday, instead.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s Gary Payton II and his disruptive defense, or Jordan Poole and his electric offense (I’m assuming Poole will move back to the bench, and Draymond Green to the starting lineup for Game 5).

But my vote is for Donte DiVincenzo. DDV’s role changes game to game, and he’s not the most consistent player. But he can make a difference in every phase of the game: as a shooter, as a cutter, as a transition scorer, as a playmaker, as a rebounder, as an off-ball defender, and as an on-ball defender. Would anyone be surprised if DiVincenzo sways Game 5 or Game 7 with a six-minute stretch where he nails a pair of threes, sets up his teammates in transition, flies into the lane to gobble up of a few rebounds, and forces a few turnovers in the backcourt? Especially if that happens during one of the stints where Steph Curry is on the bench, that could be the difference in a game.

JaMychal Green can definitely help when necessary. But the question is, do the Warriors ever actually need that help? Kevon Looney has been playing 30+ minutes a night, and the Dubs still love to go small and force mismatches when they can.

Green will probably get minutes again this series, either if Looney gets in foul trouble or if the Warriors are sinking and Steve Kerr needs to try mixing things up, particularly against Alex Len. But right now he works better when deployed as a surprise weapon rather than a rotation player.

Can? Yes. Will be? That’s a little bit more specious.

Let’s start with the obvious: a lot depends on what they do with the players that are still under contract. Does Draymond green opt in? If he opts out, does he get re-signed? If he sticks around, do the Warriors pay the massive tax bill, or do they shed salary in the form of trading Poole or Andrew Wiggins?

If we assume that the Warriors keep their core/expensive players together, then they have the start to a fantastic bench, as Poole and Payton will both be on it.

But from there it’s a bit more questionable. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody have both shown outstanding glimpses this year, but still haven’t developed to the point of being trusted veterans that Kerr is comfortable playing 20 minutes a night. That could absolutely happen between now and October ... but it also might not. I’m on record as saying I think Patrick Baldwin Jr. will be a key part of the rotation next year, but that’s not something you can rely on.

And while I’ve long maintained that the Warriors don’t need a traditional center behind Looney, they definitely shouldn’t plan on Looney playing 82 games for a third consecutive season. A JaMychal Green-esque — but hopefully better — player would be huge.

The Dubs don’t need to nail the offseason with signings as good as DiVincenzo and Otto Porter Jr. They have other paths towards having a very strong bench. But signing good players certainly doesn’t hurt.

You can definitely make that case!

After Green was suspended for Game 3, I sent out a tweet asking what percentage chance people would give the Warriors to win the series if they were able to win the third game.

The results were almost unanimously fans having total confidence that Golden State would win the series if they won Game 3. Admittedly my Twitter fanbase is Warriors-centric, but I don’t think the results would have been so confident if I had tweeted the same question and Dray weren’t suspended.

Still, one of the reasons you would expect Golden State to gain momentum is because it sends a message when you beat a team despite missing your second-best player. But I don’t think the Kings are fazed by things like that — or by anything. They didn’t play Game 4 like a team that had their confidence rattled.

But winning without Green (and Payton) may not have altered the Kings confidence, but it surely altered the Warriors. And it certainly motivated Draymond.

Speaking of motivating Draymond ... the Memphis Grizzlies, after all the smack they talked, are on the verge of getting knocked out of the playoffs by a play-in team. The Warriors — who will face the winner of the Grizzlies series with the Los Angeles Lakers, should they beat the Kings — will surely take note if Memphis doesn’t show up to a second-round date that they spent all year talking about.

I’m guessing that’s motivating Draymond, too.

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