April 28, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson (second from left) instructs in a huddle against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 115-101. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
With Game 5 approaching, the Blue Man Hoop staff took some time to answer some of the nagging questions regarding the Golden State Warriors.
1. Are the Warriors In the Driver’s Seat?
Joe Moore: Yes. Only eight teams in NBA playoff history have come back down 3-1, and the Nuggets do not appear prepared to be the ninth. Denver has not played at a very low-level, but through the first four games the Warriors have simply been superior.
Brian Banifatemi: Yes, Golden State is definitely in the driver’s seat. They are playing much better offensively than the Nuggets are, and their execution is much better as well. To top it all off, they have the best player in the series: Stephen Curry. Curry is one of the most dominant players in the NBA playoffs thus far and the Warriors can go as far as Curry takes them. Up 3-1 in the series, the Warriors have Denver pinned against the wall, desperate to win another game
Haarris Haque: The Warriors are currently riding around with the windows down and the top rolled down. That’s just a testament of how in control they are right now. Only eight teams in history have ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit and those teams were all carried by a superstar, something the Nuggets just don’t have. It is in the Warriors’ best interest to finish Denver off in the next game; it’ll benefit them in the rest department when it comes time to face the Spurs.
Sam Sutton: Of course they are. They’re up 3-1 with three games to play (including one more in Oakland). Only eight teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, and Denver’s defense has struggled to find ways to stop the Warriors’ coterie of shooters. Barring injury (everyone knock on wood for Stephen Curry’s ankle), the Warriors should have the series locked up by game six.
Jerome Keene: How can you not consider a team that is up 3-1, with three straight wins, in the driver’s seat? The Nuggets have no answer for Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack. If they take Andre Iguodala and use him on Curry, Klay Thompson is likely to break loose. Most of all, they cannot match the ferocity of Andrew Bogut. All in all, the Dubs have surprised (except maybe themselves) the basketball world in taking a strangle hold of the series.
Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Andre Iguodala (9) passes the ball around the reach of Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) in the third quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
2. Has Andrew Bogut Won Over Warriors fans?
Banifatemi: Not sure if he has quite yet, but it’s happening, slowly but surely. It was and probably still is hard for people to get over the fact that the team shipped Monta Ellis away, and I was stunned at how many people did not realize that Curry is far better than Ellis. That the Curry/Ellis backcourt would no co-exist. Monta said it himself. But Bogut has played great all postseason long and has shown up big when it matters. He has been an anchor in the paint and has really catapulted this Golden State squad to the next level.
Haque: Andrew Bogut has been absolutely vital to the Warriors. He’s been exactly what management hoped for him to be with his excellent help defense. He’s also provided a spark for the team on offense with his vicious dunks. He’s also played the role of the enforcer, taking no crap from anyone on the Nuggets while sending a message through his tough defense. This is the Bogut that Lacob wanted when he traded Monta Ellis for him.
Sutton: Andrew Bogut’s slow return from several devastating injuries certainly left a lot to be desired during the regular season — the subject of last season’s biggest trade averaged only 5.8 points in 24 minutes per game over the course of the year. The slow return has helped Bogut come back stronger and healthier, however, and that certainly came in handy for the Warriors when David Lee went down with a torn hip flexor.
His performance in the postseason has been impressive. In 27.1 minutes per game, Bogut he has averaged .667 from the field, nine rebounds and 8.3 points. Coupled with his formidable defense in the lane, the Warriors would not have a 3-1 advantage if it weren’t for the play of their big man.
As impressive as his windmill dunk over JaVale McGee was, Bogut’s biggest difference has been on the defensive end. His ability to block shots and protect the rim acts as a strong deterrent to Denver’s lane-heavy offense, something the Warriors lacked with Lee.
Keene: The casual fan, definitely. To basketball junkies, we loved the idea of what Bogut could be but had to wait if it would emerge after he got healthy. For all the excitement Monta Ellis brought to the Bay Area, he left too much to be desired at the other end of the floor. Bogut’s presence is forcing Nugget players to think twice about entering the lane. In addition, his sheer size sticks out with his ability to dunk on everyone (see JaVale McGee).
Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates after the Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 110-108 in game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
3. Is Stephen Curry the MVP Of the Playoffs So Far?
Moore: LeBron James’ continued existence makes it difficult to anoint anyone else, and another dominant performance from Kevin Durant in closing out the Rockets could separate him, but Curry has definitely been one of top few players of the first round. n his first career playoff series, Curry has scored 27.3 points per game on a 66 percent true shooting percentage, and has recorded 10 assists per game on a 38.4 percent assist percentage. Curry will not maintain this pace, but not once in NBA history has a player posted these numbers over a playoff tenure, according to basketball-reference. Curry’s shooting has been even more transcendent than usual, and he has excelled in most other offensive aspects as well. Though he may not be on the MVP, justifiably appearing on the ballot alongside basketball’s elite is a feat beyond impressive for the revolutionary point guard.
Banifatemi: I think so. Curry is averaging over 27.0 points and 10.0 assists while carrying his young team to a 3-1 series lead over the higher-seeded Denver team. Whether it’s an ankle tweak or an eye pile, Curry is always there for his team and never fails to produce big at clutch moments. He has done a magnificent job scoring the ball, especially from downtown, while also setting up his teammates efficiently throughout the series. Denver has had no answer for him and I think that has been one of their biggest problems.
Haque: Stephen Curry has put up an excellent case for playoff MVP in this series. The only people who are even close to his level right now are LeBron and Durant (you can make a case for Carmelo, but he’s been mostly a scorer so far.) Curry has been making big shots and been dishing out dimes to his teammates. The only thing Curry needs to become the undisputed Playoff MVP is defensive improvement, as he’s letting people get by him way too easily.
Sutton: Yes. Through four playoff games, Curry has averaged 27.3 points and 10 assists per game. To put that in context, only five other players in history have averaged more than 25 points and 10 assists in an NBA postseason (Allen Iverson, Tim Hardaway, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson, twice), per ESPN’s Marc Stein. If Curry continues to shoot and distribute at the same pace as he has over the last three games, he’ll have no problem winning this totally made up and arbitrary award (especially if the voters write for a Warriors fan site).
Objectively, Curry’s offensive production in the postseason has been impossible to ignore. As of Monday afternoon, he leads the league in assists and ranks fourth in points per game, fourth in three-point percentage (47.4 percent), fourth in assist percentage (36.4 percent), third in steals (2.8 per game) and fifth in effective field goal percentage (61.8 percent). He is also 15-of-15 from the line.
Some of Curry’s production can be attributed to Denver’s poor perimeter defense. But his ability to move with or without the ball and shoot from practically anywhere on the court has made it almost impossible to defend him for an entire game, especially when Jarrett Jack, Harrison Barnes and/or Klay Thompson are also on the floor.
Keene: LeBron is LeBron. But I think in terms of valuable, Curry is the No. 1 or No. 1 A choice. With him off the floor, the Warriors’ offense seriously lacks to create shots and Mark Jackson coaches the score, knowing he has to rest Curry as much as he can. When the Nuggets go on any sort of run, Curry has to come back in to right the ship. What’s even more amazing is how efficient he has been. He is third in scoring in the playoffs, but has a true shooting percentage of 66 percent. LeBron is at 67 percent, but most of his are layups and dunks. Oh yeah, Curry is also leading the league in assists. MVP? He’s definitely in the running.