By Alvin Halimwidjaya
The Golden State Warriors avoided a three-game losing streak once again. After consecutive losses to the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls, the Warriors continued their road trip in MSG, beating the New York Knicks 112-105 on Sunday, March 5.
Despite the fact that Golden State’s last three-game losing streak came in November 2013, concern and worry loom above the Bay Area faithful. Not only have they lost Kevin Durant to injury for the foreseeable future, but the Splash Brothers are also mired in an unprecedented slump. In the three games before the Warriors’ matchup against the Knicks, perpetual firestorm Stephen Curry had gone cold from deep, shooting 4-31 from the three-point line, while his counterpart, Klay Thompson, had gone 7-33 from beyond the arc. Since no one has seen simultaneous struggles from both members of the Golden State backcourt, everyone is going insane, with haters rejoicing and experts saying that the Warriors might not even make it out of the Western Conference.
Okay, maybe it was just Charles Barkley. But regardless, people are overreacting because, frankly, we’ve never seen these Warriors struggle like this in the regular season. It’s one thing to set Twitter on fire with “3-1 lead” memes and lose to LeBron; it’s quite different to have Marcin Gortat and Paul Zipser contribute to Warriors losses. Imagine if SubCo (or A Crust Above, I guess) suddenly ran out of Ben and Jerry’s. Imagine if it was 40 degrees one day in June. Imagine if you had been eating Chipotle for two years, and one day you had to eat a burrito at McGinley. You’d be feeling how Warriors fans are feeling right now. No one had really expected the Warriors to ever look mortal, let alone beaten, and the pure novelty of their vulnerability has Golden State critics coming out of the woodwork.
Though Kevin Durant’s absence does cause problems, offense is not what people should be concerned about. Stephen Curry went 5-13 from deep against the Knicks, but he also passed Chauncey Billups for 10th in three-pointers made in his eighth season. Everyone else above him has played at least 14 seasons, as well as twice the number of games Curry has played. I doubt we’re ever going to have to worry about Stephen Curry’s shooting stroke, as I have a better chance of reaching the height of an average American male. As for Klay Thompson, he has the record for most points in a quarter in NBA history, as well as the record for the most points in a game in franchise history. Even the best of players go through slumps, and the Splash Brothers will soon be back to terrorizing NBA defenses on the regular.
Instead, the Warriors should be concerned about their own defense. Their main problem when Andrew Bogut left last summer was that they had no interior protection, but Kevin Durant stepped into that role admirably, as he’s averaging a career-high 1.6 blocks per game. However, with him gone, Golden State is back to square one. Though Draymond Green is an incredible player and a leading candidate in the Defensive Player of the Year race, not even the 6’7” chatterbox can do everything for the Warriors. The Warriors give up 44 points in the paint per game, good for 20th in the league, and with their main rim protector gone, they need to focus on patching up the holes inside. Players like Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee need to step up and protect the paint, while younger players like Patrick McCaw and James McAdoo need to be ready to accept a larger role in the rotation.
Kevin Durant is scheduled to possibly return in a month, so the Warriors could be fine, discounting factors like rust and a prolonged recovery; however, the Warriors are certainly talented enough to get through the first round without KD. The Warriors’ main priority should be protecting the first seed in the West. The Spurs are lying in wait behind them, ready to claim homecourt advantage, and if either team wants to beat Lebron and the Cavs, they’ll need it. Regardless, the concern surrounding the Warriors should not be any more than before Durant’s injury and their two-game losing streak, as Golden State remains a juggernaut and the favorite to win the title. Don’t be fooled by their lack of luster at the moment, because the Warriors can still light it up better than anyone else.