As Game 5 between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors approaches, SBNation sister site Golden State of Mind was kind enough to do a reciprocal question and answer session with us regarding the series and the two teams. Here's Nate Parham, editor at GSOM, answering our questions about the Warriors.
Blazer's Edge: That Steph Curry dude is pretty good. Truth: did you expect that overtime performance in Game 4? Take us from watching the guy shoot 0-10 on threes to watching him set an NBA record from a Golden State perspective.
Nate Parham: The one thing that we've had to accept as Warriors fans this season is that our expectations are somewhat meaningless. Nobody expected this team to win 24 straight games to start the season. Nobody expected Curry to hit 400 threes. Nobody expected Curry to be better overall than he was last season. Nobody expected this team to win 73 games. As bizarre as it sounds, the most expected thing that has happened this season is Steph repeating as MVP â that's just how insane this season has been.
All of that is STILL more expected than the two clutch free throws Andre Iguodala hit to send that thrilling February game in OKC into OT.
So by this point, I've totally freed myself from the limits of my expectations â they've done nothing for me this season. If Curry's on the floor, I believe the team can win until the number of possessions left in the game gets to a point where a win is mathematically impossible. And at this point, it would irrational to count Curry out. But for Game 4 in particular, I was encouraged by the fact that Steph showed no signs of being slowed by injury or fatigue in quite the way I was expecting. He's going to hit a three if he's on the floor for a full game â it's just a matter of when. So I mostly stayed calm because this team (almost) always seems to manage to come through this season.
BE: Another honest, if unpleasant, question: Some media folks are riding Curry's durability issues. I don't see a flashing red light there but Blazers fans know how concerning superstar injuries can be. How much do you worry about the longevity of the Curry era?
NP: I actually think this is a pretty good question that Warriors fans differ on depending on how long they've followed this team. If you endured the nearly two decades without a playoff appearance, there just has to be a feeling somewhere in the back of your mind that this good fortune will end and the most obvious vulnerability is Curry's health. Maybe I've accepted that there's some kind of inevitability to the course of this season, but I can't shake the idea that there's tragedy lurking around the corner.
Again, this comes down to reason vs. emotion: doctors keep saying that these won't be recurring injuries, but after seeing Curry go down with ankle injuries repeatedly in his career and now adding a knee injury to his body in addition to whatever wear and tear comes from playing deep into the postseason followed by international competition... yes, I do wonder if his body will give out before his talent does.
That's based on nothing but my subjective perception of the situation, which I know I should trust less than those with medical degree, but yeah, it's a lingering worry of mine.
BE: As we speak, the Oklahoma City Thunder just went up 3-2 on the San Antonio Spurs. Which opponent would you rather see the Warriors face? The rest of the universe will probably be disappointed if we don't get to see the promised Golden State-San Antonio Western Conference Finals. Will you be as well or are you still in "Whatever Gets the Rings Quickest" mode?
NP: I've felt this way all season and haven't really changed much: the Spurs have a culture of success on their side that makes them seem invincible, but the Thunder are explosive, unpredictable, and â as we've seen against the Spurs â they just need one of those All-Stars to go off to steal wins. So as a basketball fan, I'd LOVE to see the Warriors face OKC because I think there would be fireworks. As a Warriors fan, I actually want to see the Spurs for two reasons: first, they're not quite as explosive and the Warriors have matched up with them quite well. Second, I don't want to hear people saying that the Warriors avoided them for a second year in a row.
BE: There's been plenty of talk about Golden State's off-season. They've been connected with Kevin Durant, obviously, but chances are the media will throw just about every available free agent into the Warriors' path eventually. In order to make a big-money signing you'd need to let some players go. Who do you see as the most likely candidates for ditching (meaning significant players) and which role players do you think the Warriors have to hold onto no matter what?
NP: How much impact has Harrison Barnes had on this series? Worth a max contract to you? People are still enamored with his potential, but I just can't wrap my head around giving a max contract to a 6-foot-8 forward who has shot 35.7% from the field this postseason when the team needed players to step up in Curry's absence. I totally get his fit with the team and small ball lineup, but the team began the season 38-3 with Brandon Rush starting 23 games when Barnes was out â they can live without him, especially if someone else throws max money at him.
As for who's untouchable (besides the obvious), I think that's tougher. The big debate surrounding the pursuit of Durant is whether adding one player is worth shedding vets like Bogut, Iguodala and/or Livingston given the team's chemistry. But as they're all aging and/or banged up (some more than others), I could see letting them go. Festus Ezeli thus presents an interesting question as he's also probably going to garner a max offer and the Warriors will need a successor to Bogut. But again, he's gone from DNP to superhero to afterthought in this series alone. So the question there is how much an athletic center is worth on the market and I personally do hope they do what it takes to keep him around.
BE: Back to the series: have the Blazers done anything to the Warriors that has concerned you or has it been all good? How many unusual moments/trends have there been for your side?
NP: They're doing pretty much what I feared about them: when Lillard or McCollum get going the Warriors just don't have an answer, but quick scoring wings has been a common theme among Warriors losses this season. I think what's been more surprising is how guys like Gerald Henderson and Al-Farouq Aminu have managed to hurt the Warriors in spurts (and so thoroughly outplay Barnes overall). What I've loved about watching the Blazers this season is that they don't look like much on paper but end up working well a whole.
BE: Bonus Question: Did that Scott Foster crew suck or really suck?
NP: I feel bad even talking about refs given the shenanigans the Spurs and Thunder have had to put up with.
Ha! Even though he didn't take the ref bait, we thank Nate for joining us! You can read my responses to his questions at Golden State of Mind. I even threw some salt in the thread for fun!