The Golden State Warriors were delivered a major blow last Sunday night when Andrew Bogut broke his ribs in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bogut has been relatively healthy all season but this injury could not come at a worse time for the organization. It appears doubtful that he will be available when the Warriors start their quest for a championship Sunday afternoon against the hated Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers are the worst team the Warriors could have faced in the postseason because of their two dominant big men, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Bogut usually took the challenge of guarding Griffin and David Lee would guard Jordan because Jordan is much less of a scoring threat than Griffin. Bogut has gotten under Griffin’s skin and has caused him to become frustrated to the point where he was ejected from a game earlier this season. The Warriors will now have to rely on Draymond Green in this matchup because Lee is a poor defender and Green is one of the better defenders on Golden State’s roster.
Bogut also prevents penetration from the Clippers’ wing players and the best point guard in the league, Chris Paul. The Warriors will have to be much better defenders on the ball because they won’t have the luxury of relying on the big man to fix their problems. Jermaine O’Neal is a decent defender at the rim but is nowhere near the shot blocker that Bogut is and will be limited due to his age and nagging injuries. Klay Thompson must be able to contain Paul from penetrating the lane and finding Jordan and Griffin for dunks.
The Warriors have the talent to get this accomplished but it will be a very tough task. Last postseason, Bogut burst onto the scene after being a non-factor in the regular season. He averaged eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds per game last postseason, playing with a sprained ankle. He provided Golden State with a presence in the paint on the both ends of the floor. Denver and San Antonio players were intimidated by his presence and opting to take contested jumpers instead challenging the big man at the rim. That intimidation and presence will be greatly missed this postseason but the Warriors do have other weapons and still should be very competitive in this series.
It all starts with the “Splash Brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry is a superstar, who can get his shot off against anyone in the league and is a deadly three-point shooter. He has improved his game immensely by driving the lane, finishing and drawing more fouls. The Clippers have absolutely no one that can stop him so look for him to have a monster series. Thompson has been a revelation in the second half of the season, driving to the rim with reckless abandon, hitting clutch shots and continuing to improve on the defensive end of the court. His defense on Paul will be key to the series and his aggressiveness will be a handful for the Clippers defenders. If the “Splash Brothers” have a huge series, the Warriors may not need their man in the middle because when the Curry and Thompson are clicking on all cylinders, the Warriors can beat anyone.
Other players that will need to step up in Bogut’s absence will be Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Green is one of the most improved players on this Golden State team and he will have to come up big in the postseason because he is more than likely the Warriors’ starting power forward with Lee at the center position. He has shown great strides on the offensive end of the floor, improving his jump shot, three-point percentage and ability to get to the rim.
Barnes has had a terrible season but played well Wednesday night in the regular season finale against Denver. Barnes scored a career-high 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including three of five from three-point range. Barnes has struggled with his shot and his demotion to the bench all season but hopefully the Denver game will give him the confidence he needs for the postseason. Both of these sophomores will have to deal with Griffin, a job that was originally Bogut’s. They will have to use their quickness and length to contest Griffin’s shots to compensate for the lack of strength against the All-NBA power forward.
Will the Warriors miss Bogut during the postseason? The answer is a definite yes but the Warriors may have the weapons to make up for the loss of Bogut. They will have to shoot the ball at a very high percentage, led by Curry, Thompson and Lee. They will have to contain the penetration of the Clippers’ wings and Chris Paul and lastly they will have to frustrate Blake Griffin with their length, quickness and physical play. If they accomplish all these goals, the Warriors should be sitting pretty after the first round and hopefully Bogut’s ribs will be healthy at the start of the second round.