Posts tagged Warriors
Boogie expects to start upon his return to the Warriors, but will he close out games?
Garrett Ellwood / Getty Images

Garrett Ellwood / Getty Images

DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return to the hardwood this week for the first time since tearing his achilles last January, this time as a member of the Golden State Warriors. He’s likely to start against the Clippers this Friday, but while it’s good news to most, it doesn’t solve all their problems.

Given the Warriors recent history of centers (Biedrins, Bogut, Pachulia), the promise of Boogie joining Golden State is definitely enticing. He brings a presence inside that the Splash Brothers haven’t been privy to, and that’s a scary thought. It’s not the only role that Steve Kerr has planned for Cousins though, given his newfound propensity to shoot from deep.

In his last two seasons, Cousins has averaged over five three-point attempts a game at a 36 percent clip. That spacing is an aspect of his game that the Warriors will feel immediately with Draymond Green’s defenders having abandoned him from deep. If an opposing center guards Draymond instead of Cousins, Green’s screening then become far more valuable, and similarly, Cousins will have a mismatch too.

Recently, Kerr told 95.7 The Game “We're not gonna slow down just for DeMarcus. So you can probably envision a fast break with us and DeMarcus trailing the play ... the ball comes back out, he's a guy who can spot up and knock down that 3-point shot." That game plan is far different from the one he had in mind when they first signed him. Bob Myers recounts Kerr saying, “I want [DeMarcus] on the block, we haven’t had that threat, we can give him the ball, we can play off of him.”

Kerr’s change in mindset is indicative of the mismanagement that he’s guilty of, but his change of heart in regards to Cousins coincides with how the team has played as of late. Kerr mentioned that Boogie will start upon his return. “After that, everything's on the table. We have to figure out what the rotations will look like, how many minutes he can play. We'll have to play around with the minutes, the combinations, the sets.”

Immediately inserting Cousins into the starting lineup may seem obvious, but it’s important to note that Kerr didn’t say he would finish games. Part of that is due to the quality production from Kevon Looney. Looney has been on the court at the end of most every game this season, despite Damian Jones starting until his season ending injury on December 1st. He’s the Dubs’ most solid role player, and like a metronome, he can keep his tempo steady no matter the rhythm of the game.

While Cousins is an upgrade over Looney, there is concern of how his ability to switch on defense will affect how the Dubs scheme their coverages. It’s possible Looney could continue closing games while Cousins returns from injury and gets use to the Warriors’ pace of play after almost a year off. There’s a chance he will also prioritize his energy on offense rather than defense; Boogie will return to the free agent market this summer and his numbers will mean something in that regard.

Perhaps they’ll just go small to close out games with Draymond at center. He’s by far their best defensive big, but going small means having Iguodala on the court as well, who like Green has struggled offensively. At least with Looney on the court, there’s a fourth scoring option, without sacrificing too much on defense. Perhaps Kerr will let the game become a shootout, and trust that the five All-Stars will work cohesively on the court.

The good thing is they’ll have three months to figure things out before the playoffs. Boogie’s return will be a breath of fresh air for the entire organization; like the gift that you know your parents got you, but you couldn’t open until Christmas.

Well, Christmas just came a little late in the Bay.

Ball Don't Lie - The Show Must Go On

Dante sits in for Pierce and Flows to preview the rest of the NFL playoffs, and Wos joins the show to catch us up on everything going on in the NBA.

Follow Flows on Twitter: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott on Twitter: @Scott_C-oh yeah...that's right nvm...
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Wos: @BigWos
Follow Dante: @OctobersOwnTae
Follow the Barber's Chair: @BarbersChairNet

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

Warriors scarier than ever behind Steph Curry's historic start to season
Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

We’re only a week and a half in and the league is in mid-season form. The same can be said for the Warriors, who have already taken their place atop the West. But they’re not the team we’ve grown used to seeing the past two years with Kevin Durant in tow. This time, Steph Curry is the in charge of things on offense.

Life is great for the #StephBetter contingent. Curry leads the league in scoring at 33.9 ppg on 50-50-90 shooting. He leads the Warriors in shot attempts, just a hair in front of Durant, and incredibly, over half of Curry’s field goals have been 3-pointers.

A good sign of the offensive shift is the amount of three’s Curry is getting off (about 13 a game.) In the last two seasons, it often felt as though the game plan was to keep Durant comfortable, causing Curry’s game to suffer just slightly. However, the Warriors showed in last season’s Finals that they reach their peak when Curry is the primary option.

Steph knows how to embrace the lead man role. It’s been a career long goal for Curry to perfect the balance of creating for others and taking over by himself. Through seven games, he’s on pace to set an NBA record for offensive plus-minus with 12.77. Curry’s done this by limiting his one-on-one three’s, driving more to the rim to create for his teammates, and though he’s missed some easy layups, he’s mastered the art of relocating to the corner before the defense can catch their breath. Teams realize this, but they still can’t stop it, and it doesn’t help that there’s always one other All-Star on the court at the same time.

