For those who think that the Golden State Warriors are a collective, rather than a great player and a lot of good ones, I offer Wednesday night’s game against Dallas as evidence that you’re out of your minds.
Okay, let’s get the caveats out of the way.
1) Stephen Curry wasn’t the only Warrior who was hurt; they were down four of their first nine players.
2) Because Curry’s backup, Leandro Barbosa, isn’t even on this road trip, guarding J.J. Berea proved to be impossible.
3) The Mavericks are pretty good, and they’ve won four straight with Berea playing for injured point guard Deron Williams.
I’ll give you all those, and there are probably a few other extenuating circumstances behind the Warriors’ destruction by the Mavs, but the conclusion is inescapable: Curry is the player who makes this team special. Even when he’s not at his best, and even when he’s at his absolute worst, his mere presence on the court forces the defense to extend to very uncomfortable points on the court.
Klay Thomson took only four 3-pointers in this game. You would think that he would shoulder the scoring load with Curry out, and I’m sure he was trying to do that. The problem was that he had Mavericks draped on him most of the time, and without Curry to force double-teams, every shot was contested. Draymond Green had a similar game. Without Curry’s ability to facilitate a 2-man game, he wasn’t getting the 4-on-3 opportunities he has feasted on this season.
The Warriors lost Harrison Barnes in the 16th win of the season. That means he’s now missed 15 games and will not play against Houston Thursday night. He’s “close,” the Warriors say, but this being neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, that doesn’t count for much. Festus Ezeli, who has essentially split time at center with Andrew Bogut, hurt his toe Monday night and is out indefinitely. Barbosa’s arm is in a sling because of a sprained shoulder.
The main impact of those injuries is in their volume. Curry’s loss, however, is greater than the sum of all of the others. The 3-pointers dried up to the extent that you looked at the score and realized there’s no way they could catch up scoring just two points at a time.
The biggest surprise was on defense. CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole wrote that “the Warriors played hard but not together,” and he’s right. They weren’t switching effectively, and Berea was left wide open on several simple pick-and-rolls.
Thursday night in Houston will be very interesting. One thing we learned about the Warriors last season during the playoffs is that they have a great ability to adjust on the fly. That ability will be tested by the Rockets.
One thing that is not debatable, however, is that Steph Curry is by far the most important piece on a team that won the championship last season and is 29-2 this year. Nobody is more valuable in the Association.