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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Golden State Versus Houston Preview

Western Conference Second Round

#1 Golden State (57-25) vs. #4 Houston (53-29)

Season series: Houston, 3-1

Houston can win if…the Rockets shoot a very high percentage from three point range and if they play consistently engaged and aggressive defense. Two other keys to this series will be Chris Paul's health and James Harden's history of playoff choking.

This is the time of year that Paul typically gets injured and that Harden typically chokes. Paul's injury history is so consistently bad that I have heard several pundits say that the Rockets are better off facing the Warriors now than in the Conference Finals because this way it is more likely that Paul will make it through the entire series. I am not wishing injury on anyone but I do not expect Paul to be fully healthy for the duration of this series; by game three or game four, something will be wrong with him and if the series extends to six or seven games Paul will be out of the lineup or extremely limited.

As for Harden's choking, he has been his usual self in the 2019 playoffs. Last year, Harden averaged 28.5 ppg on .407 field goal shooting leading up to the Golden State-Houston showdown, while this year he has averaged 27.8 ppg on .374 field goal shooting in the playoffs. As I wrote in last year's Golden State-Houston preview, "In Harden's five previous playoff appearances with the Rockets (during only one of which the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals), Harden averaged between 26.3 ppg and 28.5 ppg while shooting between .376 and .439 from the field. He has always been a high variance player, capable of dropping 40-plus points one night and then disappearing the next night, which is why his averages are deceiving--a player who consistently scores at least 20 points but is capable of erupting for 40 is more valuable than a player who averages 26-28 ppg by scoring 45 points one game and seven points the next."

In the first round versus Utah this year, Harden missed 17 straight field goal attempts over a period from the end of game two until deep in the second half of game three but the Jazz were not able to take advantage of Harden's meltdown. Harden missed his first 15 field goal attempts in game three and he finished 3-20, one of the worst high volume shooting performances in playoff history. This is not an anomaly for Harden; he shot 5-21 from the field--including 0-11 from three point range--in game five of the 2018 Western Conference Finals versus Golden State and the Rockets won anyway.

The Rockets will stay the course no matter what in terms of firing up a large number of three point shots and Harden is the poster child for Houston's strategic choice to go all-in on high volume three point shooting; the untold, or seldom told, story here is that the Rockets have assembled a strong, versatile team around Harden, a team that can at times overcome his choking and bricklaying. The Rockets led Golden State in both game six and game seven of the Western Conference Finals last year, only to ultimately be done in by historically bad three point shooting down stretch--which segues directly into why Golden State will win.

Golden State will win because…the Warriors are more than just a high volume three point shooting team. The Warriors, contrary to popular belief, do not represent the culmination of Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" approach with the Phoenix Suns but rather they represent a melting pot of skill-set diverse All-Stars who are productive on offense and attentive to detail on defense. The Warriors' main weakness is that they sometimes get bored/careless, as seen in their game five loss to the L.A. Clippers a few days ago--which was followed by a 129-110 rout to send the Clippers home, during which Kevin Durant scored 38 first half points en route to a 50 point game that could have been a 60 or 70 point game if necessary.

The Warriors won one championship and also had a record-setting 73 win regular season prior to signing Durant but the Durant acquisition turned this team into one of the greatest dynasties in pro basketball history (we will not know exactly how great until the run comes to an end, but the Warriors on a very short list for sustained championship excellence already, alongside Russell's Celtics, the Magic/Kareem Lakers, the Jordan/Pippen Bulls and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers). Durant is a front-runner who left a perennial championship contender to put the final touches on the Death Star (not to say that the Warriors are evil but rather that they have the ability to destroy other teams the way that the Death Star destroyed planets)--but whatever one thinks of his personal/business choices there is no denying his greatness as a basketball player; he has won the last two Finals MVPs and he is off to a sensational start this postseason, averaging 35.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.2 bpg versus the Clippers with great shooting splits (.567/.400/.949).