KD and Draymond Green have followed their point guard’s lead. The two sit just behind him in Assist Percentage at 26% and 28% respectively (Curry is sitting at 25%.) While Golden State leads the league in team assists, they’re also leading the league in team turnovers, 69% (nice) of which are coming off of bad passes. While this stat certainly sounds bad, the silver lining is that they’ve been a byproduct of their willingness to pass, and their commitment to this system. The Dubs need to tighten up their passing though if they want Curry to keep dominating from deep. He’s shooting 70% on assisted 3-pointers (completely insane). Though some may question the sustainability of this level of shooting, Curry is working harder without the ball than with it, and that’s keeping his stamina up in the long term

Should Curry’s hot shooting hold steady, Golden State won’t just run through the league; they’ll tear it apart. Whether it be behind Steph’s historic start to the 2018-19 season, or just the sheer joy that he brings to the sport, Curry is captaining this squad and picking up where he left off in 2016.

2018-19 NBA Season preview: High stakes in Golden State
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Well that summer went by fast… Maybe it felt fast because instead of spending the summer months recruiting free agents to add to their already-Murderers Row of All-Stars, the Dubs let the big fish come to them. I guess that’s how things go when you’re on top.

Now the 2018-19 season feels like a countdown to the NBA Finals and an inevitable 3-peat and fourth title in five years… at least, that’s how fans outside of Laker-land feel.

That sense of inevitability runs in the back of the Warriors minds, no doubt. It’s still unclear whether they were mentally checked before Houston pushed them to the brink of elimination in the Conference Finals, but it never felt like the Dubs were being outplayed.

When looking forward to the looming free agency of Kevin Durant, I often think back to that Rocket series, and the front office must too. While Bob Myers and Joe Lacob are more than prepared to give Durant the deal of his choice, they’d much rather sign him long term. Durant, though, has remained steadfast in keeping his options open, as he should. What’s most interesting about the situation is the divide between the franchise and the fanbase. I can’t see fans being angry at a Durant departure, and KD could see it as an opportunity for a cleaner exit than his move from Oklahoma City.

While the front office will spend most of the season convincing Durant to stay, the Warriors are still in the midst of an opportunity to three-peat. LeBron’s departure from Cleveland increases the Dubs’ chance of winning the Finals, but his arrival in Los Angeles, along with other improvements in the West, makes the field tougher than previous years. The only teams sure to miss the postseason: Dallas, Phoenix and Sacramento. The Warriors can’t afford to sleepwalk into the first round.

Ezra Shaw // NBA

Ezra Shaw // NBA

Without a clear cut starting center until DeMarcus Cousins returns from his achilles injury last season, this season will serve as year-long tryouts for the playoff rotation. Kevon Looney will likely start opening night at the 5 for his low risk, but he boasts high rewards as well. Jordan Bell, on the other hand, has high risk but still aims to be the Dubs’ center of the future. Even Damion Jones will see substantial minutes, as head coach Steve Kerr continues to shoehorn him into a key role.

Cousins will answer to some of those issues upon his return, but more importantly, he’ll keep spirits high. His presence is already being felt, as he’s been in the ears of young big’s during training camp and pre-season. So long as he does and says the right things, the rest of the team is going to battle for him. He can be the fulcrum that keeps the team focused on the mission, and in turn, he can make the other All-Stars lives a lot easier.

If nothing else, the season will be one to appreciate the present and embrace the past. This is a team with the greatest collection of talent in NBA history, and it happened in a place like Oakland.

The city has some credit to take for this too. Here in Oakland you put on for those who put on for you, and the team has always embraced that culture, with the city returning the love right back. Sure, moving to San Francisco is an upgrade in almost every fashion, but there will always be a special feeling in Oakland, and this season will be a proper send off to the town.

It’s hard to really know what to expect this season. Sure the fans expect the Warriors to win another title, but there’s more at stake than in years past. This isn’t just another title; it’s a means of truly becoming a dynasty.

But for this team, it’s just another day at the gym.

Barber's Chair Live after Game Two of the NBA Finals

Check out Barber's Chair Live after Game 2 of the NBA Finals! Pierce and Scott are joined by Rico (@PLAYBOIRICO), the host of Rico's Playhouse, to discuss the Warriors' blowout of the Cavs, Steph Curry staking his claim to Finals MVP, and our predictions for Game 3. Plus a little Power, Game of Thrones and The Wire talk. This game was so bad we couldn't help ourselves.

We do not own any footage used in this video. All footage is owned by ESPN and the National Basketball Association.

Music by Hooksounds.com

Barber's Chair Live after Game One of the NBA Finals (feat. @Mariannoo)

Check out Barber's Chair Live after every game of the NBA Finals on YouTube! Scott (@Scott_CEOofSUH), Joe (@Flowsandolini), Pierce (@HennyOmega) and special guests will talk about the game once the final whistle blows!

