With Curry's Ankles Acting Up, We're About to Get Answers on These Warriors - NBC Bay Area

With Curry's Ankles Acting Up, We're About to Get Answers on These Warriors

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    With Curry's Ankles Acting Up, We're About to Get Answers on These Warriors
    Ray Ratto
    With Curry's ankles acting up, we're about to get answers on these Warriors

    There is no more point in bringing up the Golden State Warriors' occasionally slothful habits. They've played three quarters of their season at about 80 percent of throttle and are watching lots of teams with all the stops full out having more fun.
     
    And now Stephen Curry's ankle is officially A Problem.
     
    Maybe not a huge problem, but after Thursday's re-injury against San Antonio, Curry's stems are going to be at the forefront of the team's planning the rest of the way. And that would seem to solve the other issue that has orbited them this year.
     
    When to open up the Maserati for postseason prep.
     
    The time, frankly, is either now, or now-ish. On the assumption that Curry needs time to heal his ankle and can no longer nip off to the golf course to prove that he's tip-top, the Warriors are going to become more star-centric. Kevin Durant will be required to recreate games like Thursday's more often, true, but more pressing, they cannot so easily afford to build big leads that they can subsequently fritter away and turn easy wins into difficult ones.
     
    True, the law of big numbers tells us that not every team in the Western Conference can continue to play .700 basketball (the Lakers) to 1.000 basketball (the Rockets, Pelicans and Trail Blazers). Taking the standings since February 1, we see that eight of the 11 teams have been playing .692 or better, which parcels out to 57 wins. That is clearly not sustainable across the board.
     
    TEAM                               RECORD PCT.
    HOUSTON                          15-0    1.000
    UTAH                                    13-2       .867
    GOLDEN STATE                    11-3 .786
    NEW ORLEANS                     11-3 .786
    LOS ANGELES LAKERS         10-4 .714
    PORTLAND                             10-4 .714
    LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS       9-4 .692
    DENVER                                   9-5 .643
    OKLAHOMA CITY                   8-8 .500
    MINNESOTA                           6-7 .462
    SAN ANTONIO                       3-8 .273
     
    But while the Warriors can clinch a playoff spot by Sunday and one of the top two spots by the end of next week, what they have been chasing all year is their best selves, and in deciding that their best selves are defined in April, May and June they have pushed off the days of reckoning. Those days have finally come, forced by Curry's vulnerability.
     
    And by "days of reckoning," we are speaking of those games where defensive effort does not ebb and flow (they are eighth in points allowed per 100 possessions, which is good but not Warrior-good), and where they don't toss away one of every nine possessions with a turnover, and where they don't give up an early lead and have to play their best guys deeper into the game.
     
    In other words, we have to ask the question we have been kicking down the road all year – just how much better than the rest of the field are these Warriors at their best?
     
    The answer might be that everything we've thought is wrong, and that the gap between them and the rest of the field has closed not because they aren't pushing hard enough but because the Rockets and Blazers and Raptors and Celtics have accurately assessed how to deal with the Warriors in a less acquiescent way.
     
    In sum, maybe the Warriors are just this team, and maybe the rest of the league has closed the gap more than is comfortable for the Warrior fan/media base. I don't know the answer, but I know the question matters now, and without Stephen Curry we are about to get some of those answers.