Stephen Curry is a great player in his own right, but Size--Specifically, Height--Matters in the NBA and Durant is nearly seven feet all while Curry is 6-3; Durant can literally and figuratively reach heights that Curry cannot. Curry averaged 24.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 5.2 apg versus the Clippers while shooting .500/.500/.973. He tweaked his right ankle during the game six win, which could easily be the greatest damage caused by Golden State's careless approach to game five; by not putting the Clippers away when they could have and should have, the Warriors had to play an extra game and Curry got hurt in that extra game. Mess around with the "basketball gods" and the "basketball gods" may mess around with you. The Clippers are a scrappy and well-coached team but there is no way that they should have won a game against the Warriors, let alone two games at Golden State. Carelessness and/or injuries are the only things that could derail Golden State versus Houston.

If the Warriors are focused and relatively healthy, they will win in five games, max; if they lose focus and/or if more than one of their main guys are limited (the Warriors can survive the loss of DeMarcus Cousins and can even win with a hobbled but still active Curry) then this series could go the distance. If the Warriors lose focus, lose two of their main guys to injury, Chris Paul stays healthy and James Harden does not choke at all then the Rockets can win.

In other words, do not count on Houston winning this series.

Other things to consider:  The Rockets have made it abundantly clear for quite some time that their primary organizational goal is to construct a team to beat the Warriors. Thus, by virtue of their own beliefs and statements, we know that Harden's gaudy regular season numbers are meaningless, as is Houston's regular season winning percentage. This team was put together to (1) beat Golden State in the playoffs and then (2) win a championship.

I still do not believe that Harden will win a championship as his team's main player, so there is a fundamental flaw in the basis of how Daryl Morey constructed this team. That being said, Morey has done a very good job of surrounding Harden with players who complement Harden's skills and minimize Harden's weaknesses. The Rockets are loaded with tough guys who can make three pointers, play gritty defense and not mind that most of the shine and dollars go to Harden, with most of the remaining shine and dollars going to Paul. Morey has pushed his chips to the table and gone all-in on the Harden-Paul duo, which means that the Rockets will be paying Paul max money well into his declining years. If Houston wins at least one title, Morey is vindicated--but if Houston does not win at least one title, then Morey will have spent an incredible amount of money just to tweak conventional wisdom by showcasing a gimmicky All-Star/gimmicky style of play.

The way to beat the Warriors, as shown by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, is to go big, slow the game down and pound them in the paint. The Warriors have too much perimeter talent to beat them in a fast paced game featuring a lot of three point shooting.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:29 PM



At Saturday, April 27, 2019 4:38:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I agree with most of this, but I don't know if GSW can win with a meaningfully hobbled Curry.

That said, I expect the Warriors to win this in 5 barring injury concerns. Houston had a lot of luck last year with Curry coming in hobbled, Iggy missing several games, and KD taking a few games to figure out how to marry his individual offensive brilliance with the wider team concept. I don't foresee any of those issues repeating here.

I think Houston misses Ariza more than people realize. PJ Tucker is a good player but also a knucklehead (trust me, I watched him for many years in Phoenix), Ariza is a savvy veteran with meaningful big game experience who consistently correlated very highly with Houston's success when he was on the team.

At Sunday, May 05, 2019 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

That might have been the best game of Kevin Durant's playoff career... and the worst of Curry's.

Have to assume the greatest shooter of all-time suddenly shooting 25% from deep (on mostly open looks, even) for two games has something to do with the finger injury, but it's still terrible timing.

If you wanted to make a case against Curry being the best player on the Warriors, you'd probably want to start with his bad habit of getting banged up in the playoffs.

That said, it says something about the way the Warriors work that Kevin Durant going nova-mode (and strong games from Iggy and Draymond) just isn't enough when the Splash Bros aren't on.