Tonight, it's Game One of the NBA Finals. Mariano Bivens (@Mariannoo) joins the boys to dissect Game One, including JR Smith's bonehead play at the end of regulation, Steph's magnificent game, LeBron's first 50-point playoff performance, Kevin Durant's struggles, and whatever the hell LeBron and co. showed up to the game wearing.

Ball Don't Lie: The Commute ft. @readjack
The Warriors are going to their fourth straight Finals, but what the hell is wrong with them?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, but not without overcoming the Houston Rockets in a 7 game series for the ages. We saw the best assembly of singular talent, against a group that was built perfectly combat it. And though everything had seemed to turn to Houston's favor, talent eventually won out. But despite the Warriors innate dominance and the legitimate talent in Houston, there’s still something awry in Golden State.

The Dubs flash there brilliance most every game, but rarely do it for the span of entire games. It’s not always been this way though, it’s seemed to have started just this season. Though it’s counter intuitive to how we think of dynastic teams, the Warriors are just content to play below their standard until change is necessary. Luckily for them, most teams peaks don’t reach Golden States standards.

Similarly, their lack of respect for their opponents has also troubled them throughout the season. There isn’t “appropriate fear,” a concept that head coach Steve Kerr has harped on constantly, like there was in their last three seasons. Sure they may go over strategy before the game, but the players often size up their opponents as they’re playing, which so often leads to evaluations at halftime and thus their dominant third quarters.

These issues damn near bit the Warriors in the ass against the Rockets, though. After a game 1 of relatively great focus, and a solid offensive game plan, the Warriors cruised in game 2. Though stealing home court advantage kept out the criticism for the moment, their lack of urgency stayed the same. Even as their playoff starter, Andre Iguodala, was sidelined with injury through games 4 through 7, the effort continued to wane.

On the brink of taking a 3-1 lead in game 4 at home, the Dubs lost their 10 point lead at the start of the 4th quarter. The 3rd quarter of game 4 saw an offensive explosion from Steph Curry, but his 17 points would become overshadowed by the mere 12-point quarter the team had to follow it up. The Dubs were caught sleeping, refusing to realize that these games aren’t sure things. Had they made any more of an effort for those 12 minutes, they could’ve dodged a game 7, but it’s a hard thing to change at this point in the season.

I don’t think the players are the only ones to blame for the close call though, some of the onus has to be given to Kerr. They made a big effort in game 1 to hunt switches and let Kevin Durant attack; an uncharacteristic style for Golden State to play but one that was effective. Houston was able to make adjustments though. They let KD attack on isolation plays, and played as physical as possible on the splash brothers, thereby decapitating ⅔ of their 3 headed snake. KD was more than happy to get his buckets, scoring 38 points, as the Rockets beat the Warriors at their own egalitarian game.

ESPN/NBA

ESPN/NBA

It's not that surprising to see Kerr make his adjustments after a game though, rarely do they happen mid game. Occasionally a speech to spark the engine, but he likes to play it game by game. It’s just infuriating when he chooses to go down with the ship, especially when his most infamous blunder came in game 7 of the 2016 Finals. But Kerr finally showed his urgency in games 6 & 7. He cut the rotation down to 8 players, the starters with Kevin Looney, Jordan Bell, Nick Young, and Shaun Livingston off the bench. Maybe going to that rotation earlier could’ve ended the series quicker, or maybe playing the last card early could’ve given Houston a mental edge.

Regardless of the issues surrounding this team, they’re manageable, and aren’t systemic. It’s a matter of circumstance that the players can play without serious consequence or concern. The key to their problems is making sure they don’t become sewed into the fabric of the teams culture.

Ball Don't Lie ep. 19 - All that for a drop of blood?
Steph Curry heard the noise, looks to end the Rockets' playoff run
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It was pretty tiring the last few days, the chatter about the Warriors game 2 loss. My dad’s constant worrying, “Ehh, I don’t know Jules.” All the while I was confident they’d bounce back in a major way, suspecting the catalyst to be Steph Curry after the good old fashion smacking they took in Houston.

The biggest reason for my lack of concern was the Warriors did what they needed to do. Starting a playoff series on the road for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, they needed one of the first two to expel the Rockets home court advantage. But other than their season opener against Houston, the Dubs have rarely lost in anything other than a blowout. When they’re competing, it’s rarely a close game, and their plan coming into game 3 was to compete.

As Draymond Green put it, “We allow one of those a series...We’ve had our one. Now it’s time to lock in.” Green has probably been their most consistent player too, but without the big scoring numbers, his floor game will rarely receive high praise or serious criticism. But in a series against the NBA’s #1 offense, he knows the pressure in on Golden States scorers to really show up.

