Nearly a month into the Warriors season and nothing has changed.
Yes, Golden State has some games after their inauspicious start to the season. Yes, we’ve seen some development from James Wiseman, the return of Draymond Green, and a new role for Eric Paschall. Yes, the Warriors look like a viable playoff team in the Western Conference.
But this team is still overly reliant on Stephen Curry to win. And if that continues for the next few months, there’s not going to be anything left of No. 30 for those playoffs.
Of course, there are far less capable people to carry an entire team out there, but that doesn’t make what the Warriors are doing to Curry fair.
Case in point: Thursday’s game against the Nuggets.
Both teams are now 6-6, but ignore the records. This is all about trajectory. Denver is the kind of team that can beat the Warriors in multiple ways. They’ve taken some time to jell, but they’re a squad that’s on the short list to face the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, as they did in the bubble.
And on Thursday, they stomped the Warriors.
The game wasn’t a blowout, but Denver took a solid eight-point lead with roughly three minutes to go in the first quarter and never looked back. It was a gentlemanly kick in the teeth.
There were spurts and bursts for Golden State, but against a steady hand like Denver’s, those little runs only served to highlight how mercurial the Warriors are.
The only constant? Curry had 35 points on 61 percent shooting. But he was also a team-low minus-21 on the night. Yes, he had four teammates around him, but it was No. 30 against the world.
The Baby Faced Assassin might be a two-time MVP, but the world has a pretty great record against him.
He might not have Anthony Davis or James Harden or even a CJ McCollum, but he could use some help.
Draymond Green has not been a shooting threat all season — he’s averaging four points per game this season — the well-coached Nuggets didn’t bother defending him on the perimeter. Where Green has made an impact is playmaking, but in playing Curry straight-up for most of the night, the Nuggets didn’t subject themselves to short-roll, quick-pass opportunities for the Warriors. Green — who turned in a defensive stinker on Thursday — looked indecisive and lost. Not every team can afford to let Curry have a night like he had — to not go to the “janky” defenses, as Curry calls them — but those who can will surely follow the Nuggets’ script moving forward.
Of course, there could well have been a massive extenuating circumstance with Green on Thursday — one that only applies in two places in the NBA: the altitude.
We still know so little about COVID-19. We do know that playing basketball at altitude, per former Warrior Andre Iguodala, “sucks”.
Green wasn’t himself on Thursday, and the Warriors’ poor performance, particularly on the defensive end, might be as simple as the team having an irregular heartbeat.
But it should also be noted that Andrew Wiggins had a meandering performance, and Kelly Oubre continued to baffle.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also inexplicably played Kevon Looney with Eric Paschall for stretches, ruining the one good, quirky thing Golden State has going for them at the moment: Paschall as a small-ball center.
The two-man pairing of Paschall and Looney is arguably the worst of any of the regular rotation players for the Warriors. In 60 minutes this year, the duo has posted a net rating (difference in points per 100 possessions) of minus-10.
In eight minutes on the floor together Thursday, the duo had a net rating of minus-100. Yes, they averaged 0.5 points per offensive possession and allowed 1.5. How did they get to eight full minutes?
All of that, and seven Curry turnovers did the Warriors in on Thursday.
Or, to put it another way: No one stepped up to help Curry, and No. 30 wasn’t impeccable, so the Warriors lost to a team that eats disjoined squads like that for their late-night snack.
If the Warriors really want to compete with against the best in a league that’s run by duos, then Curry needs a No. 2 in the worst possible way, and it’s going to have to be someone on this roster — I’m looking at you, Wiggins — stepping up on a consistent basis.
And it’s going to take a little less experimentation and a big more pragmatism from Kerr.
Because while ‘Strength in Numbers’ might sell t-shirts, it only works when you have more reliable numbers. The Warriors, at this moment, can only count on one guy.
Contributed by local news sources