If Steph can get his mojo back even a little, Houston is screwed; they've built a team specifically to try and contain him and Klay, with a bunch of rangy guards who can switch screens on the perimeter... but those kind of guards can't do crap against Kevin Durant. Durant's not a great passer and you can flummox him some with a double team if you're quick enough about it, but you can't risk that when Curry is himself. Houston was able to get away with it some in crunch time last night.

Ideally, teams have to choose whether they're trying to stop Steph, or they're trying to stop KD. That's what makes the Warriors so deadly; you can't really stop both of them with the same defense. Unless one of them stops himself.

Curious to see if/when Curry recovers. We also haven't had any of Harden's traditional poop-the-bed games in this series yet, so I imagine at least one of those is coming. But if Curry is now Kyle Lowry, Houston might just have a puncher's chance.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 1:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Two things that I am strongly disinclined to do while a playoff series is not over are (1) Change my pre-series prediction (assuming that there have not been serious injuries and/or suspensions to swing the balance, I have great faith in the reasoning behind my original analysis and I expect the correctness of that analysis to be borne out by the end of the series) and (2) significantly change my rankings of individual players based on a handful of games. Perhaps it makes for nice clickbait to talk about a particular playoff game being "THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF PLAYER X's CAREER" (Windhorst just pulled out that card regarding Giannis but Windhorst is far from the only one who commits this crime against basketball sanity) but I stay away from making such proclamations.

That being said, after three games of the Portland-OKC series, I recall you being ready to move Lillard way up in your rankings while moving Westbrook way down. Certainly by the fifth and final game of that series you had convinced yourself of both notions. Some media members did the same or similar moves on their ranking lists as well.

So, if you are going to be consistent and prove that you do not have some kind of anti-Westbrook or pro-Curry bias, then you have painted yourself into a corner from which the only way out is to (1) hit the reset button on your overreactions to the Portland-OKC series or (2) start talking about how awful Curry has been, how the Warriors would be down 3-0 now if not for Durant pretty much single-handedly carrying the offense and how Curry is moving downward in your rankings because of his physical fragility, his bad shooting percentages, his defensive lapses and his numerous ill-timed/dumb fouls.

The notion that Curry is even in the same conversation as Durant just looks silly; Durant is stringing together 30-40-50 point playoff games like some combination of late 60s Rick Barry/prime Michael Jordan and Curry is just along for the ride (the distinction between 1 and 2 on this team is much clearer than it was during most of the time that Durant and Westbrook played together).

Now, if you are going to be consistent, you are not going to say one word about Curry's regular season prowess ("I want guys who can produce in the playoffs" you have said over and over) and you are going to admit that fading in the postseason is a trend for Curry, who owns three championship rings and zero Finals MVPs. The Warriors went after Durant not because Curry needed a sidekick but because they needed to turn Curry into the sidekick (and Thompson into the third option).

My opinions have not changed much after three games; I already knew that Durant was GSW's best player--but if you don't come down hard on Curry, with no excuses, then it will be evident just how biased all of your words about Westbrook were.

You can't take the position that only the playoffs matter and that three playoff games are a reasonable sample size but then just gloss over how terrible Curry has been so far in this series.

When considering strength of opposition, it is also worth mentioning that the TNT guys have consistently called Portland a "clear and present danger" to win the West and perhaps the deepest team in the conference. I picked Denver to beat Portland and I stand by that pick but there is a reason that Portland had the better seed than OKC and was favored to win that series (I made the mistake of picking OKC because I overestimated the importance of the loss of Nurkic and I thought that McCollum was more seriously injured than he was).

At Monday, May 06, 2019 6:01:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


For someone who keeps saying how done he is talking about the Portland/OKC series, you sure are in a hurry to re-litigate it yet again. Once more into the breach, I suppose.

I agree that the Warriors would be down at least 2-1 and possibly 3-0 in this series if not for Durant. It is difficult to prognosticate how Game 1 would go if you redistribute the 37 or so possessions KD used, but Curry was not yet hurt in that game so I hesitate to give it to the Rockets straight-up, especially given the way they were melting down emotionally in crunchtime.

