I’ll get to Curry in a moment, but I want to mention first that I thought these were two amazingly competitive efforts that the Warriors gave on the road against the Knicks and the Celtics, two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, regardless of record.
Particularly given the fact that they didn’t have David Lee in either game.
What’s that you say? David Lee played against the Celtics? No, that wasn’t David Lee you saw. That was a guy who could barely lift his left arm above his shoulder. Whom I don’t believe even made a shot with his left hand. That must be one heck of a shoulder bruise. And let’s hope it’s just that, and not a strain or a tear.
What you saw playing tonight was David Lee’s heart. The heart that never goes away, never takes a game off. 19 rebounds. Who could fail to respect this man?
Stephen Curry: Coming into this game, I was afraid that Curry might have a rough game. And although it might look like he did, according to the box score, I don’t fault him for his poor shooting night one bit. I was actually impressed by his game. For two reasons:
The first is of course the unavailability of David Lee in the pick and roll. The Celtics were overplaying Curry wildly, determined to run him off the line, and trap him. Usually in that situation, David Lee is Curry’s number one outlet and weapon. Curry swings the ball to Lee, and the Warriors play 4 on 3 with Lee at the point. Or Lee just buries the open 18 footer.
Well, Lee was nowhere to be seen tonight setting picks for Curry. Apparently, that shoulder is really, really bad, and the Warriors didn’t want him to aggravate it by banging it setting screens. Not to mention that he couldn’t shoot from outside anyway.
The second reason Curry impressed me is what he did to Avery Bradley. It can’t be overstated how great an on-ball defender Bradley is. He has achieved near-legendary status in Beantown already, in parts of 2 injury-riddled seasons. And since Rondo went down, he has stepped into the breach and helped this Celtics team go on an amazing run.
Curry destroyed him. I’m not joking. His shot clearly wasn’t available, as tightly as Bradley was covering him, but Curry took the challenge and got the better of Bradley. How? By making him pay for his overplays with clever lean-ins, on dribble drives, on three point shots, and simply bringing the ball up the court. Curry put 5 fouls on Bradley by early in the third quarter, and went to the free throw line 10 times as a result. On other nights, with a team coming along for the ride, Curry’s effort might have been enough to steal the game.
This could very well be a threshold moment for Curry. That moment occurred at Madison Square Garden for those who don’t watch him much, or never understood what they were watching, or forgot his rookie season under Don Nelson. The MSG performance was a threshold moment in how Curry is perceived around the league.
But going to the foul line 10 times against a defender of Bradley’s quality? That could be a threshold moment in Curry’s game. Drawing fouls and getting to the line has been a weakness in Curry’s game thus far in his career. If this game creates an aha moment in Curry’s mind regarding his ability to get in the lane and draw fouls, that could be very bad news for the rest of the league.
And vault Stephen Curry into the most elite rank of NBA basketball player there is:
The Myth of Warriors Depth: We know how badly the Warriors need Curry on the court to win. 48 minutes against the Knicks. 42 in this game. We learned how badly they need Jarret Jack on the last road trip. And on this road trip, we’re learning how badly they need David Lee.
In fact, the Warriors have to almost completely change their offense when Lee is unavailable, or injured as in this game. In his role as high pick setter, and high-post triple threat extraordinaire, he is the fulcrum of the Warriors offense, the spoke around which it revolves.
Depth? Let’s not kid ourselves. What the Warriors have accomplished this season was accomplished with a handful of remarkable veterans. And a remarkable rookie by the name of Festus Ezeli.
Jack: Where’d he go? J.Hammer has turned into J.Rabbit.
The Brand: I’ll let the obvious flaws in Barnes’ game go on this night, in celebration of his first appearance in weeks. This was probably the most energetic effort that Barnes has given this season. Are you pleased by that, or disturbed that you never knew he had this gear?
In the NBA, you have to give everything you’ve got, every single game.
Like David Lee.
Klay Thompson: Klay has struggled badly with his shot lately, and has been put under a microscope by Warriors fans. My advice: take a deep breath.
Remember that shooting slumps happen, even to Ray Allen. Remember that Klay is literally the fourth option in crunch time for this Warriors team, which makes it tough to maintain a rhythm. Remember that the Warriors are in their dog days, with two torturous road trips in the last month that have worn everyone down. Particularly the young players, who don’t know everything there is to know about NBA conditioning. Remember that he’s frequently being used to guard point guards, like Parker and Westbrook.
And try to enjoy the fact that for a guy with 120 games under his belt, he has an incredible hoops IQ, an incredible handle, incredible court vision and incredible passing ability. In short, he has an incredible floor game.
Take this game, for instance. 9 rebounds. 4 assists. And a blocked shot.
Barnes has 1 blocked shot in his last 24 games.
Oops, I wasn’t going to go there.