The Warriors don’t have to worry about the Portland Trailblazers getting in their way. Their immediate goals haven’t been twisted and broken into bits because the league MVP is in a suit on the sidelines, cheering his teammates on. Just because the Warriors don’t have Steph Curry to lead them to wins doesn’t mean their bottom line has changed: get to the Conference Finals.
The Blazers dominated 80% of Tuesday night’s game and lost because the Blazers are an incomplete team. Give them credit for getting this far and luck was on their side. The Clippers suffering two horrendous blows, their two best players injured beyond immediate repair in a 2-1 series battle, was a disaster that would only happen to the Clippers. But the Blazers took advantage of the optics and beat the Clippers to be the “B” team, not who the Warriors wanted (or the Clippers for that matter. Paul Pierce wanted the Warriors to get to 73 so he could ruin their season in the second round), but who the Warriors had to play for their destiny date. But the teams are not evenly matched.
As the Blazers 4th quarter demonstrated last night, even without Steph Curry, even with Damian Lillard, this series isn’t much competition. The Blazers have a huge talent gap. They don’t have a clear advantage at any position on the court.
When is Steph coming back? is a popular question but it is the wrong question considering the evidence. The more important question is, should he come back? Why have to deal with Damian Lillard after spraining his meniscus when he doesn’t have to. The last thing the Warriors need is a re-injury and the short term strategy should be protecting Curry’s health in spite of his desire to play sooner, rather than later.
Lillard and C.J. McCollum are tough covers and are exhausting. Lillard doesn’t have to hang 52 on Steph, which he did in February, to make Steph have to work. But it’s not the work. It’s how Lillard plays. His lateral quickness is superior and even as he doesn’t create space with his dribbling like Steph, he is all over the court. At the top of the key, then the baseline, at the elbow, at the rim, swinging a pass behind him to a shooter. The problem for Lillard, in this his first year as the franchise star, is that he doesn’t have the offensive help.
The Blazers front court are rotational players who can do things every now and then but consistency is not their calling card. There is no way in hell they are going to make an impact when staring them in the face in the 4th quarter is Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala. The Blazers counter with Maurice Harkless, Mason Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu. A second grader can write the prescription: smother the Blazers guards and let the front court score. Or try to.
|Offensive Real Plus-Minus (Blazers Front Court)||Rank (By Position)|
The Warriors front court last 5-minute players are all ranked in the top 20 in offensive on-court impact.
|Offensive Real Plus-Minus (Warriors Front Court)||Rank (By Position)|
So what’s the point in bringing Curry back when he will be physically tested and the Warriors don’t need him? Why not let him sit until game 4 or 5. Then it will be Curry getting back in shape and not being rusty for the Western Conference Finals and a date with either the Thunder or the Spurs.
Sometimes less is more. Less Curry now. More Curry later.
photo via llananba