I agree as well, and think I made clear in my previous post, that Curry's apparent fragility is a big problem, and probably his greatest weakness.

That said, there is a clear distinction to be drawn between "this thing that sometimes applies is the worst thing about a guy who has won three rings and was the best player on at least two (and in my opinion four) Finals teams" and "these several things that always apply are the worst thing about this guy who's never been the best guy on a second rounder."

"I recall you being ready to move Lillard way up in your rankings while moving Westbrook way down."

This is half-true. Lillard moved way up because he shored up the biggest knock I had against him (defense) and stopped actively hurting his team. Westbrook moved down but only a spot or two because (1) Lillard clearly surpassed him, at least for this season and (2) for the second year in a row he had a strong or at least respectable supporting cast and still couldn't beat a very beatable (in my opinion) Portland team, and both his lack of defense and poor shooting once again undid his team in crunch time.

"The notion that Curry is even in the same conversation as Durant just looks silly; Durant is stringing together 30-40-50 point playoff games like some combination of late 60s Rick Barry/prime Michael Jordan and Curry is just along for the ride (the distinction between 1 and 2 on this team is much clearer than it was during most of the time that Durant and Westbrook played together). "

I disagree with almost all of this except for the part in the middle complimenting Durant's run. He is on a hell of a tear. It is also obvious that he is able to go on such a tear partially due to the ecosystem Golden State (read: largely Curry) provides for him. He's playing a team so terrified of Curry they're emptying the paint and guarding KD with shooting guards. I keep trying to explain to people (not usually you, I think you mostly get it) just how easy the very concept of Curry makes it for everyone around him, and KD-- while great on his own merits-- is a major beneficiary.

Consistently for the last three years, KD (and GSW generally) has shot much better with Curry on the floor. Even in this series, with Curry playing some of the worst ball of his career, he's making life easier for KD, who's shooting 10% better with Curry on the floor than off of it.

For the series, KD is +0 and Steph is +12. Small sample size, +/- is noisy, yada yada yada but this is the case with them more often than not for three years. That's the thing about Steph; even when he's off, he has immense value because defenses have to contort out of respect for him.

The Warriors as a whole? Shooting 18% better with Curry on the court in this series in spite of his inability to make anything (though thanks to his own brickery, they're shooting better from 3 without him as a team). KD doesn't have the same rising tide effect on the offense (they're actually shooting better overall with him off the court than on it). All of that (barring the parentheticals) has been pretty consistently the case for the last three years, too. THAT'S why Curry's ultimately better than KD; it's about so much more than their respective individual numbers.


At Monday, May 06, 2019 6:02:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Looping it back around: KD is playing brilliantly, and Curry is playing like crap. If both things stay true, the Warriors might lose this series. If Curry gets it together, they'll win. If he doesn't and KD turns mortal, they'll certainly lose.

If indeed Curry's injury costs his team a playoff series that will affect the calculus on where to place him. It'd be the second time his fragility cost them a ring (and the third or fourth it was at least a factor in the playoffs, though we tend to be forgiving when guys ultimately overcome their issues and win anyway).

However, he'll still have three rings, and a proven track record as the best guy on a contending team. Until RWB makes some noise in the playoffs as his team's best guy, he doesn't have much business being seriously compared to Curry. Curry has demonstrated more postseason success more recently by an absolutely cartoonish margin (and his shooting feats are every bit as unique and rare as RWB's triple doubles), so he has a bit more rope. If he costs the Warriors a series this year, he'll have a little less (though his playoff resume will still dwarf RWB's).