That might sound ridiculous when considering Kevin Durant dropped 37 in game 1 and 38 in game 2, but 30+ points from KD is a lot different than 30+ from Curry. At their best, the Dubs have Curry creating shots for himself and then creating shots for his teammates. Keeping Steph off the ball on offense is easier to defend because the Rockets can switch off on pindowns, and get more leeway when holding him on the actions.

Keeping the ball in Curry’s hands when they run their motion actions or pick and rolls above the arc is inevitably going to cause a defensive breakdown because of his gravity. The Rockets are much better suited to have KD initiate offense, and to guard KD in his post-up isolations as the offense tends to stagnate. So when the defense turned up in the 2nd half, so too did the Warriors offensive movement.

Curry was getting to the rim repeatedly in the 3rd quarter, the first two layups were gimme’s. Oracle was starting to get loud. As Steph started to feel it, he was relentlessly attacking James Harden’s defense, first taking him off the dribble, then straight ghosting him on a back cut in transition. It was his 4th straight layup, and I looked to my parents and told them “He’s making a three next time down.” Next thing you know, a 30 foot bomb and a shimmy to boot.

But his biggest shot was his floater that prefaced his public address to Oracle. He faked Trevor Ariza out of his shoes, and threw up a shot over Clint Capela. Classic Curry. Then he yelled out, “This is my fucking house!” Surely this had been brewing since his offensive struggles in Houston. But it had been a while since we’ve seen a flurry like this from Steph. This was his response to the noise. Just a friendly reminder what he’s about.

Western Conference Finals preview
USATSI

USATSI

The Houston Rockets fulfilled their destiny by finding their way to the Western Conference Finals. It seemed like this was bound to happen since the trade sent Chris Paul to Houston, but along the way they exceeded expectations by winning the west, and getting James Harden to play at an MVP level with an all-time point guard beside him.

Now they face the Golden State Warriors with the NBA Finals on the line, and unlike past playoff matchups, the Rockets expect to win.

They’ve been targeting Golden State for years, this season especially. In their opening night matchup, the Rockets came back from down 14 in the fourth quarter to steal the win on ring night, and when a KD jumper was called no good on replay, the Rockets did all but pop the champagne. But now they’re ready for the real bubbly, at least they believe they are, and that’s a huge part of being a title contender.

The Rockets have a vastly different mindset as a team, and that’s a credit to their player development and coaching. Harden doesn’t get caught sleeping on defense anymore, CP3 has smoothly transitioned into a secondary ball-handler, and Clint Capela is playing his role the way Dwight Howard never did during his time in Houston. It’s reminiscent of the Warriors when they play hard every night. It’s the focus of a team that’s finding out they have some chops. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to go through the big dogs.

The Warriors are looking at this series quite different than Houston is. They’ve gone to hell and back in the playoffs, but they’ve also got a lot more chemistry than the Rockets. They’ll probably end up screwing around and start Javale to match up with Capela because they know their margin of error is the highest in the league. It really comes down to the talent, and Golden State wins that battle.

With Klay Thompson most likely guarding Harden, it sets up for a CP3-Steph match-up, conjuring up memories and emotions from when the Clipper-Warriors rivalry was at its peak. CP3’s instinct may take over where he’ll feel the need to go at Steph, but I think he can be much more effective in the rhythm of their offense. Steph has added muscle to be able to hold his own in defensive switches in the pick and roll, but Paul comes into this series as a much healthier player, and with some momentum after that crazy 40/10 closeout performance vs. Utah in the semifinal. He’s going to try to get Steph out of the game whenever he can, goating him into making mistakes in 1 on 1 defense, but in the end, Curry’s output on offense should win the individual match-up.

Another intriguing match-up is Harden vs. Kevin Durant. While they won't be guarding each other much this series, they’re the best scoring options on their respective teams. Houston simply cannot guard KD 1 on 1. Durant can shoot over, dribble past, and finish on anyone, Trevor Ariza included, and while Harden lacks the height that KD brings to the table, he’s gotten into peak physical shape which has elevated his game to MVP levels. Most likely, we’ll see various actions to get Harden running downhill off the pick and roll. The Rockets love their pick-and-roll sets where Capela immediately uses a downscreen from a shooter (Eric Gordon, for ex.) who can pop out for three. The Warriors defense will formulate a gameplan, preemptively switching the defenders involved, but it’ll require a series long focus. If Harden runs the Dubs tired, it could mean a game to the Rockets.

There's no question that the Rockets give the Warriors the best challenge they've seen in the playoffs. For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors won’t have home court advantage, and will have to play a Game 7 on the road if the series stretches that far. Game one could be the closest of them all, as the Warriors come in looking to steal home court & Houston's momentum. One thing I'm sure of is this: the winner of this series will win the NBA title.

Dubs in Fo’

Ball Don't Lie Ep 17 - Bring David Stern Back ft. @Mariannoo
What 2 Watch: Tuesday, May 8th

My condolences to the country of Canada. LeBron James destroyed your hopes and dreams last night just as he always does. You can't run from destiny, unless your name is Wong.

