The Golden State Warriors keep their steady march towards the NBA finals while Stephen Curry is resting. Without him, it seems the advantages and mismatches this team creates are even greater, with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green taking advantage of the opportunity to show how good they are, for those who needed convincing.
So this was basically the game: The Warriors running to a 20-point lead, the Blazers narrowing it down to nine, the Warriors running away again in the third quarter and then the Blazers coming back in the fourth to make it seem a bit more respectable, but doing nothing except getting some garbage time points. Nothing changed due to this game. The Blazers aren’t worse off, the Warriors are in their usual position. Better than their opponents by quite a wide margin.
But this game was probably the finest example of not just how good the Warriors are regardless of Stephen Curry being on the floor or not. It was an example of how good Klay Thompson is. We’ve been hearing (and writing) about Draymond Green all season, letting Thompson slip a little bit into the background. But a 6’8 shooting guard who is one of the best players in the NBA on both sides of the floor proved how big of a mismatch nightmare he is, and we should stop being surprised.
Thompson made it so playing C.J. McCollum seemed like a weakness for the Blazers. The backcourt of Shaun Livingston and Thompson terrorized Damian Lillard and McCollum. Along with Green, all three of them finished with +21 during their minutes or better. And there aren’t a lot of teams in the NBA capable of dealing with that kind of length, size, offensive talent and intelligence. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing teams drafting big backcourt players in the very near future, or simply turn small forwards into shooting guards. The key to playing small ball is having size in other positions other than center.
Thompson finished with 37 points. He’s averaging 25.7 points per game in the playoffs, looking like a very different player compared to last year’s postseason and especially the Finals series. He has made 21 three pointers over the last three games, shooting 58.3% from beyond the arc. Slowing down the Warriors has worked a bit better for the Blazers and the Houston Rockets in the previous series, but the Warriors, like life, always find a way to make teams do something foolish for two or three possessions, and then when you look up at the scoreboard, it’s a blowout again.
Green finished with a 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists triple double. He had 3 blocks and was destroying the Blazers all game long, bringing his best in the finish. The Warriors are an incredible 25.6 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court compared to his resting minutes. Along with Thompson, although the excellence isn’t limited to these two players alone, he keeps the Warriors with what looks like the best 1-2 punch in the NBA outside of San Antonio. And all this without the man who is going to win the MVP for a second straight season.
This story for the Warriors could have gone in a lot of different directions. But it’s going on a very clear path. Towards not just a second consecutive NBA championship, but one of the more dominant ones ever achieved as well. Curry is a phenom, although it took him time to get there. But the real problems teams will begin trying to deal with because it seems like they can will be building teams capable of handling the size and talents of Thompson and Green. Too bad that except for probably one, it’s not going to happen until at least next season.