The NBA playoffs are really about one thing: who is playing the best basketball right now.The Golden State Warriors are that hot team.
In the first round, Golden State upset third-seed Denver as the sixth seed to win its first playoff series since 2007. And even with a 129-127 double-overtime loss to San Antonio Monday night, it still seems the Warriors have the momentum.
Most have predicted that the Spurs will take the series in five, maybe six games. However, Game One was in Golden State’s control. Late mistakes and a failure to close out the contest allowed the veteran San Antonio squad to take the early series advantage, but the underdog Warriors absolutely proved it should be a very close series.
The Warriors may have five players averaging more than 12 points in the playoffs, but there is only one name that really matters for the Warriors and that is Stephen Curry. The young player has become one of the great point guards in the league and didn’t disappoint in Game One against the Spurs, totaling 44 points on 18-35 shooting, including six three-pointers and 11 assists in nearly 58 minutes of play.
Easily the MVP of the playoffs so far, Curry can do it all offensively. Get up in his face and he’ll drive by you and make an easy layup, or even a difficult circus shot in the lane if there’s help. Sag off of him to stop the drive and he’ll drain the three-point shot. This season, with his quick release, Curry overtook Ray Allen for most three-pointers in a season in NBA history.
Not to mention he’s a point guard, so he has no problem sharing the ball and racking up his assist numbers. He averages 9.6 assists in the playoffs, the best in the NBA. In fact, in the Denver series, Curry became the only player in NBA history with at least seven assists and four three-pointers in four straight playoff games. And he did it in the first four playoff games of his career.
Curry also ranks third in player efficiency rating, behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Those are big names to be grouped with for a man that was left off the All-Star team this season. Curry has something to prove, and overcoming the Spurs and winning a second-round playoff series for the first time since the 1974-75 season would be the perfect way to do it.
This season, the Warriors and Spurs split their series 2-2, with each team winning on its own home court. Yet while the Spurs finished in second in the Western Conference, the Warriors finished sixth, and still have a lot of room for improvement, especially in the turnover department. If this young, athletic Golden State team can draw out the series, the more of an advantage it has as it may be able to tire out a veteran team.
Plus, Golden State has possibly the best home court advantage, with a crowd and city that has gone crazy for its team given its lack of success in the last few decades. If the Warriors can steal one on the road, which they proved in Game One that they have the potential to, the home court advantage could push the series in their favor.
Finally, both teams have proven they love to play the up-tempo style, wanting to put lots of points on the board. Golden State leads the league in points per game during the playoffs at 110.0, although San Antonio is close behind at 109.0. In the end, this style should benefit the Warriors because if you’re going to run, young, athletic teams will usually win the race.
Either way, if Monday’s game is any indication, it’s going to be a very entertaining series.
Prediction: Warriors in seven
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of May 8th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Anna Xu of the Daily Nexus