After losing the championship in 2019, the Warriors set out to rebuild for the future. After four years of planning, after five first rounds and 11 drafts, after handing out 10 doubles and six 10-day contracts, after hiring five coaches dedicated to player development, the best thing the Warriors had to show for their efforts in the Friday 6th game against the Sacramento Kings was. Musa Modi. Second year striker who has barely played this season.
The other gem they found, Gary Payton II, is just shy of 11 minutes.
Jordan Paul, the shining star of their developmental show, had one of his worst performances on the big stage. Jonathan Cuminga couldn’t even get into court. James Wiseman, former franchise face-in-training, is with the Pistons. Even Anthony Lamb, the two-way player who got a regular contract for his ability to contribute to a win now, couldn’t give them anything. At home, where these players are supposed to be most comfortable and amenable to contributing.
This indictment of the Warriors’ evolution is serious. Kings coach Mike Brown, a former Warriors assistant, charged.
Because, meanwhile, Sacramento had Keegan Murray, a rookie who had previously looked disoriented, play 45 minutes. Terrence Davis, undrafted the same year Paul finished 28th, came off the bench to make an impact. Even Kevin Huerter, who had his shooting struggles in the series, wasn’t far behind in Game 6. And the Sacramento guys did it on the road. facing the judiciary.
Brown seated veterans, became young and young, daring warriors to match the energy of kings. Perhaps the warriors couldn’t know that well. The Browns relied on their older, legless companions with little support. He was right. For game at least, and for the most important game of the season, the Warriors roster full of youth hasn’t been able to produce.
It was disconcerting to see the contemporary ambassadors of the ‘Little’ surprised by such a small party against them. But Steve Kerr seems to have no confrontation, in part because of his apparent lack of confidence in the Warriors’ options to match the energy and youth of the Kings.
The Kings adjust the series, and the Warriors explode to set up Game 7
Sunday 7 amounts to a closing statement, one last chance to get a four-year whitewash from investing in the future. The plan for the two timelines has already been deleted. Now the Warriors are begging for some young talent, some fruit from four years of planning, to produce.
who will it be? We already know it’s heavy minutes for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Kevon Looney is a lock, though he probably won’t be seen for several minutes. The question is what to do with the rest. A scenario that could happen where all veterans. Donte DiVincenzo and Payton II playing with the aforementioned five can practically get the job done. But it stands to reason that they would need at least one young player.
The smart money is in Poole. He’s clearly talented and strong when he’s doing well. No doubt a big game of it would change the scope of the series. But he still has some of the same problems that now need to be fixed: poor hitting selection, out-of-control play, and frustration with umpires. He has 17 points on 6-for-23 over the last two games. He only has one turnover in the last 49 minutes of play, but some of his ill-advised shots are like turnovers.
Green will likely start. And he must. This could be his last game for the Warriors. They definitely need his intensity to meet the moment if their season is to last. But even if he does come off the bench, the Warriors need Paul. He deserves a great performance. He must somehow call the player from the last postseason.
The Warriors are 7-2 when Poole starts the playoffs because not only does he add space, he’s good at capitalizing on it. He’s the only other Warriors guy who can get off the cliffs, make the kings guard in space, and get back to D’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. Paul can make Monk work on defense, which is not Monk’s strength.
But if Paul doesn’t play well, Kerr can’t keep him on the court. His game lacks the simplicity that pays off in the post-season — knowing which spots to hit, which shots to take, and what tricks to get you going. He has a high contrast game that burns warriors when he’s not setting opponents on fire.
This is where Peyton II comes in. He’s not quite young, but he’s part of the Warriors’ development process, and needs to play more than 11 minutes. His game matches the pace the Kings have made in this series. Still struggling with his energy after a bout of food poisoning. But he looked graceful enough. He could even begin to change the main lineup.
Moody’s been through it this year and has come out the other extreme looking more poised. He seems designed for this both physically and emotionally.
Kerr might also dust off Kuminga and match the energy. Give him strict instructions to attack the edge. His lack of minutes is part of the reason he wasn’t prepared when he played this series. Murray – who is just a more mature and refined player than Kuminga – is just five minutes behind Kuminga in total playoff minutes. This is his first and fifth series for the Kuminga series. Yes, there are some risks with that. But it is now or not. If Kuminga can’t contribute now, when? If the last two months he’s played well are worth anything, let him pay off for now.
The Warriors will need Poole, Moody, Payton II, and maybe even Kuminga, because the odds are that Game 7 will come down to the fourth quarter. The Warriors season, the dynasty, will be riding in the last 12 minutes. That’s what came out of the first three games in Sacramento. And if the Warriors don’t run off the field right now, it will take another strong finish.
This started with the essence of heroism and, ultimately, on them. Step 1 in the Warriors’ plan to save their season is simple and old: Get Curry going. Winning Game 7 means the Kings are not allowed to draw a Curry. And Curry chastises the Kings for putting suspected defenders on Earth. In the three losses in this series, he took a total of 62 shots, no more than 21. In the three wins, he struck out 72 shots. He hit 25 in the Game 5 win on the road at Sacramento.
Giant Warriors loss, locker room quiet and now Game 7
The essence of The Warriors practically begged for some proven talent around them, for some vets they could count on in these moments. DiVincenzo hasn’t been as productive as he seems after an impressive regular season. JaMychal Green doesn’t sniff out serious action. Lamb, who ate up too many minutes from young players while playing a two-way, didn’t have Kerr’s confidence either. So these little guys must strike now, or the old heads must find juice to fend off the hungry rising power in the West.
Even if the Warriors accomplished it, it still hurt them in the second round. Lakers, with more depth and bigger bodies to weigh down the Warriors, rest at home. The next round kicks off Tuesday — which will be the Warriors’ third straight game in just one rest day — and puts their home court advantage in immediate jeopardy. Surviving the Kings wouldn’t be escaping the price of not getting more from their young talent.
Accountability belongs to every level of the organization.
Blame Kerr for withholding minutes and turns, making them so hesitant and inexperienced for these moments.
Blame the front office for picking the wrong players, especially the kind of players that just don’t fit Kerr (or Curry, for that matter).
Blame the veterans for not being better at directing.
Blame the owner for prioritizing the future rather than bowing to the current championship window.
Blame the players who entered this unique space and didn’t rise to the occasion of performing at the highest level.
Whatever the blame, whenever it is fully distributed, the position of the warriors remains the same. They have to hit the road to save their season and still have little idea who they can trust outside of the All-Stars and Looney. The road to a second consecutive championship, and the fifth of this era, was paved before them. It will come down to someone from four years of evolution answering the bell. Or prove, once and for all, that they can’t.
(Photo by Jordan Paul: Carrie Edmondson/USA Today)
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