If you’re looking for the quintessential game the explains the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors, last night’s home loss to the Denver Nuggets was that game. It had everything that has defined the Dubs all year long: signs of spark, thrilling, clutch playmaking from Stephen Curry, key injured players, playing down to the level of their competition, and ultimately, underachieving.
In last night’s 100-99 loss to the shorthanded Nuggets, David Lee missed his seventh straight game with a complex hamstring injury. Curry finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but even his clutch floating layup that put Golden State up by one with 4.7 seconds to play wasn’t enough to get the Dubs the final dub they needed to secure a playoff spot. Because immediately following that shot, Kenneth Faried did this:
The Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks now trail the Warriors by just one game for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Missing a guy like Lee, who averages 9.4 rebounds per game, probably hurt a Golden State team that gave up 25 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets and a monstrous 29 rebounds to Timofey Mozgov (both a personal career-high and an NBA-high for the 2013-14 season). But with Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal both on the floor, there really is no excuse for giving up that many offensive rebounds while being out-rebounded 63-38 by a Denver team playing without Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson or Wilson Chandler.
Considering what was at stake in this game for the Warriors, last night’s lost is even more disheartening. The Dubs’ golden opportunity wasn’t just about locking up a playoff spot. No, more important was the opportunity to move within 1.5 games of the Portland Trail Blazers for the fifth spot in the West. With a head-to-head matchup against the Blazers coming up this Sunday, Golden State could’ve been in a great position to bypass Portland if the Dubs really wanted to. But this is the perpetually unhealthy, continuously maddening Golden State Warriors we’re talking about. Not a team that anyone should actually worry about in the Western Conference playoffs.
That might seem a bit harsh, but which of the top seeds should be scared of playing this Warriors team in the playoffs, especially when the Dubs won’t have home court advantage? The San Antonio Spurs swept the Dubs 4-0 this season by an average margin of 8.5 points. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a 2-1 series lead on the Dubs this year, with the lone loss coming from an Andre Iguodala buzzer beater at home. The Los Angeles Clippers split the season series with Golden State 2-2 and look like Golden State’s most likely first round opponent, but that’s bad news since the Houston Rockets are currently banged up and would’ve been a much friendlier matchup had the Warriors been able to grab the No. 5 spot by season’s end.
Terrible night for Jackson–not because he lost, but because the Clippers are a lot better than the Rockets right now
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 11, 2014
But even if those top four seeds didn’t have such strong records against the Dubs during the regular season, none of them would have much reason to worry too much about Golden State in the postseason. The Warriors haven’t been able to stay healthy long enough to become anything dangerous. Over the last month, the Dubs are just 7-6 and four of those losses have been at home, where the Oracle Arena advantage has seemingly lost its touch. Simply put, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson cannot carry the offense of this Dubs team by themselves.
The Splash Brothers are thrilling to watch when they get hot from downtown and Stephen Curry will certainly provide a thrilling playoff moment or two before the Dubs’ time is done. But without the extra scoring punch of David Lee (who would be excellent coming off the bench, by the way), this Golden State Warriors is just another good defensive team with a middle of the road offense that can’t hold its own without Curry on the floor. That’s not a winning formula for the playoffs, and it’s the main reason why the Golden State Warriors fans shouldn’t expect much more in the playoffs than being an entertaining exit.