The Week That Was:
Enh, it was alright. I mean, if you are into four road wins (extending the win streak to nine) including beating a playoff team on another Andre Iguodala buzzer-beater and defeating the two-time defending champs on their home floor for the second consecutive season.
One interesting thing from the week: David Lee led each of the four games in either scoring or rebounding this week- never both, never neither. Strong week for him and so many other players.
As of this writing, the big question has to be the severity of Draymond Green’s ankle sprain. He plays an important role on this team and the onus will be on Harrison Barnes to bring it on both ends in his absence.
The Soapbox: Chris Paul’s Injury Provides A Potential Division Buffer
While we do not know exactly how it will shake out, it will be imperative for any team that wants to come out of the dangerous Western Conference to get a top-six seed. Doing so eliminates the risk of facing either of the top two teams in the first round and generally a more workable road to at least the Conference Finals. As we are learning in the Eastern Conference, one way of accomplishing that is to win the division since each division winner can get no lower than the fourth seed in the current playoff system (though that does not guarantee home court advantage if the series opponent had a better record).
Until this weekend, it was unlikely that this nuance would be relevant for the winner of the Pacific Division since the Clippers have been consistently in the top half of the conference and were expected to be there throughout. Chris Paul missing up to six weeks with a separated shoulder changes all that because they become an intensely beatable team in his absence. In effect, what CP3 missing that much time may do is provide a backdoor into a better seed even if the Warriors stumble.
At this point, I feel fine with writing off the Lakers and Kings as far as winning the division goes. Both could make runs conceptually but have too much ground to make up and not enough talent to get the job done. Even if one or two of the Clippers, Warriors, and Suns falter they would still need to pass all of them.
That leaves just the three. As much as I like the Suns this season and admire the excellent job Jeff Hornacek has done coaching that team, they would need everything to break right more than it already has to get past both Golden State and LA. Injuries would be the most likely path.
In terms of the Clippers, it may come down to health. We have already seen this season that both teams are incredibly dangerous at full strength (or #FullSquad, of course) but quite shaky when any key player misses time. The Warriors should play with a sense of urgency now because they effectively can run up the score in the win column and bank an advantage in case they fall back due to their own injury problems, certainly a possibility given the history of various players. Furthermore, Warriors fans need to be cognizant of the fact that the Clippers will be better on paper later this season than they are now since they are a destination for quality veteran castoffs as potentially the only Los Angeles or New York team to make the playoffs. Guys like Andrew Bynum and Emeka Okafor could become available and fix LAC’s gigantic front court depth problem.
While the Warriors are certainly playing well enough at the moment to secure a great seed without this kind of help, a rough six weeks for the Clippers could give the Golden State a useful buffer and a little peace of mind going into the playoff push.
The Week to Come:
A genuinely strange week because the Warriors play just three games between now and Tuesday January 14th but two of them are a road back to back. Fortunately, both Milwaukee and Brooklyn are reeling and beatable for a Warriors team playing this well.
After those two, the Dubs return to Oracle for the Celtics and some much needed R&R with a whopping four days off before the next game.
2-1 should be expected and 3-0 could certainly happen.