A lot has gone wrong for the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, but the biggest reason for their 3-1 series deficit has been the play of their two MVP candidates. Stephen Curry, the first ever unanimous winner of the award, has played so poorly that there’s speculation he’s being hindered by an injury, and Draymond Green hasn’t been close to the player that finished seventh in the MVP voting.
Heading into Game 5 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors need Curry and Green to perform like they did in the regular season to have any chance of coming back against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Otherwise, their record-setting 73 wins will have all been for naught.
Curry had plenty of help in the regular season, playing alongside two All-Stars, and the runners-up for Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year. But he elevated the Warriors from a great team that won the 2015 championship to an all-time team that has a chance to become immortal. Curry raised his game to a level that the league had only seen from the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and he became such an unstoppable offensive force that it looked like Golden State might cruise to another title.
But Curry’s production has fallen off against the Thunder, who’ve done an excellent job in forcing him to expend so much energy that he’s looked like an ordinary player. His 24.3 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting isn’t good enough to defeat a team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have easily been the two best players in the series.
Despite the injuries Curry has suffered this postseason and rumors that he’s not close to being healthy, the point guard looked just fine in Game 2, as well as the end of the second round. Curry scored 28 points on 60 percent shooting in Golden State’s Game 2 victory, and he made 50 percent of his shots as the Warriors closed out the Portland Trail Blazers in the conference semifinals. Curry hasn’t shot better than 41.2 percent in any of the Warriors’ losses against the Thunder, further indicating the team needs him to be great, not just good, in order to get by Oklahoma City.
In the last seven losses that Curry has been a part of, he’s shot less than 50 percent from the field. Oklahoma City nearly beat Golden State in a Feb. 27 regular-season game, a game in which the Warriors had no business winning. But Curry wouldn’t let the Warriors lose, scoring 46 points on 24 shots.
That game became the highlight of the regular season, ending when Curry hit a 38-foot shot that gave the Warriors the win in overtime. At the start of the second half, the biggest story of the game involved Green, who was heard cursing out his teammates and head coach Steve Kerr at halftime. Green appeared to let his emotions affect his game, missing all eight of his shot attempts and scoring just two points. The same seems to be happening in the conference finals, and Green has been a detriment to the Warriors ever since he kicked Steven Adams in the groin and drew the wrath of the Oklahoma City faithful.
"Right now, I'm not myself," Green said after Game 4. "I'm thinking too much, and that's leading to all the things that I'm not supposed to be doing.”
Curry has always been Golden State’s best player, but prior to the conference finals, but it could be argued that Green was nearly as important to the team’s success. He’s done whatever the team has needed; playing multiple defensive positions and excelling at all of them, acting as the team’s primary facilitator and leading the team with 7.4 assists per game. Even with Curry and Klay Thompson combining for more than 50 points per game, Green added 14 points per contest.
After scoring 22.2 points per game in the second round—largely because of the absence of an injured Curry—Green has killed Golden State on the offensive end. He made just one shot in both Game 3 and Game 4, shooting a combined 12.5 percent from the field and committing 10 turnovers. The Warriors are 0-3 when Green scores in single-digits this postseason.
Green’s physicality and ability to shoot from the outside made him a difficult matchup for most defenses the Warriors faced this season. But Oklahoma City’s lengthy and athletic frontline has neutralized Green, and the Thunder outscored Golden State by an incredible 73 points with Green on the floor in the last two games.
If Green and Curry can turn things around, the opportunity is there for the Warriors to win another championship. The team returns to the venue in which they were once unbeatable, having set a record with a 54-game winning streak at home. A Game 5 win for Golden State would mean the team is just one more victory away from playing a deciding seventh game at Oracle Arena, a situation the Thunder most certainly want to avoid.
A Game 5 loss, however, would put the Warriors among the most disappointing teams in NBA history.
The 2007 Dallas Mavericks were victims of the biggest upset the NBA has ever seen, losing in the first round after leading the league with 67 wins. The 1994 Seattle SuperSonics lost as a No.1 seed, as well, and the Los Angeles Lakers lost as heavy favorites in the 2004 NBA Finals. But none of those teams made history like Golden State, and none of them won with as much bravado and swagger as these Warriors do.
It’s time for Golden State’s top players to perform like stars, or their 2015-2016 season will forever be remembered for its rapid demise, instead of the history the Warriors made along the way.