It is also worth noting for the record that Curry made some uncharacteristic defensive mistakes in Game 3 (particularly in the third quarter). I am curious to see if that is a blip or a trend.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 6:11:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Incidentally, as someone who gets deeply offended whenever a commenter (and you'll note it isn't ever me) accuses you of bias, I'd appreciate it if you'd keep our arguments about basketball instead of resorting to accusing me of bias. We disagree sometimes, and that's fine, but it's a bit insulting when you suggest that such disagreement is because I'm biased, rather than because we disagree on exactly how to weight different factors.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 8:50:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Don't think I addressed this comment in my last reply:

"You can't take the position that only the playoffs matter and that three playoff games are a reasonable sample size but then just gloss over how terrible Curry has been so far in this series."

I mean, I said it was the worst game of his career, compared him to famously playoff-crappy Kyle Lowry, and said they can't win if he plays like this. I don't think that's glossing. The distinction between he and RWB is that this is an aberration for Curry, who's normally elite in the playoffs (26 ppg on 45/41/90 for his career w/ three rings and four Finals appearances), whereas with RWB his failings against Portland were the same old song he sings every year: bad defense, iffy volume shooting, and predictable crunch-time chuckery.

There's also a pretty clear root cause for Curry. The injury thing is his greatest weakness, but at least it's a weakness that doesn't always come up. RWB's issues, on the other hand, you can set your watch by.

All that said, if Curry plays like this for three years, it'll absolutely hurt his standing.

Heck, in spite of those two (very) bad games, he's still shooting 45/40/94 for the playoffs this year, any one of which would be a decade-high for RWB.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 9:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not "relitigating." My overall position on both players is very clear based on several years' worth of articles, and I have not seen anything this postseason that materially changes my view of either player.

The point of my comment is to attempt to establish a framework for possible dialogue in the future. I feel very strongly that you are applying different standards to different players, while I am consistently applying the same standards; you may think that my conclusions are wrong, but I use the same methods and standards across the board as opposed to having different methods and standards for different players.

When it comes to comparing Curry with Westbrook, I think that you give Curry much greater benefit of the doubt than you give Westbrook. If you are going to speak of Curry's gravity and how his presence elevates his teammates or makes the game easier for them even when he is shooting poorly then you should also acknowledge that Westbrook's ability to rebound like a center, push the ball up court before the defense is set and find open teammates (he has led the league in assists twice, with other top 10 finishes as well) also provides great value even when he is shooting poorly. Maybe Curry's shooting is more valuable, maybe Westbrook's all-around dominance is more valuable; there is a discussion to be had in those margins--but you elevate Curry to near-Pantheon status while dismissing Westbrook as a bad shooter who shoots too much. If you are going to laud Curry's impact on others then also acknowledge that George had his best season ever, by far, alongside Westbrook--and George chose to play with Westbrook when he could have played with LeBron James!

Also, let's not get carried away about the value of shooting compared to the value of being the number one option, or the value of all-around greatness compared to the value of shooting. Durant is the number one GS option, and Curry is the number two option. There is a reason for that, and there is a difference in their roles. Westbrook has a consistent impact as a volume scorer, a rebounder and a passer. While he does not have Curry's shooting range, Westbrook has his own form of "gravity" that creates space and opportunity for his teammates.

John Paxson and Steve Kerr provided spacing that helped Jordan and Pippen but they were not more valuable than Jordan and Pippen. That is an extreme example, as obviously Curry is a much better player than Paxson or Kerr, but let's not confuse even Curry's tremendous gravity with the impact of being the number one option. Durant is carrying the Warriors in the postseason now, and he has been carrying them in the postseason since he arrived two-plus years ago. The past two-plus seasons/postseasons have brought Durant closer to Pantheon status but have at best been neutral for Curry in that regard. Curry is mercilessly targeted on defense in the playoffs, his body often breaks down in the playoffs and he does not affect the game as much or in as many ways as Durant. There is literally no one who can guard Durant and no defense that can stop him; he can use his size and his ballhandling to get an open look whenever he wants.

