Last night the Golden State Warriors were blown out by the San Antonio Spurs 107 to 85. Kevin Durant was already out due to injury, yet Coach Steve Kerr opted to “rest” Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Igoudala. Right. He “rested” them. I think I’ve heard this one before:1
I bet at some point Pinocchio, I mean, Coach Kerr even started believing the real reason Curry, Thompson, Green, and Igoudala weren’t playing was to get them rest. Let’s recap why the rest of us shouldn’t: when Kevin Durant was injured the Warriors were 4 1/2 games up on the second place Spurs in the Western Conference but have gone 2-5 since and are now only a 1/2 game up. Oh, and the difference between the 1st and 2nd seeds is potentially the difference between playing the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz in the first two rounds or playing the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.
I know, or at least think I know, what you’re thinking: if the Warriors were really worried then wouldn’t they double-down on this game and win at all costs? That’s exactly what Coach Kerr wants you to think.
The truth is that, contrary to what a number of sites said immediately following the Durant injury, the Warriors didn’t sign Durant specifically so they were equipped to withstand an injury to Durant. Sorry FiveThirtyEight, but this was just stupid:2
“Last April, after the Warriors had won an NBA-record 73 regular season games, league MVP Stephen Curry left Game 4 of the team’s first-round playoff game with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, after having missed Games 2 and 3 with a sprained ankle. Golden State limped through the remainder of that series and the beginning of the next without Curry, and fought through a tough matchup with Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. But that glimpse of life without Curry in the postseason, and that Curry never really regained his MVP form afterward, made it clear that even the best regular season team in history is vulnerable to injuries at the top of the roster.
To insure against this kind of thing happening again, the Warriors pursued redundancy, signing Kevin Durant in the offseason. . . . But losing a player as good as Kevin Durant, even just for a month, is never a good thing. However, the Warriors are uniquely equipped to handle such a loss, because they’re uniquely stacked.”
With the Warriors 2-5 since Durant was injured this is working out about as well as FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 presidential election predictions. And no, SI, the Durant injury doesn’t just “narrow the margin for error.”3 Who pays these people?! I’m starting to think main stream media types don’t read BTT so let me re-explain: the Warriors were uniquely stacked. As I wrote about back in July,4 the “Strength in Numbers” on the Warrior’s team t-shirts the last couple years wasn’t just a marketing slogan but how their team was built and won.
Those numbers were 40, 12, 31, 19, 4, and 5 or Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, and Marreese Speights. All of them are gone. Last night the Warriors leaders in minutes played were Patrick McCaw, Matt Barnes (who the Warriors signed following Durant’s injury5), Ian Clark, Shaun Livingston, and James Michael McAdoo. That’s not a joke. At least it’s not intended as one.6
Last year’s Warriors were about the numbers and they rarely lost because of them. This year’s Warriors are about the stars and they can’t afford to lose any of them. Worse yet, they can’t afford to lose with them on the court. If you think losing with McCaw, Barnes, Clark, Livingston, and McAdoo on the court was bad, imagine if the Warriors lost with Curry, Thompson, Green, and Igoudala on the court. Coach Kerr wasn’t resting his stars, he was hiding them. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they can rest but they can’t hide forever.