While the "BeSt RaPt0rS tEaM eVeR" getting bounced in the second round is bad for Toronto, it's good for you. You don't have to worry about wasting two hours of your night watching those frauds again until October! Best free up your night for more interesting games.


Utah Jazz v. Houston Rockets - Western Conference semifinal, Game 5
8:00pm EST, TNT, TNTdrama.com or TNT app

That State Farm agent is 48 minutes away from his first conference finals! Good for Cliff. One can only be so mediocre for so long. The Jazz try and overcome the Rockets' homecourt advantage to force Game 6, but is it really an advantage when your arena are as rowdy as a Joel Osteen service?


New Orleans Pelicans v. Golden State Warriors - Western Conference semifinal, Game 5
10:30pm EST, TNT, TNTdrama.com or TNT app

Like Mariano says, this is blu-ray footage for the Warriors. Can't wait for Steph to talk about how the Pels really made them buckle down to win this hard-fought five-game series.


Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees
7:00pm EST, MLB Network, MLB.TV, MLB At Bat app

The rivalry is fucking back baby! The Sox and Yankees have the two best records in baseball, with the Bronx Bombers one game back of the Sox in first. The Yankees have won 15 or their last 16 games, while Boston is on its best start since 2002. Benches cleared the last series between the two. Don't you fucking love baseball when these two are good? Damn.


Swansea City v. Southampton
2:30pm EST, NBCSN, NBC Sports App

The 17th and 18th teams in the Premier League table battle to avoid relegation. The teams may suck, but the threat of the loser dropping out of the EPL next season makes this an intriguing midday matchup across the pond.

The Draymond Green effect has Warriors ahead 2-0 on Pelicans in series
AP

AP

The first two games of the West semifinals between the Warriors and Pelicans have differed vastly in aesthetics and in point differential, but the constant has been Draymond Green. Contrary to Kerr’s typical rotations, Green has started at center, which is especially significant because of Anthony Davis. What’s more is the success he’s had in the matchup, but to everyone’s surprise, Green has been the best player overall in this series.

Kerr’s decision to start Draymond in the first place such a surprise to me. I thought Green at the 5 would be their last card to play (and maybe it was), but clearly they feared Davis dominating and creating a rhythm early in the series. Without Curry in game 1, Green was left to supplant Steph’s duties on offense. He pushed the pace, kept the ball jumping and facilitated every trip down the court.

It was clear that they wanted to outrun the Pelicans and try to tire them out. The Pels showed their aggressiveness on defense against the Portland’s half court prominent offense, but Golden State’s system does not compare. When the Pelican’s defense swings around so quickly, it inevitably gives up an opening that the Dubs can capitalize on.

With the lead ballooning so dramatically in Game 1, the Pelicans we’ve seen for the last 2 months didn’t make an appearance. But in Game 2, the pace was much more in favor of New Orleans. They fed Davis way more in the paint, forcing Golden State to play Draymond 40 minutes (he played 30 minutes in G1). The extended minutes from Green certainly played into NOLA’s hands as well, as he’s the player they could conceivably crack. This is a different Draymond though.

Green’s seen the success he’s contributed to this team, but he’s also seen the way he can become a detriment. This season, he’s been locked in. Balancing the hype with focus is something Green has mastered. It’s also what the Pelicans tried to test him on. Rajon Rondo was being a pest for the whole 48. Body bumping, shit talking, and even wiping his sweat off on the ball in between Green’s attempts. But still Green stayed poised.

What really stood out was Davis’ attempts to poke the bear. After the two hit the floor on a rebound opportunity, which looked like two simultaneous flops, Davis locked Greens arm using his leg, causing the two to barrel down the court in a wrestling style barrel roll. This is something I’ve just never seen out of Davis, and maybe that’s a good thing, a sign he’s trying to establish himself. Maybe it’s his teammates pushing him to get chippy.

Draymond’s emotional self control directly contributes to his teams wins, and his overall game. The stressors that were prevalent the last three years are gone, and it’s made the game much easier too. The Playoffs are all about adjustments, because of the number of times you face a single team. Green is seeing it all with a much clearer mind, and his team is following his lead.

Warriors-Pelicans Western conference semifinal preview

At first glance the seeding of this years playoffs, it seemed as though the Warriors had an easy road to the Finals. They had swept the Pelicans, Blazers, and Spurs in the playoffs before, but with the utter dominance New Orleans displayed against the Blazers, there’s still some concern in Golden State.

Looking back at the first time these teams matched up, the first round in 2015, the Pels put up a pretty good fight. Anthony Davis had his national coming out party. He averaged 30 for the series, and made it look easy over a prime defensive Draymond Green, and a still capable Andrew Bogut.

But the Pelicans came as close to winning game 3 as they possibly could have, if it weren’t for a miraculous three by Steph Curry to send it to overtime where Golden State took control of the game and the series. Since then these teams have changed dramatically.