Even with Houston's questionable tendencies in clutch moments, I am comfortable saying that this would be a 3-0 series for the Rockets right now if you took Durant out of the picture. You seem oblivious to Durant's gravity. Do you think that all of the attention is going to Curry and none to Durant? Without Durant, Curry would have fewer open shots and his body would be breaking down even more because he would have to carry a heavier load.

I think that there are certain kinds of players/playing styles who you enjoy so much that you overvalue their impact; I am thinking specifically of Nash, Dragic and Curry. I value what each of those players do/did but I don't rank any of them nearly as highly as you do.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


" I feel very strongly that you are applying different standards to different players"

I am applying different standards than you are, but I am consistent in my own standards. I want guys to play on both ends of the court, and I want them to help their teams win in the playoffs.

I pretty consistently compliment Westbrook's rebounding and passing and agree they are assets. I do not think they are the same kind of asset as Curry's shooting/off-ball movement, which more-or-less guarantees a Top 2 level offense with or without Durant, and I think they are partially mitigated by his negatives, particularly his defense.

I have previously noted (although not in this specific thread) that Curry does benefit from Durant's presence, but not nearly to the same extent Durant benefits from his (at least by the numbers). There are a few reasons for this:

1) Durant does not move as well without the ball as Curry does. His impact on spacing is more similar to a Kerr or Paxson; he occupies his defender off-ball but does not much contort the defense. When he has the ball, he does contort the defense, much like Kobe or Jordan or any other perimeter scorer does.

2) His range is not as deep as Curry's, so teams do not have to guard him as far out as they do Curry.

3) As a ballhandler, Durant is not as skilled of a passer as Curry is (though their raw assist numbers were similar this year, the degree of difficulty on the kind of passes they make is very different), so he can not help set up Curry as well as Curry can help set him up.

Curry is a relentless off-ball mover who regularly occupies two defenders (freeing teammate) by darting towards/around/away form screens. Almost whenever he wants, he can pretty much create a switch or a numbers advantage without ever touching the basketball. If you gave him an assist for every time he got his teammates open without even needing the ball and it led to a score, he'd likely double RWB's total. This makes the Warriors nearly impossible to guard.

It's that ability that makes the Warriors offense so special, and it's why Currys' On/Offs have been better than Durant's every year they've been together. Durant has immense value as a scorer but he has relatively little impact on his teammates' level of play. Curry has immense value for both (as did Nash, and to a lesser extent, peak Dragic; you are skeptical of these kind of causal relationships, and you're free to remain so, but the numbers are consistently on my side of this issue).

Curry has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can lead a team to a ring without Durant. Durant cannot say the same. Nor can Westbrook. Additionally, the Warriors have consistently, for three years, played much better in minutes with Curry, no Durant than the opposite... because Curry makes everyone else better, while Durant is "only" individually brilliant.

As for Westbrook, the issue is larger than just his shooting. It's that there are predictable, consistent ways in which he hurts his team which put a ceiling on how much he can help them; Durant and Curry do not have that sort of downside. As much value as his passing provides he gives a lot of that value back with his defense, turnovers, and shooting. He has not had the same kind of consistent positive correlation with his teams' performance that Curry has, particularly in the playoffs where they've often played better without him than with him (negative playoff On/Offs in the past two seasons, for example).

As for making his teammates better, he absolutely deserves credit for getting the best out of George... but George is the exception, not the rule. Almost everyone else he's played with (including KD) has done better work elsewhere.

He does generally positively correlate to his team's offense but he also negatively correlates to their defense, and their offense never quite rises to the level of Curry's, even when he had Durant and Curry didn't.

At Monday, May 06, 2019 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Supporting data of how various players shoot with/without Durant and Curry.

