3 Takeaways from Warriors' March Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 31, 2022

3 Takeaways from Warriors' March Performance

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    The Golden State Warriors are in a bad place.

    Sort of.

    They are missing their most important player (Stephen Curry), and it shows. Entering Wednesday, they have just a single victory to show for their last seven trips to the hardwood. This isn't exactly how they planned on spending the stretch run of the 2021-22 NBA season, and things really could get dicey if the teams right behind them in the Western Conference standings find some momentum.

    Then again, it's hard to be too doom-and-gloomy when the Warriors are perched in the West's No. 3 spot. Give this group a clean bill of health, and it arguably has as much championship potential as anyone.

    Still, March has not been fun, and neither are the lessons the past month has taught.

No Stephen Curry Means No Offense

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    It's been said so many times that it almost feels cliched to repeat it, but Curry is the Warriors' offensive system.

    Between his anywhere-in-the-arena shooting range, slick handles and off-ball activity, he demands the attention of all five defenders, which allows his teammates to exploit those cracks in coverage.

    But pull Curry off the floor—as his sprained foot did during the team's 22-point loss to the Boston Celtics on March 16—and the system can no longer function. The NBA has never seen an offensive force quite like the 34-year-old, so it's zero surprise the Warriors don't have a viable replacement.

    Including the game Curry exited early, Golden State's offensive rating in this stretch is a miserable 107.3 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. Only the Orlando Magic—a team that went head-first into a rebuild at last season's trade deadline—have been less efficient.

    The defense isn't good enough to cover for this lack of production. The Warriors need to uncover some reliable scoring options and fast.

Rocky Return for Draymond Green

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Before the Warriors were having trouble hiding Curry's absence, they did the same with a hobbled Draymond Green. They weren't quite as lost without him, but the two months he missed with a back injury saw them drop from elite to above-average.

    That spoke to his importance both as their do-it-all defender and their top initiator on offense. The Dubs just never had the same zip without the 32-year-old.

    Unfortunately, he hasn't shown his normal zip in the six games since returning. He isn't always the easiest to evaluate by numbers, but this stat seems to capture it: The Warriors have been outscored by 41 points in his 139 minutes. That's a miserable mark for someone who has often ranked among the league leaders in that exact category.

    "I've never really been on a team that gets worse when I'm on the floor," Green told reporters. "That's kind of where we are right now."

    The good version of Green is a game-changer, particularly when paired with Curry. But if the Dubs don't see that combination click again this season, they can forget about any kind of postseason success.

The Regular-Season Goals Have Changed

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Remember when the Warriors and Phoenix Suns were going neck-and-neck for the NBA's best record? Or when Golden State first noticed the Memphis Grizzlies in the side-view mirror and had to wonder if they were, in fact, closer than they appeared?

    Well, the Suns long ago buried the Dubs and locked up the No. 1 seed. And the Grizzlies doing the same at No. 2 is merely a formality.

    What that means for the Warriors is that this final week-plus isn't about improving their playoff position but rather avoiding further damage to it.

    With the Dallas Mavericks only a game back of Golden State, and both the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets within two games of Dallas, the Warriors could easily drop three seed lines if they can't stop this skid.

    Golden State's biggest goals won't come until the playoffs, of course, but if the Warriors want to seriously push for another title, they can't let themselves fall much further.

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