Warriors injuries erasing margin for error despite Curry's legendary season
The Dubs came up short in Boston despite a spirited effort. How much more pain can this roster survive on the road to the postseason?
Last night’s entertaining but ultimately frustrating 119-114 loss to the Boston Celtics was a microcosm of a Golden State Warriors season we all feared would occur when Klay Thompson’s injury news broke.
Stephen Curry unleashed Godzilla level destruction, but the squad didn’t quite have enough firepower to close out a tight game against strong competition.
A painful night in Boston
Golden State led by as manyas 16 points, but Boston inevitably roared. Despite missing All-Star Jaylen Brown, the Celtics still employed the services of Kemba Walker (26 points) and the relentlessly smooth Jayson Tatum (44 points on 16-of-25 shooting). For as much as I praise Andrew Wiggins’ elite defense, Tatum was hitting that man with Mortal Kombat fatality combinations.
Wooow. Tatum’s magically ridiculous fadeaways over smothering defense had me like:
Boston held a 100-98 lead as Curry checked back in with 7:10 remaining in the final quarter. Up to that point he already had scored 38 points and I assumed he was just going to put the Celtics to sleep with one of his deadly 4th quarter lullabies. But misfortune struck, as one of Curry’s notoriously tricky ankles took a turn for the worst.
Gasp. All the air went out of the Warriors as Curry writhed on the floor, his face a pained but determined scowl as he steeled himself through an all too familiar horror. How many teams have been waylaid by injuries this year? And how many times has Golden State seen their competitive hopes derailed by a Warrior coming up limping during a heated battle?
When ex-GSW coach-turned-announcer Mark Jackson (a man who once prayed over Curry’s ankles in church service) somberly and ominously discussed the tough scene, it felt like Golden State’s plucky run may have finally wheezed out.
Fortunately, Curry made it back to his feet and resolutely started plodding around the court. Whew, bullet dodged for Dub Nation right? Not so much. Barely a minute later, Juan Toscano-Anderson was knocked out of the game. He suffered a head-lacerating fall while valiantly saving a loose rebound that led to a Curry bomb.
Suddenly the Dubs found themselves deep in enemy territory with a limping Curry and without the glue guy presence of JTA. The reserve had the second most assists on the team last night (4) and added in 6 hustling rebounds. He was a +14 in his 25 minutes on the court, and the moment he left you could feel the Warriors offense lurching to a halt.
JTA is rapidly becoming one of the Warriors to rely on, and in his absence the Dubs were finished off by an 18-11 Boston run.
Curry’s gutsy night kept it close
As of the time of this writing we don’t know if Curry’s bad ankle twist will keep him out of action against an intimidating Philadelphia 76ers team.
But what we do know is Curry is playing the best basketball we’ve ever seen from him (and maybe anybody else?). Last night he joined Kobe Bryant as the only 33-year olds to have a 10-game scoring streak of 30+ points per game. Curry’s 47 points on 15-of-27 shooting (11-of-19 from 3PT range) were like predator drone missiles to a stunned Boston defense that eventually was forced to start trapping him at half court.
Curry was destroying Celtics defenders with impunity. NBA 2K needs to give this man a 99-rating ASAP. But after he got hobbled and JTA went down, the Dubs didn’t have enough to close the game.
Always Be Closing
Golden State appeared to be on the verge of winning this game when Curry drew a foul call on a 3PT shot with a 109-105 lead and 3:30 to go. Curry’s an automatic foul shooter; if he hits those three freebies the Dubs go up seven. But Boston challenged it and the refs overturned it, leading to a depressing turn of events for Dub Nation.
Warriors stats over final 3:30 of the game: 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting, 0-2 on free throws (poor Kent Bazemore), with 2 turnovers. The Dubs tried to spam the vaunted pick-and-roll, but Boston was eager to double team Curry and force someone else to make a play. Curry attempted both shooting over and it passing through it, but the gassed and wounded Warriors couldn’t tic-tac-toe their way through an intelligent Boston defensive effort.
Oh yeah and suddenly Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker became clutch deep shotmaking artists.
Wow. I guess Curry inspired everyone to shoot improbable shots from beyond the arc (YES I’M SALTY).
This was yet another tough, late gut punch Dub Nation has witnessed as these Dubs try to learn crunch-time strategy and mentality on the fly. Thankfully I don’t think this loss hurt quite as bad as these crunchtime letdowns:
The wild 4PT play Bradley Beal hit to steal the game for the Wizards.
The reckless hacking that gave the Hawks unlimited free throws in the 4th quarter.
Damian Lillard saving the Blazers with a bomb.
Draymond Green getting ejected as Hornets snatch a win in final seconds.
But the Boston lost still counts all the same. Nailbiting failures have erased the Warriors’ margin for error during this final stretch of the season. I believe those learning experiences will be valuable if Golden State uses their lessons in future battles. And yet we know there’s only so far knowledge and camaraderie will take them if they don’t have the health to actualize it on the court.
Something to build on
It's a credit to the coaching staff and the team's collective pride that despite missing three starters, they came within a couple possessions of stealing a road win from the 4th seeded Boston Celtics.
Green led the team with 10 assists in what may be his finest passing season as a point forward. His missed layup in the final minute was a hiccup the Dubs couldn’t afford, but his aggression to the rim will often be necessary as teams load up on Curry.
Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting and gave a strong defensive effort against Tatum’s offensive pyrotechnics.
Kent Bazemore had a rough 5 turnovers but was steady otherwise offensively with 16 points on 50% shooting. I’ll be interested to see where his minutes go when Kelly Oubre Jr. is fully healthy and back in the lineup.
Jordan Poole showed some more flashes of being a reliable secondary scorer/ball handler, scoring 12 points in his 22 minutes. He’s eager to be a guy who makes something happen on the court offensively; I like his confidence.
Gary Payton II was a defensive menace off the bench during his short 7 minutes, and the Dubs are keeping him on the squad for another look.
But ultimately this team can’t afford injuries to Curry, JTA, or anybody else right now. Next up, the #1 seed in the East. Who will be available for the Dubs against those giants from Philly?