'17 Durant: +1%, +1 3pt%
'17 Curry: +5%, +8% 3pt
'18 Durant: +1%, -2% 3pt%
'18: Curry: +9%, +10% 3pt
'19 Durant: +2%, +1% 3pt%
'19 Curry: +4%, +8 3pt%


'17 Durant: +4%, +2 3pt%
'17 Curry: +8%, +9 3pt%
'18 Durant: +5%, +5 3pt%
'18: Curry: +5%, +1 3pt%
'19 Durant: +7%, +8 3pt%
'19 Curry: +1%, +11 3pt%


'17 Durant: -9%, -5 3pt%
'17 Curry: +10%, -5 3pt%
'18 Durant: -11%, -24 3pt%
'18: Curry: +5%, -7 3pt%
'19 Durant: +6%, +9 3pt%
'19 Curry: -6%, -3 3pt%

So we see Klay has a massive correlation with Curry. Draymond benefits inside a bit from Durant drawing doubles, but also benefits from Curry. Iggy's numbers are all over the map (potentially due to his declining skills athleticism changing what's a "good" shot for him? Just a guess, could be something else) but shot better with Curry 2/3 seasons.

How about the team as a whole?

'17 Durant: +4%, +2 3pt% (+15.7 Net RTG, +9.6 On/Off)
'17 Curry: +4%, +8 3pt% (+17.7 Net RTG, +20.4 On/Off)
'18 Durant:+3%, +3 3pt% (+7 Net RTG, +2.8 On/Off)
'18: Curry: +4%, +7 3pt% (+13.2 Net RTG, +13.1 On/Off)
'19 Durant: +5%, +3 3pt% (+11.3 Net RTG, +15.5 On/Off)
'19 Curry: +4% +5 3pt% (+14.1 Net RTG, +15.5 On/Off)

Every year the team's been better with Curry than Durant by Net Rating, and Durant's never beaten Curry by On/Offs (though they did tie this year, owing largely to Durant having a greater chunk of Curry-free minutes to go against thanks to Steph's injury, I'm guessing).

At Wednesday, May 08, 2019 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Here's a great video on exactly what I've been talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuP6-puSfRs

It's got a lot of good tape examples of how Curry warps defenses off-ball and opens things up for KD.

One stat the video-maker was able to find that I couldn't (covers only the last three years):

GSW margin w/ just Durant: +2.4

GSW margin w/ just Curry: +12.4

GSW margin w/ both: +15.9

Pretty big difference, right?

Additionally he points out that as great as KD has been against Houston that's come almost entirely with Steph on the court; during the minutes without Steph, his True Shooting drops to 52% (vs.high 60s when Curry is there).

At Thursday, May 09, 2019 1:32:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

First of all, fingers crossed Durant is ok. Shaq and Chuck don't seem to think so, unfortunately.

Second, Curry's shot is still broken (and apparently this was already the worst four-game shooting stretch of his career). That's not good news for Game 6. The good news for Golden State is that (1) he was able to make just enough to get them through the fourth quarter (12 points), (2) his defense returned to normal and (3) his off-ball value remained super high, as he kept pulling Capela/Tucker out of the paint to clear out for Durant in the first half, then opening up room for Draymond/Klay in the fourth, as evidenced by his +9 for the game.

Klay finally got going, but we knew that was coming sooner or later. Harden shot well but had a lot of defensive lapses and largely evaporated during the fourth quarter.

If Durant is done, it hurts the Warriors in a lot of ways (particularly if Curry can't get his shot right). The overall offense will likely be ok (especially if Curry gets his shot back) but the Warriors can no longer play a five-man lineup without a weak-link on either end, and they'll need to figure out what their offense is when Curry's on the bench.

That said if Curry can get it going even at his "average" level, the Warriors will likely still win the series. That's a huge if, and they may need a Houston choke-job on offense in one of the last two games (but they're fairly likely to get one) with a lot more defensive minutes likely for Jonas Jerebko and Kevin Looney.

Lot of pressure on Houston now. It's an elimination game against a team they were built to beat missing either their second best (my opinion) or best (other opinions) player with the other one of those two guys playing without his greatest weapon. I can't shake the feeling they might crumble (Tucker and Gordon likely excepted) if Golden State starts cooking.


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