The Golden State Warriors, known for their flash and arrogance, provided neither in a 4-1 series that was drawn out and rough on the eyes. It reached a climax or bottomed out, whichever you prefer, when they crawled to a 16-point lead in the 3rd quarter and slowly coughed it back up into a 2-point lead in the last minute of the game. For a team that’s been known for dominating and blowing out every team in front of them, they’ve struggled to fully slam the door shut without any question against a championship-steeled San Antonio squad. The issue is not whether this is sustainable, it’s whether the Warriors can squeeze out 12 more of these against the rest of the NBA. There’s no time for style points now, each win becomes tougher than the next and the Warriors are worn down without their best offensive player.
There’s a recap of the game somewhere if you care. But for the purpose of what the Golden State Warriors are now, they are surprisingly ill-fit to win big with the machinations of their current schemes. With or without Stephen Curry, this propensity to go big with Kevon Looney and David West at times, and the Looney at center in late-game situations are both unnerving and ineffective.
Steve Kerr after the game spoke at length about the team’s defense while admitting their offense needed work to beat the New Orleans Pelicans. When asked about the centers, he praised JaVale McGee’s sharpness, David West’s consistency, and Looney’s effectiveness. It’s the notion that the centers have to play more than 15-20 total minutes that could and have derailed a title. Against a team like the San Antonio Spurs, none of this matters. They can choke away a 15-point lead and get bailed out by Kevin Durant on a jumper right over Dejounte Murray in the waning seconds. Even against the New Orleans Pelicans, they can get away with it in a 7-game series if this remains, as someone has to bang with Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic isn’t the fleetest of foot.
But against the Houston Rockets and even LeBron James, the lumbering clogged toilet of a traditional center position can screw this all up. Deja vu. For the Warriors behind the scenes, a lot of the concern has been about the players. Is Stephen Curry healthy? Does Draymond Green still got the juice? How about Andre Iguodala? Kevin Durant seems strangely mellow on the court, no? But when push comes to shove, the players will be ready and have shown it this series in spurts. For the coaching staff, they need to trust the star players to take it the rest of the way.
Bob Myers has spoke to the media and said that the league has changed and it has perhaps made a Draymond Green at center position less effective. Other teams are going small and the advantages are less pronounced. But for a team that’s revolutionized defense in this manner, there’s no team that can compete against a lineup with Draymond at the 5 and shooting with three of the greatest of all time. You can say with Steph out, how can they go small? But against a team that can’t score anyway, the Warriors still went big and cramped up their offense in the most inopportune time. Playing Draymond at center solves the spacing issues as it takes one more non-shooter and shifts him down while inserting another shooter or even scorer like Shaun Livingston. On defense, Looney is redundant as whatever he even does well is replicated tenfold by the aggressive Draymond, Iguodala, and an engaged Durant.
As the Warriors face off against the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that can score, the Warriors will need to figure out what they want to do with these 1980s lineups. Because if they keep messing around with players that aren’t good enough, 2016 is just around the corner.