The Week That Was:
While the game to game results were clearly disappointing, this week may have served the purpose of yielding the best possible playoff path for the Warriors as long as they take care of business over the final two games.
After another extended break, the Dubs started off with a disappointing home loss to the Nuggets on a Kenneth Faried fadeaway that followed Steph’s floater. It was another game against an inferior opponent where the Warriors blew a big lead. Early in the season this team was the one making the comeback but far too often recently they have allowed other squads to get back in it.
Fortunately, the schedule gave them the antidote to their troubles: the Lakers. Curry’s triple double helped propel the Warriors over the beatable former power and the clean win also allowed Mark Jackson to give David Lee 25 minutes in his return. Most importantly, the victory clinched a playoff berth. Making the postseason in the Western Conference is an accomplishment regardless of the lofty expectations.
Golden State closed the week with the final chapter of the regular season series against the Blazers. Like most of their matchups, this one went down to the wire and the Warriors just did not have enough left in overtime to pull it out. Steph dropping 47 on a quality opponent was wonderful but the biggest story of the game has to be Andrew Bogut missing overtime and getting an x-ray on his ribs. He needs to be healthy for the Warriors to have a fighting chance in any playoff series.
The Soapbox: Assessing the Regular Season
While the playoffs will surely shape both the evaluation of the season and the long-term plans of the franchise, we should take the time to think more specifically about the regular season.
To me, the largest point has to be that this Warriors team underperformed with respect to their talent level but not by a ton. This team can be hard to evaluate on these lines because they combine a high ceiling with a series of players who have long injury histories. As good as the #FullSquad looked this season, we all knew there would be a fair amount of games missed by that group. Even with that knowledge, a series of disappointing home losses (especially a few where the team took a double-digit lead and lost) and some out and out stinkers like Charlotte and Washington shape the discussion as well.
The next biggest story has to be the emergence of Stephen Curry as a player on the national scene both in game and reputation. His selection as a starter in the All-Star Game illustrated his broader profile but what he has done on the court has justified it. He carried an offense with shockingly few players who can create for teammates to respectability and that impact can be seen even more strikingly during his absences. While partially attributable to roster construction, Curry provides immense value to this squad.
Excluding the storm surrounding Mark Jackson and the coaching staff because that discussion will have to happen after the season ends, the other major plotline of 2013-14 has been the development of the young guys on the team. Klay Thompson disappointed early in the year but has actually shown new depth to his game in the last few months, though his rebounding and shot-creation continue to hold him back. Draymond Green’s skill and effort have propelled him ahead of a supremely disappointing Harrison Barnes who needs to put some major time in this summer to create a niche for himself in the NBA. The new additions (Kuzmic and Nedovic) seem like they are at least a year away and it would be a huge boon for next year’s team if one of them could handle a small role.
While putting a stamp on a playoff season seems weird with the postseason left to play, fans should take the time to consider and remember the regular season since it provides some important lessons that the playoffs will obscure incredibly quickly.
The Week to Come:
With the fifth seed out of reach after losing to Portland, the Warriors have to take care of business to avoid the Thunder and Spurs in the first round. First up is the conclusion of their final back-to-back against Minnesota. Even though the Timberwolves are out of the playoff picture, they have beaten Memphis, San Antonio, Houston, and Miami in the last two weeks. Three of those four were at home but Stephen Curry and company will need to be ready from the opening tip.
From there, the Dubs end the regular season against the Nuggets. After last week’s frustrating home loss, the team should have plenty of motivation to knock out the squad they eliminated from the playoffs last year. That said, Denver will be playing their last game of the year and Fan Appreciation Night in a situation where a win would not hurt their draft position unless the Knicks beat the Nets or Raptors.
We know that the Warriors’ week will not end there but we do not know where they will be headed for the weekend. The best-case scenario continues to be Los Angeles for an amazing series against the Clippers but a loss or two against inferior opponents could dramatically change the perception of the season.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece was written before I knew of the extent of Andrew Bogut’s injury, which dramatically affects their playoff chances.]