Some news of Golden State came out of practice Thursday though. Marcus Thompson of The Athletic reported that Kerr put Curry down as “questionable” for Game 1 of the series. We could see this as the payoff of letting Curry rest through the first round, but I’m not falling for that. I think there’s some internal concern about what this Pelicans squad poses to the Warriors without #30.

Anthony Davis has become a truly brilliant NBA player. There’s no doubt that he’s a superstar, the best big man, and arguably the highest ceiling in the years to come (he’s only 25!). Put aside all of his in game accolades though and you’re left with an admirable young man. He’s had to put up with an inordinate amount of organizational incompetency, more than any young Star should have to. It’s a mark of a selfless player to endure that much strife without much more than an interview with Woj.

That aspect of AD is one the reasons his team has seen so much success, being the kind of guy you can rally behind. But his style of play is just as vital to his his teammates success. He commands defenses at all spots on the court, too quick for big men and too strong for guards and wings. That willingness to move the ball is why players like Holiday, Niko Mirotic, and E’Twaun Moore have been getting buckets from three. With an easier scheme they can rely on for offense, it’s allowed the Pelicans the stamina to compete harder on defense.

Against the Warriors though, the defensive game plan they showed against the Blazers might not be as effective. The Dubs just don’t work off the pick and roll as much as Portland, so the aggressive trap the Pels used against the Blazers won’t be as much of a factor. In fact if NOLA does resort to the trap against Steph, GSW is more than prepaid to create out of the 4-on-3 situation it presents. I think that it will still come down to outside shooting for the Dubs though. Davis is so good at protecting the rim that most of the Warriors’ offense should come off inside-out offense, whether that be drive and kicks or triangle actions initiated from the post.

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

My concern for GSW isn’t necessarily on offense, it’s how they handle NOLA on the defensive end. If they run a traditional 5 the whole game, Davis can eat the whole game. Nobody other than Draymond really stands a chance, and Kerr’s shown how tentative he is to run Green at the 5. Just look at their 4th quarter minutes game 5, Kevon Looney played almost the whole quarter, and they paid the price by blowing a huge lead. But if they’re willing to give Draymond the most minutes at center, it will certainly save them on defense, but then will also make for a more potent offense.

Though the talent gap is clearly in Golden State’s favor, the Pelicans are going to come out with as much energy as they can muster. Other than Rajon Rondo, they have a bunch of young, energized players who’ll be willing to sell out on defense, even if it means a screwed up rotation. But the Dubs have also had trouble with tight defenses plenty, as it tends to muck up the ball-movement that GSW’s offense predicates on. It’ll also be interesting to see how well Jrue Holiday can play Curry. He’s given him trouble in the past, being 6’4” and all, but Holiday is so calm and physical on defense.

The series may just be the Dubs toughest, if only for the fact that they’ve not seen this Pelicans team. Only in their last matchup in April (with Curry out and an eye on the playoffs, they lost) did they actually see the Pels without Boogie in their lineup. Their first game while most likely be a feeler, but if the Pels can capitalize on the opportunity, they could steal an early one on the road. But regardless this round will most certainly be more interesting than the last.

Prediction: Warriors in six

Exploring the best case scenario for the Warriors this postseason
Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

One of the biggest criticisms throughout the Warriors reign of the NBA is the lack of “real adversity” they faced. But I’d beg to differ. In fact, Since they began their current run of making the playoffs in 2013, Golden State has instead turned their misfortune from water into wine. From not trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love to signing Kevin Durant after blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals, time and time again they’ve had the best case scenarios play out in their favor. But with all of the injuries of late, the worst being Steph Curry’s MCL strain, we should explore possible positive of their most recent slump.

The best thing going for the Dubs comes down to two words: Kevin Durant. The reigning Finals MVP was brought to the Bay for moments like this. It was reported Durant would be returning to the court Thursday against Milwaukee, but we saw exactly what KD can do without Steph during his first injury stint earlier this season. The Dubs defensive rating was tops over that period of time, and Durant locked himself in on both ends, subsequently drawing tons of Defensive Player of the Year buzz.

His versatility also shine through in their change of pace. While he's deadly on the break, he’s still the best iso scorer in the league, equipped with innumerable ways to get buckets. Surely they’ll get KD post touches and let the teams off ball movement create mismatch opportunities to attack.

Something to look for as Durant, and then later, Draymond and Klay return, is how the Warriors step up defensively. Golden State needs to conform to a more appropriate system without Curry. Without Steph heading the snake that is the Warriors’ offense, they’ll need to focus on the possession game, and stops on defense will hold even more importance. They’ll also hope to get good minutes from the young guys.

Pat McCaw has still struggled mightily on both ends, but as Omri Casspi losses his spot in the rotation, rightfully so, McCaw could find his rhythm and gain the confidence he’s flashed every so often. Jordan Bell could make a Javale McGee-esque impact on offense on lob attempts, but will need to calm down on defense being that his last few injuries have come from reckless shot-block attempts.

