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sport / / BANG/Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a serious reality check

o BANG/Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a serious realAllen

BANG/Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a serious reality check


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From: (Allen)
Subject: BANG/Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a
serious reality check
Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2024 19:08:57 -0700
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 by: Allen - Sun, 14 Apr 2024 02:08 UTC

Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a serious
reality check
Golden State Warriors: The Dubs can't beat top teams and that seems like
a pretty significant problem heading into the postseason.
>New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) is guarded by Golden State
Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins (22), Friday, April 12, 2024, at Chase Center
in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

PUBLISHED: April 13, 2024 at 5:00 a.m. | UPDATED: April 13, 2024 at
10:05 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — The once-surging Warriors ran into a big man and their
biggest problem this season on Friday night.

And both sent a clear message to the Dubs ahead of next week’s play-in

Slow your roll. Know your place.

Game 82: How Warriors are approaching regular season finale
Pelicans shoot down Warriors’ hopes of escaping lowest play-in round
Pair of key Warriors sidelined for pivotal Pelicans matchup
No matter how season ends, Golden State Warriors made a step in the
right direction
Warriors take over the No. 9 seed: Here’s how the NBA’s play-in
picture looks

It was easy to get caught up in the hype the Warriors have created over
the last few weeks. The Dubs had been arguably the NBA’s best team in
their 10 games prior to Friday night’s contest with the Pelicans at
Chase Center. In the overused parlance of sports bloviators like myself,
they were “peaking at the right time.”

But Zion Williamson operates on his own schedule, and the Warriors had
no answer for him on Friday.

Draymond Green tried to stop him. He even did so a few times. But the
only player who could truly stop Williamson, the Hardwood Hulk, from
doing whatever he wanted was, well, Williamson.

As the Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the second quarter,
it was Williamson, playing center, who created space — that enviable
gravity only the greats possess — for the Pelicans’ barrage of
3-pointers. Paired with the Pelicans’ enviable defensive length,
Williamson had four steals in the frame — all of them pocket-picking —
New Orleans scored 45 points in the second.

Still, the game was in the balance in the fourth. Such is the NBA.

But that’s when Williamson really took over.

Fourth-quarter possession after fourth-quarter possession, the Pelicans
big man, who is seemingly a perfect cube with a 45-inch vertical leap,
played point guard and worked for his own shot. He made 3 of 5 shots,
and controlled the contest. It was playoff-style basketball at its
finest — a star player attacking again and again until someone took him
off the court.


Ultimately, Williamson tired himself out. But the damage was done. His
teammates, who knocked down more than half of their 3-point shots
Friday, hit two clutch ones late, and while the Warriors tried to make
it competitive in the final moments, New Orleans won 114-109.

The Warriors needed Friday’s game. Without it, they’re almost certainly
locked into the No. 9-vs.-10 game of the Play in Tournament. Following a
win over the Blazers just a day ago, the Dubs seemed destined to jump up
to the double-elimination No. 7-vs.-8 game.

The final seedings will be decided in the final game of the season—the
entire Western Conference will play on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

One thing is clear today, though: the Warriors were getting a bit of a
contact high from all that cloudiness within the standings.

Williamson was an avatar on Friday — the human (I think) representation
of two forces conspiring against the Dubs.

The Pelicans are a bonafide playoff team with a no-doubt superstar
leading the way. This is the kind of team the Warriors have not beaten
this season.

It’s the kind of team the Warriors — for all their positive play as of
late — aren’t beating in a 7-game series, either.

And they might not even reach a 7-game series, given that they’ll likely
need to win two single-elimination games to advance to one.

Those previous five months count, too. They’re pretty informative, in fact.

With Friday’s loss to the Pelicans, the Warriors are now 4-18 against
the West’s top six teams, the Thunder, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers,
Mavericks, and Pelicans.

Oh, and they’re 1-3 against the No. 7 Suns, who can swap places with the
Pelicans on Sunday.

A winning percentage of 20 against the best in the West — but sure, this
team can win a seven-game series.

This team has turned the ball over all season — all decade, really.
That’s not going to magically change come the playoffs.

The playoffs are full of teams that can shoot the 3-pointer at a high
clip and protect the rim even better. It’s kind of a requirement.

And they’ll all have a player like Williamson.

Well, in the ability to totally control the game on offense, anyway —
there’s only one Zion.

Once daylight savings time starts, the whistles go into hiding in the
NBA. We saw that on Friday. Refs allow far more contact, and that puts
an even greater emphasis on top players creating their own shots — or
great shots for their teammates — even with defenses totally keyed in on

Williamson was able to do that Friday.

Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Anthony Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander,
James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George can also do it.

So can Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant.

And sure, Steph Curry can do it, but he’s not as big and long as most of
those guys.

We saw that shortcoming manifest on Friday when he turned the ball over
seven times while he ran into five-man lanes and perimeter double-teams
(with great rotations to deny Green from receiving the pocket pass).


Experience is great, but I’d rather have some wings. That’s what the
playoffs are about, after all.

And the Warriors don’t have a wing they can trust. Jonathan Kuminga
missed the game with injury, but he’s no one’s idea of a playoff-winning
No. 2 right now. (And perhaps not ever.) Meanwhile, Klay Thompson and
Andrew Wiggins (the second-best player and top wing on the 2022 title
team) shot a combined 11-of-33 from the floor on Friday. They had one
total assist between the two of them. It was par for the course for the
Warriors’ top wings — they might show up one game, but can you expect
anything resembling consistency, especially against good teams?

There’s a sample size of 81 games that says “No.”

It all puts a game like Friday’s—and all the big games to come—on
Curry’s shoulders. Meanwhile, he’s clearly weary of dragging this team
this far.

And you can see how ineffective this formula of “save us, Steph” is with
the Warriors’ record against the best of the best — their competition in
the postseason.

But now Curry will have to drag the most expensive team in NBA history a
bit more, eventually dropping them off in an offseason where big changes
are inevitable.

There truly is no rest for the weary.

Well, except in this case: with the Warriors’ ability to win the No. 8
seed now out of their hands and the possibilities looking grim, it
sounds as if they’ll sit their veteran players for Sunday’s season
finale vs. Utah.

The Warriors might lack what it takes to win in the postseason, but at
least they’ll be decently rested for it.

sport / / BANG/Kurtenbach: An unstoppable big man hit the the Warriors with a serious reality check


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