Perhaps Game 5 served the Golden State Warriors a friendly reminder: Their backcourt is the backbone to their success.
It’s not an exact theory, but it’s pretty close. We’re dealing with numbers highly influenced by just a short span of games, but when both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggle, the Warriors’ ship sinks.
Lately, they’ve both struggled:
Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson combined for 13 Pts, tied for fewest they’ve combined for this season in a game in which both of them played.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2013
Take Game 5, for example. Thompson scored a grand total of four points on 2-of-8 shooting in 36 minutes of action, and Curry scored a playoff-low nine points.
The Warriors lost by 18, and in ugly fashion, may I add.
The Spurs’ defense attacked Curry, forcing him to the sidelines. In his 35 minutes of play, not at one point did he look comfortable. His wobbly left ankle ankle obviously plays a part in that, but the Spurs’ defense deserves credit as well. Thompson, meanwhile, was bludgeoned by Kawhi Leonard.
That’s just one example, though. Let’s dig for another one.
Take Game 6 of the first round as the next piece of evidence. Thompson managed to muster only seven points, but Curry scored 22 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Add a check mark next to this example–one of them performed well while the other struggled.
In Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets, Curry struggled for a change. The Nuggets held him to a meager 15 points on 1-of-6 shooting from three-point range. But Thompson chipped in 19 points to partially compensate for Curry’s hiccup, and the Warriors won.
And finally, our last example goes all the way back to Game 3 of the first round when Thompson scored six points. Curry, you guessed it, scored 29 points and tallied 11 assists in the process. Add another check.
Hopefully you’re seeing the trend. That trend in a nutshell: Curry and Thompson can’t struggle simultaneously. It’s simply not a formula that’s going to produce wins with David Lee on the shelf, as Curry and Thompson account for a good chunk of the team’s points. And that’s obvious, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month.
Further complicating that trend is Curry’s left ankle sprain, which has hampered his mobility and in turn, his effectiveness. In the wake of this, Jarrett Jack has become Golden State’s primary ball handler, which has pitted it’s good and bad moments. Sure, most will instantly recall the “boos” that Oracle Arena erupted with after Jack turned the ball over a couple of times during the fourth quarter of Game 3. He’s bounced back nicely, though.
Perhaps Thompson could share a load of the ball-handling duties. His play-making abilities have improved significantly since the outset of the season. He’s clearly improved his ball-handling skills too. His mental decisions, well, are still up for debate. Also consider that Leonard’s harassing defense hasn’t provided Thompson with any breaks.
After all, Thompson took only eight shots in Game 5, a large disparity from his average of 15.4 looks entering Tuesday. So, putting the ball in his hands before Leonard settles could benefit him on some level.
But if Thompson can’t absorb the constant pressure that Leonard applies while he’s moving without the ball, it’s up for debate whether he will be able to handle the same pressure when he needs to make a quick move with the ball in his hands. While I did mention that he has improved his handles, they still aren’t great, for a lack of a better word.
Regardless of who does what and when, the Warriors will need something out of their backcourt to have any shot at knocking off the Spurs in Game 6, and Game 7, if they get that far, of course.