Surprisingly their most important young player may be Kevon Looney. His style of play would be perfect for a Steph-less team, good at rolling and popping on offense, and moving with patience on defense. It’s when the pace speeds up that Looney begins to struggle.

Quinn Cook’s play will also play a huge role. There just isn’t another point guard on the team that can space the floor and who’s willing to shoot the ball and keep defense’s honest. Hopefully, he gets in a good enough flow that he becomes their backup point guard for good, as it seems as though Shaun Livingston may have run his course as a key rotation player. For years Golden State has searched for their backup PG, and Cook's game just seems to fit the role.

While they've already clinched a playoff spot, the Warriors still need to tread water. As their injured stars begin to trickle back to the court, the ultimate hope is for them to be fully healthy come May and June. At this point, the playoffs won’t mean anything if their key players aren’t able to get in the games. If Durant can keep the team afloat sans Draymond and Klay, the team may want to keep the two stars sidelined until absolutely necessary. The #1 seed is surely Houston's, so a final push for home court advantage shouldn’t be on their mind, just get their guys back when the time is right.

Should Curry miss the first round, who would the Dubs want to face? Oklahoma City currently sits at 4th, but are still liable to drop into the 7th seed. Without a healthy Andre Roberson, Russell Westbrook would be guarding the point guard, but without Steph, Russ will have even more time to rest on defense, which would be a huge benefit for OKC. Their biggest strength in the matchup without Curry on the court would be their staunch defense. Without the pace that Curry brings on offense, OKC will have a much easier time getting stops, and creating fastbreak opportunities, of which Westbrook and Paul George would salivate for.

Utah, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Antonio just don’t have the star power to match ¾’s of Golden State's. They’ll also lack the all important wing defender to try to stop Durant. If the Wolves can get Jimmy Butler back, it could smell trouble, but it’s no sure thing that he would be fully healthy. So to revisit those two all important words I noted up earlier, it’ll all come down to Kevin Durant.

Has the NBA caught up to the Warriors?
STF

STF

In the summer of 2016, when asked about the Warriors plucking Kevin Durant away from the Thunder, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during the league's annual board of governors meeting “I do not think that's ideal from the league standpoint.” It was obvious that he was afraid that the new acquisition would create too good of a team. His major oversight, though, was that the dominance of Golden State would force the rest of the league to find ways to catch up, and this season, there are a few standouts that have done just that.

The most obvious candidate this season has been the Houston Rockets. As if James Harden wasn’t enough, their astonishing and impressive move to get Chris Paul last summer brought up a few questions. And rightfully so, having two ball deflating point guards as your two best players makes you wonder if they could bog each others games down.

But it’s been quite the opposite. Their willingness to sacrifice touches, stagger their minutes and commit to defense has made their lives a whole lot easier. It’s admirable too, being that the two up to this point, haven’t embraced sacrifice previously. The Rockets collection of savvy signings and pesky vets have also contributed to their success. But their also the right collection of players to give the Warriors a headache.

While CP3 has been surpassed by Steph already, he still has the ability to get pesky on defense and physical on offense. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Paul draw bullshit fouls on Steph, but I know it’s an effective skill that he’s mastered. Harden is just as good at this, so the threat of getting the Dubs into foul trouble is a serious one.

The key for houston though, is their center, Clint Capela. Having rode the bench for years, the departure of Dwight Howard gave Capela opportunity to find his game, and his game is pretty damn good. He’s had the length and lateral quickness to be a problem on defense, but developing patience and poise brought it all together.

The kid isn’t vertically challenged either, he gets up for lob opportunities like a DeAndre Jordan, but he doesn’t yearn for possession wasting post touches. He’s perfect for Houston system, because his strengths compliment both CP3 and Harden to a tee. But when it’s playoff time, their All-Star Guards will ultimately determine the future of this team.

Boston is right up there with Houston. Their defense, if and when healthy, has the chops to make any teams lives difficult. Oh and they’re eventually getting All-Star Gordon Hayward back. Simply put, their really good right now, and they’re only going to get better in the coming years.

Though their stars weren’t drafted like Golden States were, they’ve built their team to mimic the them in a few ways. The offense hinges on Kyrie Irving, who like Curry can create for himself and others, but also can be used of the ball to space the floor. Without him, offense gets difficult down the stretch, but Brad Stevens system gives them legs to stand on.

The real unsung hero for the Celtics though, is Al Horford. He’s the key to their defense, but can unlock so much more on offense. His spacing is a threat, but if someone closes out to hard on him, he’s still got the footspeed and the skill to drive and create for himself or his teammates. I like to think that him and Draymond Green are two sides of the same coin, Horford is stronger on offense and Green stronger on defense.

