Golden State Warriors

Preview: Warriors head to Charlotte without their biggest, brightest star

When Steph Curry went down Tuesday night with a nasty ankle injury in the closing moments of their 2nd 20-point comeback in as many games – the NBA held their breath. Thankfully, in spite of the bad-looking turn there is nothing structurally wrong with Curry’s ankle. So while it is comforting to know that it’s not too serious, that sentiment offers little comfort to the rest of the Golden State Warriors as they get right back to work against the beleaguered Charlotte Hornets.

WHO: Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets

WHEN: Wednesday, December 6 at 5:00 p.m. PST

WHERE: Time Warner Cable Arena; Charlotte, NC

WATCH: NBCSBA, ESPN

RADIO: 95.7 The Game

While we don’t like to talk about it much around here, there has been something a little off about the Warriors this season. Maybe the rest of the league got better, maybe the Warriors just don’t care about the early season as much – but for whatever reason they’ve looked lackadaisical and uncharacteristically unfocused for much of their early campaign. The talent on this team provides a luxury that allows them to (mostly) get away with mailing it in. But when Steph Curry went down, they lost a lot of that leeway.

Help from the top and bottom

No one is going to replace Curry, but what our top-tier talent is going to need to do is make this fact less obvious.

Kevin Durant is the obvious and most blatant example of this since he’s a close second (29.2%) to Curry (30.9%) in usage – an estimate of the percentage of a team’s plays used by a certain player while they’re on the floor. He’s the most comfortable operating as the focal point on offense and as Anthony Slater elucidated in his article for The Athletic, Durant has historically done well in non-Curry minutes:

Unsurprisingly, Durant’s usage is boosted in those non-Curry minutes. Of the 307 possessions, 133 have ended in either a Durant shot, assist, free throw or turnover — 43.3 percent, up from the 37.2 percent when Curry is on the floor with him. His assist rate goes from 19 percent to above 28 (a sign he’s playmaking much more).

Next up is Klay Thompson, our quiet but lovable All-Star. Thompson has been silently having an excellent season to date, outshooting Curry in both three pointers made, as well as accuracy.

Finally, there is Shaun Livingston, who will return from his one-game suspension to a more important role as our only listed Point Guard. Remember that Livingston was phenomenal in the Portland playoff series last year filling in for Curry. Keep in mind, while our so-called Hamptons Five lineup has struggled in the season a bit, this potential starting lineup has actually fared rather well together this season:

Injury updates

No interesting updates beyond Curry’s prognosis, so we will have to wait and see what the team does about Zaza Pachulia (shoulder) and Patrick McCaw (face). Currently, both are officially listed as questionable.

Sorry Charlotte, I am just going to be brutally honest here. At 9-13, the Hornets are currently sitting at 11th place in the East and don’t appear poised to climb out of that position any time soon. They’ve got an unimpressive offense (ranked 20th in the NBA) and a tepid defense (14th ranked) that are basically the basketball equivalent of Mike Dunleavy junior. It’s….fine, I guess? But just nothing remarkable here one way or another.

That said, they are the best in the NBA at not turning the ball over on offense; and stand at a respectable 3rd in defensive rebounding percentage. So if the Warriors get sloppy with their turnovers, it could be a problem.

Watch for their somewhat fun new biggish three: Kemba Walker at the point, Jeremy Lamb as his wingman, and Dwight Howard anchored on the low block. I don’t know that this is necessarily going to get them anywhere, but it does give them a semblance of team design that has been lacking for a while.

I think the Warriors are going to be energized by Curry’s absence and rally around each other to play the sort of selfless and brutally effective game that has brought two Championship rings to this team over the past three years.

It’s going to be an ugly game.

The Hornets don’t have anyone who can cover Durant. This is going to set their defense scrambling and hopefully result in some easy looks for the rest of the team.

Steph Curry will be missed.

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