Their young wings are really intriguing too. Everytime I watch Jaylen Brown make a move in transition, I’m reminded of Jordan. He’s nowhere near as talented, but just the way he moves on the floor is impressive. He’s also shown actually basketball talent too, don’t get me wrong. He competes well on defense, spreads the floor well from three, and he’s relentless and athletic around the rim. Then there’s Jayson Tatum, their standout rookie. He hasn’t shown the same defensive prowess as Brown, but his offensive game is unique for his age (he’s only 19 + a few days!).

What makes the Celtics different, though, is youth. Other than the 31-year-old Al Horford, their core is young enough become even better in the next few years. Surely they’ll run the east, but once they get a taste of the Finals, who knows how good they can be.

These two have both followed and tweaked the blueprint that Golden State has shown to be successful. Even though they’ve shown that they have the chops to give the Dubs problems, they won’t be the last to do so. Sure it takes young and talented players to become great in the long term, but stability from ownership, and competency from management and coaches is just as important. This is the key to success in the NBA, the rest of the league just needs to keep taking notes.

The Warriors' change at center leaves Zaza losing out on minutes
AP

AP

I didn’t realize it until halftime. Up in the mezzanine of Oracle we watched as the Nets claimed a halftime lead over the defending champs. My mom’s connections came through with some tickets for us, and she accompanied me to the game. But as the Dubs warmed up at halftime she asked me, “Zaza hasn’t played?”

It’s become clear that the Warriors have made conscious efforts to explore their options at center. Since the All-Star break, Javale McGee has started every game, bringing Zaza Pachulia off the bench. In the short amount of games played with this change, Pachulia has also been the first center off the bench, usually until the end of the first quarter, letting David West pick up his usual 2nd quarter minutes.

But never have they completely iced him for a game. Up until February 22nd, Zaza’s started every game he’s played, and that lineup liberalism has been both a strength and a weakness for Kerr. I still lose sleep thinking about Anderson Varejao & Festus Ezeli in the 4th quarter in a Finals game 7. But the changes at center gives me hope that he is thinking about going with his mind more than his gut.

As of now, their best center come playoff time is Draymond Green, but there are still 18 regular season games to be played. There’s also a potential problem in Houston, as the Rockets continue push for the top seed in the west. It looked like the Warriors were positioning Jordan Bell to take the starting spot, before his re-injuring his ankle Tuesday.

USA Today

USA Today

Instead of Zaza checking in for Javale, the minutes were given to Bell. He still looked like he was making some of the same mistakes prior to his first injury. He takes humongous chances at shot blocking opportunities, astonishing on the way up but often frightening on the way down. It took a turn for the worst at the end of the third though. In a one on one situation, he was able to pressure D’angelo Russell well, but after a drop off to a man under the rim, went up and came down all too wrong, on his ankle.

Tuesday was a good barometer of who the center minutes should go to. The Nets continually attacked Javale, Kevin Looney and Bell in pick and roll and off switches. It’s what made their 34 to 13 point 2nd quarter look so good. But with Bell or Green at the five, teams are forced to shrink down with the Dubs, and Brooklyn’s small ball unit saw Dante Cunningham and Hollis Jefferson at the big positions. Not quite a fair fight.

We’ll see come playoff time though if they do the right thing and start Bell. I just couldn’t imagine the workout Javale would be getting as the Cavs attack him offensive possession after offensive possession. And while David West is going to pick up some of the load, there’s only so much a 38 year old center can do in the long run. The sooner Bell gets healthy, knock on wood please, the clearer this team’s future will be.

Should we be worried about the Warriors' bench struggles
Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

When a team has four perennial All-stars, and two MVP’s, there isn’t much to warrant a complaint. But when that team has its first losing streak of the season and loses three of their last four games against Western Conference playoff contenders, there’s cause for concern. But with Jordan Bell still out with an ankle sprain, and the continued struggles of Patrick McCaw, the Golden State Warriors could use a spark from one of the young guys.

The season takes a toll on every team, but going to the NBA Finals for three straight years does even more. The Dubs have played a total 62 games in the last three postseason’s, not to mention the 2016 Olympics games where KD, Klay Thompson and Dray all spent their summer in Rio.

But title contenders like Golden State and Cleveland are often so top heavy in their payrolls that solid bench players are nearly impossible to get. The Cavs signed Derrick Rose to a 1 year, $2.1 million deal, and the Warriors signed David West for 1 year, $2.3 million. While the difference in productivity in these two players is obvious, it’s a good measure of the type of guys available.

One of the most favorable ways to acquire cheap talent is by acquiring and stocking up on draft picks. For the teams at the top of the standings, it means that they’ll need to use their lower picks wisely. But Golden State has done so. It started with drafting Draymond Green in the second round, getting Kevon Looney with the 30th overall pick, and then buying the picks that became Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell.

While all three of those young players have shown their potential, there’s only so many minutes to go around. With an abundance of big name vets on cheap deals, and a depleting Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, there isn’t a game changing substitute they can turn to. The last instant offense guy these Warriors had off the bench was Leandro Barbosa, whose now playing for a team in his home of Brazil.